How Do You Say Goodbye?
I stand on the empty hardwood floor that used to be my living room; the same floor Jerica and I used to tiptoe around to not disturb our cranky downstairs neighbor. Every little sound is magnified by the echoes of an empty room. The white TV cable is coiled on the ground, and the oven clock gives off the only shred of light. It’s dark and empty in here.
I look around and wonder...how do you say good-bye? How do you walk away when you’re leaving so much behind?
I’ve only lived here for two years, but there’s already so much. So many memories. So many people. So many moments of discomfort and joy and mundane. I didn’t particularly flourish during these years, but I deepened. Most days I tried to grow UP, not realizing that my growth needed to be inward not upward.
As I close my apartment door for the last time, I am more rooted & established than ever before. An invisible strength has come from days and nights of anxiety and loneliness and frustrated prayer and sorrow-filled worship songs and giving thanks in the middle of temptation. It's come from hard-fought battles that left me feeing more weary than victorious.
There were hard days and weeks. Very hard. But I look back on each day with gratitude. Thank you, Suffering, for making me stronger through perseverance. Thank you, Loneliness, for driving me to deeper intimacy with the Lord. Thank you, Anxiety, for pushing me to embrace discomfort and invite the Lord into it with me.
I see, now, a victory that is mine but not of me–a victory won for me in weakness. My strength came when I admitted, “I can’t do this.”
I didn’t see it then. I hardly ever do. But He supplied the strength and didn’t let me see it until later.
I step across the threshold of Cumberland 118 for the last time, about the close the door and turn the key, and I’m overwhelmed by the moments I didn’t see. The moments I was keeping my head above water, zipping in and out of Fresh or psyching myself up to go in the Foundry or driving down Broadway or the Loop or Lake Placid Road. Moments that seemed mundane at the time, but I now see as the real steps of healing, growth, maturity. It was all happening and I never even knew it.
And now, it’s over, and I’ve changed.
When I wasn’t looking, when I was crying over anxiety, when I was watering my plants, when I was listening to the millionth podcast, when I was feeling alone and forgotten, it was happening. Growth. Deepening, strengthening, establishing. It was happening in weakness.
It’s overwhelming to just walk away. It feels wrong, somehow, to leave all those under appreciated moments behind. They seemed so meaningless at the time, but I see them now, and they are beautiful. I want to wrap them in thick layers of gratitude. I want to relive them all over again, this time pointing out, “There! There is when I wrestled with anxiety and had no idea that it would lead to breakthrough. There is where I felt the horrible discomfort of loneliness, but was led into deeper intimacy with Jesus. There is where I mindlessly chopped so many sweet potatoes and carrots and zucchini, and the whole time, my heart was healing itself through moments of quiet contentment.”
“There… is where I took one step closer to trusting myself…”
“There… is where I asked the Lord for wisdom and realized that He will give it to those who ask.”
“There… is where I thought I’d throw up from anxiety and the Lord just held me.”
“There… is where I squeezed my eyes shut and begged the Lord to deliver me from temptation.”
“There….is where I asked ‘Do you ever feel like this too?’ and a friendship deepened.”
There are so many “there” moments, I can’t begin to count them. These memories mark the steps of growth. My heart swells with a pleasant ache, but an ache nonetheless. It’s a pain that I don’t want to go away. I want to cry of happiness and sadness at the same time. I’m mourning the loss of something I didn’t always consider beautiful, but like a mask or curtain that has just been lifted, I see that these moments were beautiful all along.
And how do I walk away? It’s hard. My heart wants to stay, rewinding and pausing time, taking each memory carefully in my hands, examining it and praising it for the loveliness I never saw before.
But I can’t rewind time. I’ve lived this season, and I must move forward. This is a good thing.
So I turn the key on Apt. 118 for the last time. I step across the threshold, looking one last time over my shoulder at what was once home. I thank God that He is a Father who gives good gifts. I thank Him for every single gift He gave me these past two years. Gifts that are now memories. Gifts that are beautiful but temporary. And I can let go of them because the Gift-Giver is still with me.
He gives good gifts, but they aren’t what I need. What I need is Him. And I have Him. I always will.