Having lived in a foreign country for over 10 years, I’ve gotten used to the change of seasons. Every June, people move away. Every August, new people come in. At least, that’s how it goes when hanging out with the foreign crowd! A lot of advice is out there for those who are moving. But what about those who stay?
This post is for you!
Some Junes are harder than others. Sometimes you know it’s coming, like when friends came her on a two-year contract and their two years are up. There are also those who, rather unexpectedly, decide to move away without a great deal of warning. And there are those who were supposed to stay forever, but life changed, and they moved on.
In some ways, I’m in that last category this summer. A lot of what is most painful about leaving is knowing that I’m leaving those who are caught in that revolving door of friendship among the foreigners. It’s hard saying goodbye to friends every year or two.
The Bigger Picture
But life is like that: an endless circle of hellos and goodbyes. There just seem to be a lot more of them when hanging out in expat communities.
Understandably, after years of this cycle of meeting new friends every fall and saying goodbye every summer, many of those foreigners who stay simply pull away from the expat community all together. I get it.
But does protecting our hearts by shutting ourselves off really give us the stability we’re craving?
While reflecting on the goodbyes I’m inflicting on people this summer, I came across this piece by Henri Nouwen. As usual, he was able to express my experiences better than I can.
“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.
The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. They will become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you.
Those you have deeply loved become part of you. The longer you live, there will always be more people to be loved by you and to become part of your inner community. The wider your inner community becomes, the more easily you will recognize your own brothers and sisters in the strangers around you. Those who are alive within you will recognize those who are alive around you. The wider community of your heart, the wider the community around you. Thus the pain of rejection, absence, and death can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”
from The Inner Voice of Love “Love Deeply”
Made for Community
People were made for living in community. Certainly, some people have a greater need for community than others, but all of us do need community. Shutting ourselves off from new people for fear of the inevitable pain of goodbyes is not doing us any favors in long run. Whether people leave by moving, or death, or by simply letting a relationship run it’s course, all relationships will end, sooner or later. Yes, that’s a rather depressing thought.
But there are always new people out there.
And some of them need you in their lives.
And we might just need them.
But when we cut ourselves off to the possibility of new relationships, because of the inevitable hurt that follows goodbyes, we lose the chance to properly heal those hurts and recover from the goodbyes. Like anything in life worth doing, we need to practice those. Of course, unlike other skills we might practice to get better at, like playing tennis or playing the piano, goodbyes never get easier.
But it does get easier to see the possibilities that are coming.
All goodbyes open a new door.
They might not be ones we’d choose to go through.
But new beginnings are always around the corner.
Every New Beginning Is Some Other Beginning’s End
Relationships are hard. Often, they’re hard because they change. Or end.
Whenever we’re faced with change, we’re faced with choices. How will I respond to this change? Like so many things in life, we’re not in control of what happens to us. But we are in control of how we respond to what happens to us. Our attitude makes all the difference.
As Nouwen said, “Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.”
It might be exhausting.
It might be more than you think you have to give.
It might make all the difference in the world to someone–and to yourself.
Love again, and we are born again. Love again, and the world is full of possibilities again. It’s hard. It’s scary. And we’re probably opening ourselves for more painful goodbyes.
But love again anyway.
Henri Nouwen quote from the Inner Voice of Love, “Love Deeply”
Be the Gift photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash.
Suitcase Into the Sunrise photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash.