For those who stay

I went to a goodbye party tonight, both a wonderful and uncomfortable event. It was a joy to say a collective goodbye and see together, in one group, so many who have been very special to us these past three years.

It was also uncomfortable to hear people thank and honor us. I don’t like having to get up and make a speech when I know I’m going to tear up and have to fight my way through it. I don’t like being reminded that we mourn because these relationships will never quite be the same.

But in the middle of all the wonderful and uncomfortable, I kept thinking of something else: we rarely celebrate those who STAY–until they retire, that is. How often do we say (other than with the gift of a five-year plaque or 20-year wall clock), “Thank you for continuing, for staying”?

We’ve left a lot of places and attended a lot of goodbye parties in our “honor.” But tonight, as I looked out at a roomful of people telling me about the nice things they think Dave and I have done at Sterling College and in our community and church, I wanted to say, “Thank YOU for staying, for listening to the call to continue. Thank YOU for being willing to fill in the small places God called us to fill while we were here while you continue with all you already do.”

We romanticize leaving far too much, I think. In most of Paul’s epistles, he talks about those who travel with him, but he also mentions, prays for, and thanks the people who continue to stay in a particular church.

So thank you, friends, for staying. We pray that our friendships thrive even across the miles, and we look forward to hearing the great things God will do in this community and college through you who stay.

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