In three days, I leave and begin my journey to Africa. I'm not sure if I ever really thought this would happen, but here I am packing a single backpack to live out of for the next two months and preparing to travel across the world to a tiny little village in a country that sounds like a made-up place. I have been praying and getting ready for this trip for so much longer than I will actually be there and I know that this is where God is calling me for the next season of my life and yet leaving my home is much harder than I ever thought. While I have always known I am super emotional, getting ready to live in Swaziland has most certainly brought more emotion out of me than I knew possible. As I've been trying to think about why this is, one reason that dawned on me that since becoming a Christian, I have never really lived anywhere else besides Gainesville. It was in this small, overly southern town that I learned about Jesus and I've been here since. I know Christianity in this place, in this church, with these people. It's scary to think about leaving because this is my safe place.
The other is because I really hate saying goodbye to people. While I knew it was only for the summer, after recently saying goodbye to one of my closest friends I could not stop crying. I sat in my car afterwards and sobbed. As I drove home with mascara covering every part of my face I thought to myself, my heart was not meant for goodbyes. At first, part of me just thought I was being over dramatic, but as I thought about it more I realized how much truth was in it. But it doesn't just apply to me. Our hearts are not meant for goodbyes because we are meant for eternity. When God created the world, we were meant to live forever not only with our loved ones, but without any separation from our Father. There is no “right” way to say goodbye because it is not natural. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end" (Ecclesiastics 3:11 ESV). All separations whether temporary or permanent, are painful regardless of how we deal with them because a connection that was formed has to be broken. Being in the presence of a loved one is one of the closest reminders of what it is like to truly be in the presence of God. We desire to be fully known and fully loved and once we have established a relationship where this happens, it goes against our nature to depart from them. Yet there is hope. In the midst of my tears I realized how while sin caused separation, God still found a way. There is a reason He says we must choose Him over our family (Luke 14:2). He knew it would be hard, He knew that when He calls us leave home and go preach His good news across the nations, it would require a huge sacrifice (Mark 16:15). But in return, He promised us that we would never have to say goodbye to Him.
Even though in 3 days I have to say goodbye to my comfortable home, to my roommate who has lived within feet of me for 3 years and to my American life, it really is only for 2 months and it will be ok. While my heart was not meant for goodbyes, it was meant for this.