Loving Those Who Leave:
Not Counting the Cost of Time, Love, & Support
My family is a military family. If you can count on us for only one thing, it’s that in about three years we will leave. We don’t have a choice on when, we rarely have a say on where, and sometimes it can catch us off guard. I have heard our pastors and lay ministers complaining when they’ve gotten a new military family at their church who is young, vibrant, and passionately pursuing their faith but eventually has to move on. My pastor recently joked, “You guys come, you’re great, you leave, and then you’re dead to me.” While the military family in your church is one example of the “transient lifestyle”, others include college students from out of town, young adults getting their feet wet in their career field, and adults that have jobs that constantly require travel.
Sometimes in our lives we have people who come for a season. God brings them in for a purpose, a mutually beneficial purpose, to sanctify each other and grow in virtues. The problem, however, is the fact that sometimes it hurts to love. It hurts to connect if we know we must disconnect. It’s hard to form heart-to-heart relationships if we believe that any resources, times, talents, and treasures that we pour into a relationship could be without a quantifiable return on investment, for lack of better phrase. To protect our own hearts, we decide not to engage in a potential relationship and keep ourselves at a safe emotional distance.
Every relationship that is centered on Christ is a purposeful relationship that draws us into holiness and draws us to the Father, whether the relationship lasts three months, three years, or three decades. Proverbs 27 tells us that as iron sharpens iron, we sharpen each other. The fear of being hurt from being left must be overcome by the fear of losing out on a potential relationship that will cause you to grow and become conformed more into the image of Christ. Additionally, the fear of being hurt must be overcome with the love for the other person who may not be receiving adequate pastoral care or supportive friendships. Like foster parents, the fear of being hurt by attaching and loving a child only to have them leave must be surpassed by the awareness that the transient nature of a child does not diminish their immediate need to be loved.
So what should we do? We should love without counting the costs. We should give freely of our time and our hearts, which are designed to connect, and not keep our distance from those who will leave us. We should find that military family in our church- you know, the one with the mom of three kids who doesn’t get invited to playdates since her family is due to leave in two months- and we should invite them into our lives, for however much time God has ordained them to stay. We should find those college kids with no local family who will leave in two years, those adults whose job is volatile and causes them to move frequently, and we should invite them into the home we’ve established and the family we’ve created within our churches, parishes, and communities. As for whether or not to engage our hearts, the cost of not loving is infinitely greater as the riches of unexpected friendships and spiritual growth will remain untapped.
Written By: Ali Denning