Sometimes, during a life transition, even an anticipated one, the road stretching ahead appears as murky as fog on an unfamiliar highway.
Several of our friends have turned onto that highway by choice. “We’re excited,” they say, “But of course we wonder….”
What if that new job seems perfect in so many ways, but I hate it? What if the longed-for fine climate delivers everything but the warmth of a beloved circle of friends? What if that university program isn’t right after all? What if moving nearer family seems perfect, but they’re too busy for us? Or what if they want to live in our laps? What if retiring early means boredom? Or even worse, what if we have less time, not more, to accomplish our personal goals?
When a transition includes a move, some residual fog settles on those left behind too. Sometimes it takes the hollow shape of a vacant place at the table, or on the team you served so well. Those who counted on you realize, too late, how much weight you carried. They miss your presence; your smile; your willing hands. They’re sure no one can replace you. Not completely. And they’re correct. But the highway rolls on anyway.
Recently, as we parted with a pair of friends beginning their own transition, I thought of the unfamiliar roads our family has journeyed (not always willingly or even wisely.) Sometimes my heart ached for the familiar, well-travelled road. For our old life and old normal. For friends and family left behind. But looking back, I realize something: Several billboards towered over even the foggiest stretches. I just couldn’t see them at the time.
Years ago, at a farewell for another set of dear friends, moving too far to easily visit, I sang these words from Debbie and Michael W. Smith. “Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them, and a friend will not say “never”, and the welcome will not end. Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” Thirty years later, though several provinces separate us, we keep in touch. One of those billboards would read, “True friends are never really left behind.”
Because of our numerous life transitions, the second billboard has moved from the side of life’s highway straight into my heart. Resonating with the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” that sign reads, “God’s arms stretch farther than you can ever go.” Through every move, and every journey – expected or not – God has proved faithful. And though transition will always bring uncertainty and the inevitable sorrow of multiple small and large leavings, new life journeys are less intimidating these days.
Are you moving on? No matter what your road holds, what pleasures (or pains) wait around the bend, remember those signs, and travel with confidence. God will always be faithful – and so will your forever friends.