Teach them How to Say “Good-bye”

The musical Hamilton, penned by Lin Manuel Miranda, has taken the world by storm. One of the most poignant scenes, between President George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, is as follows:

[WASHINGTON]
And if we get this right
We’re gonna teach ‘em how to say
Goodbye
You and I—

[HAMILTON]
Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

[WASHINGTON]
No, they will see we’re strong

[HAMILTON]
Your position is so unique

[WASHINGTON]
So I’ll use it to move them along

[HAMILTON]
Why do you have to say goodbye?

[WASHINGTON]
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone

My life

You wouldn’t think there is much that can be learned from pop culture references. But, maybe there is.

I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack over the summer, while reflecting on a recent major change in my life.

The bittersweet fact is that 2020 was my fifth and final year directing In Tents. I loved doing the work of discipling young women. I loved working with Ann, putting feet to her vision. I loved the interaction with the attendees and the instructors over the course of the week. I loved teaching. I loved the informal discussions. I loved the food. I loved all I learned. I loved seeing the young women use their gifts in the subsequent years, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I LOVE it still. It is a ministry tailor made for my skill set.

And yet, I felt the very clear call of God moving me out. With the life season I’m in, my family needs me, and this was taking too much time and focus over the course of each year.

In my humble opinion, 2020 was our best In Tent’s year yet. Everything clicked. Even despite (and maybe because of) Coronavirus. The girls were eager to learn. The instructors were on fire. The spiritual impact was real. I was so pumped when we were done!

Which actually made it much harder to leave. To say goodbye.

And if we get this right we’re gonna teach ‘em how to say goodbye.

Moving on

As believers, in ministry, I think we are often loathe to move on. If something is going well, we see that as the sign that we are where we are supposed to be, doing what we’re supposed to be doing. If something has gotten difficult, we see it as “quitting.” Which isn’t an option because quitting isn’t what believers do. We persevere, you know.

Why we stay

I don’t know about you, but I can be rather proprietary about ministry. My job. My ministry. I grasp it all in a rather tight fist, forgetting Whose work it is. My pride gets involved. As I move on, I’ve been almost as afraid of things thriving, as of things falling apart, without me. (I’m such an integral part or maybe not….) Ouch. I allow my worth to be tied up in my ministry, forgetting that my value is not based on what I do. My value and worth is intrinsically tied to Christ’s value and His work at Calvary.

Sometimes when we take on a job in our local assembly, or on a broader scale, it can seem like a lifetime commitment. This thing is what we’re supposed to do forever and ever and ever and ever. We don’t commit to teaching Sunday school, or leading a committee, or even being an elder, for a defined period of time. It’s usually left open-ended, which isn’t always bad.

But, it can be a cloak for just keeping the status quo….not seeking the Lord for current direction. “Lord, what do You want me to do today? This week? This month? This year?”

The changing of dreams, stages, seasons, ministries and relationships is hard. Despite the excitement and anticipation of the future, there is often mourning for the past…what is, what has been, what might have been. It’s seems easier to avoid hard.

Sometimes I can just be rather dense. There is nothing catastrophic propelling me to quit, but there isn’t peace. I know God is moving, things are changing. But, I don’t want to let go of this good thing. I’m not done yet…

Getting it right

George Washington “quit” while he was ahead. He quit while he was doing his job well. He quit while he was popular. He almost assuredly could have gotten reelected for a third term.

He wanted to teach the citizens of the United States that the presidency was bigger than any one man. That the government they designed could and should be peacefully passed on. And it has been, for almost 250 years now.

Goodbyes are as inevitable in ministry as they are in life. That’s a good reminder to those of us serving the Lord and active in the Lord’s work. We must learn to transition from endings to new beginnings with grace, strength and dignity.

It helps to remember:

  • It’s God’s work, not ours.
  • The work is done for God’s glory, not mine. Whatever furthers that aim, is the way forward.
  • He is the Lord of the harvest, and it’s His job to send forth laborers into His field and His work.
  • We must cultivate the talents and spiritual gifts of others, and if needs be, take the lower place or the back seat so someone else can learn, get experience and serve.
  • The goal is not retirement, but to be willing to be moved when God directs.
  • Quitting isn’t always because of failure. Sometimes it’s because we’ve successfully passed on the torch.

God’s work will outlive us, if we let it. Why? God’s work bears eternal, spiritual fruit.

Is there somewhere you are supposed to say goodbye?

Bernadette Veenstra
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