It started in the hair salon.
Tears pricked my eyelids so I tilted my nose the ceiling, hoping they’d go back where they came from. Instead they leaked out and down my hair line. A few deep breaths and I felt better.
But the feeling swamped me again the next day as I sat in church. The associate pastor announced an upcoming marriage retreat in November. Couples were going to take a short cruise together while studying Scripture and listening to good speakers.
At first I thought, I’d love to do that. Then it hit me—I won’t be here anymore.
My husband is in the Army. We have packed up and moved away from every church I’ve begun to love, left every set of couple friends we’ve made and terminated every job I’ve ever held—usually just as I begin to sink in.
What’s worse—to be the leaver or the left? Which is more lonely?
That’s been a topic of frequent consideration when my husband deployed in years past. Did I have the greater challenge still sleeping the bed he had suddenly abandoned? Was it harder to face the daily routine of “together” things by myself? Or, was it more painful for him to walk away from home, from routine, from comfort, familiar and family?
For the rest of that Sunday afternoon, I allowed the pending loneliness to marinate my heart. Perhaps I should just pull up stakes now, abandon my volunteer projects, stop going to church, begin to shut off my heart so that it hurts a little less when I walk away.
We often say that Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows how we feel. He experienced our pain and has compassion for our wounded hearts. But I had never before considered how it must have broken Jesus’ heart to leave earth.
The disciples stood around Him as he ascended into Heaven. I’m sure He was excited to stand again at the Father’s right hand surrounded by the glory and splendor that was His before the foundation of the world.
But I wonder…
Was it hard for Him to say goodbye to his disciples? He had walked with them, eaten with them, debated with them. He knew their families, their occupations, their hangups and their habits. And when He left earth, He told them that He didn’t know when He would return. Only the Father knew. It was an indefinite goodbye.
Not only was Jesus leaving these men, but the very creation—would He miss this earth in someway? He was the God who sculpted trees and rivers and mountains with His words. Before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it was His great delight to walk with them daily in the beauty of nature. Then, for a brief 33 years, He had touched that soil again. He had left His footprints next to man’s.
None of this contemplation is deny or bring into questions Christ’s complete deity. However, in the mysteriousness of prayer, and the difficult act of abiding in Him, I think we often lose sight of our Savior’s complete humanity.
Jesus tried to prepare the disciples for the day He would leave. Even as He did, He promised them, “I will come back for you!” I wonder if He took comfort in those words too, reminding His flesh and blood heart that this sacrifice He was about to make for the redemption of man would reinstate garden walks and side-by-side foot prints, shared meals and laughter.
There’s something about sinking my heart into the truth of Christ’s brief vulnerability, the truth that His human heart comprehends my loss and loneliness and the ache of leaving. Yes, He does go with me. He never leaves me and I cannot leave Him, as I am held in the palm of His hand. But He does not deny or try to dismiss my earth-hurt.
Oh for the day when I can bury my face in His chest, look up into His eyes, hold His hand and walk in the garden.
*This piece was first published in the print issue of “WHOA Women“.