By Pastor Bob Myers
Last week I challenged all of us to be loyal to friends. Quoting from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.” The imagery is to forge chains of steel and tie your soul to these tried and true friends.
Imagine if Covenant became known as a place where we never lose a friend and commit to not allowing any bonds of friendship to be loosened, lessened, or lost. We refuse to jump the gun on goodbyes until death forces us to. We hold onto people out of deep love and deep loyalty.
If goodbyes are easy, that’s a character fault. Deeply caring about people means that we have to notice and feel and then properly acknowledge those who we cared for and no longer get to see. Every move and transition is a kind of grief and change.
When my father was in declining health, I visited as often as I could, and I always felt the weight of wanting to have all the necessary conversations. The reality is, we will never be completely satisfied nor can we ever say all that we want to have said. But we can take steps towards saying the most important things because we never know when an encounter with someone we love will be our last encounter.
I found it helpful to list what the truly necessary conversations are. Most of these statements should be part of our everyday vocabulary. These are the ingredients for a good marriage, a good relationship with parents or children, and good friendships.
What are those necessary conversations?
1. Thank You
We can’t thank our loved ones enough. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving me back. Thank you for all the ways your input brightens my life. Gratitude is cleansing to us. It cleanses us from entitlement, a critical spirit, and an unforgiving spirit.
2. I Love You.
Can’t say it enough to those we love. Yes, follow it with actions. Find ways to show it. But do not displace saying it. I remember a dear woman who once told me her husband of over 50 years said to her every single day, “I love you” and meant it.
3. I’m Sorry.
We hurt the people we love. Often hurting them most. Our sinful nature wants to bury our failures and just focus on the future. But the gospel should produce in us a readiness to repent, apologize, and own our faults and failures. The most Christ-like, Holy Spirit filled individual is the most tender hearted to their own sins. Learn fluency in owning your own sin and saying it with words to those who have been impacted.
4. I Forgive You.
They hurt us. As Christians we always have the forgiveness option. We can initiate forgiveness and we can forgive someone unilaterally all by ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing and it sets people free. We don’t have to wait on other people to fess up, or to say the perfect formula.
5. I’m Proud Of You.
I am proud to know you, proud that you are my wife, friend, son, daughter, parent, etc. Children need to hear this from parents often. But don’t slight your parents, and even your peers, from hearing that you are “proud” of them. It’s a good thing to tell your spouse that too.
6. I’m Going To Miss You.
Your absence will be deeply felt. Whether it’s a geographical move, a change of workplace, or a death, which in Christ is a temporary but severe separation, we need to express our grief and own the loss. This is a way of communicating value.
7. Eternity Is Ahead For Us.
If they are Christians, this is a certain hope. We grieve death, and we might grieve a death severely, sending us into soul-shaking sorrow. But our grief must be anchored to our hope, or it will consume us. In Christ, we’re going to spend eternity together. If they’re not Christians, find a way to say how much you want them to know the One who opened the door to eternal life for us.