As a campus minister, life is full of goodbyes: freshmen saying goodbye to their parents as they step onto the campus in the fall, us saying goodbye to students transferring to another university, saying goodbye to students going off for mission trips or internships, saying goodbye to students as they graduate and move on, saying goodbye to students you lose, saying goodbye to students who drop out, and, sometimes, saying goodbye because you are the one leaving. The goodbyes can be endless!
Goodbyes Are Hard
Goodbyes are part of life’s “hard” moments. At our annual end of the semester winter and spring banquets at LSU, we present our graduating seniors with a gift and the opportunity to step up on stage and share about their next steps. And, yes, I typically cry as they say goodbye to us, leave us, and step out into their next chapters. But, this time, I am the one standing on the stage saying goodbye to my students and stepping out into the next chapter of life. And, yes, I cried.
Goodbyes Are Necessary
No matter how sweet the next chapter looks or is going to be, saying goodbye is painful but necessary. It’s much easier to focus on the hellos of life and ignore that life is full of goodbyes. The good news is that goodbyes don’t always have to be horrible-snotty-nose-sobbing-cry-fests. In reality, goodbyes can be vibrant and full of goodness! They are necessary for closure and even give hope to the situation. Also, goodbyes are essential, because helping students say goodbye in the easier, expected goodbyes helps them be able to get through saying goodbye when it is unexpected or excruciating.
Goodbyes Are Found in Scripture
When we help students to see perspective and hope in the expected goodbyes, it helps them in understanding the unexpected goodbyes. We see this in so many places in life, and in the Bible. Goodbyes in Scripture come with hellos, adventures, and new opportunities. And, yet, goodbyes in Scripture can come with lots of pain and uncertainty.
Jesus taught us that goodbyes don’t have to be just full of pain. Jesus said to His disciples that He was leaving and going to prepare a place for them and that He was coming back! To the disciples, goodbye looked one way. But, to Jesus, it seemed entirely different. Goodbye on the cross meant hello to grace and the resurrection. Goodbye at the ascension was uncertainty for the disciples. But, to Jesus, it was about hope and something more to come. It was about His plan and purpose—even when it was and is not always understood.
Goodbyes Are About Perspective
Goodbyes in life are often like this— about perspective and a big picture. And, we can help our students understand this. As a missionary kid who moved a lot, my life reads like a long list of goodbyes. I’ve said goodbye to my family, my dad, boyfriends, best friends, friends, jobs, students, and places. I’ve even said goodbye forever to many friends, students, and family over the years. And, honestly, it never gets easier. But, I have never regretted taking the time to say goodbye well and to grieve.
I have often strived to live my life as an example for my students, teaching them how to be an adult and follow Jesus. Now, I get to model what it means to leave a job and community well and to say goodbye. So, as I pack up my office and have coffee with as many students as possible, I tell them it’s okay to be sad. I share with them that this is what that word “bittersweet” truly means—to be sad about leaving but excited about what is to come! I help them understand why I am leaving and how the Lord is directing my steps. I share with them that this is a “good” type of goodbye, where I get to hand off those who I’ve been discipling to others, put together information that sets them up for success, and to be able to sit down and share with them about how much each of them means to me.
Goodbyes Don’t Have to Be Permanent
As college ministers, one of the best things we can do for our students is to help them say goodbye well and in the right ways, which means helping them to see the big picture, to have hope, to look at perspectives, and to help them to understand Jesus in it all, while focusing on the “good” in goodbyes. I’m learning how to expand my heart; that while I will always love those who I am leaving, I am excited about making room in my life for those to whom I am going. So, I end this with a goodbye to this chapter of my life at the BCM at LSU and hello to my next one at the BCM at UGA. Geaux Dogs!
Sarah Farley is currently the Associate Campus Minister at LSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry (but soon to be at the University of Georgia). She loves burgers, SEC football, and spending time with her students. Oh, and she loves coffee … a lot.