A Different Kind of School Year / by Michelle Clarkson

I have been praying about going back to Africa ever since the moment I left Swaziland in 2014. It has taken five years of patience and waiting. Unlike Moses I have yet to have a burning bush tell me the will of The Lord, but if I look back over the last few years of my life, I can clearly see the ways in which He was precisely equipping me for this very task. I know that this is where God is calling me for the next season of my life and yet leaving my home and my job at Ambleside seems harder each day. As the school year gets closer to starting, there is this underlying sadness tearing at my heart. While I am not questioning this decision I can’t help but mourn the end of this season in my life.

I never wanted to be a teacher but two years later, not only has it taught me countless lessons, but I have fallen head-over-heals in love with this school and the community that it has given me. Looking back on this time, I am constantly reminded that the best things in my life have never been part of my plan. Although the school year ended months ago, it is now just beginning to hit me that I will not be going back in August with the rest of my coworkers. In this time of intense transition, I have learned again how much I hate goodbyes.

When I first moved here, I prayed for community and friends and was instead given a family. This family has been with me as I graduated college, moved cities, began my first “real” job, and started my adult life. It is these people that have shown me over and over again the love of Jesus even in my most broken moments. As I sit here thinking about leaving the first family I created on my own, part of me is brokenhearted. In preparing for this next chapter I have discovered that my heart was not meant for goodbyes. This seemed like an overstatement when I first said it out loud; however, as I have spent time reading my Bible over the last months, I saw this truth unfold again and again. 

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). All separation, whether temporary or permanent, is painful 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.

In September, my life will change. I will leave the home that I spent my first years as an adult making and create a new life in a country halfway across the world. And while my heart was not meant for goodbyes, it was meant for this.