My mother left behind everything she knew when she was just shy of 35 years old. She threw the baby out with the bath water and headed East, in the hopes of finding new life. One could hardly blame her — when the life you lead breaks your heart into a million pieces over and over again, sometimes there’s no other option. I was that little baby, and I couldn’t blame her. Sure, I might have back then, but I certainly don’t now.
I can picture her in my minds eye, packing her things into a ratty suitcase and leaving her life in the rearview. She grabs the hand of the man beside her, and he squeezes back, reassuring her. How thankful I am for that man now and for the safety he gave her. Knowing what you leave behind is the hardest part of leaving, and in this case, it was her own flesh and blood. But her hope grew with every border crossed, and she eventually found her Eden– her home, her peace, her joy.
Even as the eldest child of the two left in her wake, I identify with my mother in a deeply significant way. Like her, my home has always left me restless and unsure. The people I grew up with confused me and walked away in search of greener pastures. I struggle with feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, and my heart calls out for some place where I can rest. I have enough reasons and excuses to pack it all in and bolt. My mother had no fear in leaving, and neither do I.
And I am. Leaving, that is. I’m selling my things, closing up shop, and flying away. Like my mother, I have a lot of things to leave behind. I have people I’d really love to be distant from, situations I’d like to forget about. But that’s not how it works. I understand that leaving home is not a matter of running away. It’s not about cutting ties or putting the past behind you. We can’t run from life when things get too difficult. To those who might have wondered, I’m not running from anything.
In this case, I am being called to go. Obeying that call is part of what I signed up for as a Christian. I’m okay with that. And I’ve learned that there is power in “leaving well” or “finishing well”. My mother left in the blink of an eye; up and gone before I even knew it. I have another three months or more to hang about until life as I know it changes forever. We don’t always get time, but when we do, we have to use it well. We ought not close ourselves off to protect or preserve. We ought not to always talk about the joy ahead of us, because there is still joy in the present. We ought to draw close to those it will ache to leave behind, and invest until the very last second. People are not to be used in the sense that we should only give to them when it suits us. Give your heart to people you love because soon enough you won’t have the same chance. Don’t hide it away because you’re desperately trying to save yourself from being hurt. More pain will be left in your leaving when you sever ties while you’re still home. You will mourn lost chances, and you will notice the overwhelming loneliness.
As Christians, our lives are not going to be pain-free or neat and tidy. They’re going to be a mess of heartache and love, laced with the joy and hope that we have for things to come. When you’re called to something difficult, be it leaving a church, leaving a country, or leaving a relationship, let it hit you. Let it break your heart, let it bring you joy, and feel it. Let me leave you with this:
“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” — Jim Elliot