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The Bittersweet Space of GoodbyeThe Bittersweet Space of Goodbye

The Bittersweet Space of Goodbye

It takes faith not only to grab hold of things, but to let things go, reflects Alida Oegema. As she prepares to leave Canada's West coast for a new city and a new beginning, she writes on the ways she sees God leading, sustaining, and surrounding her and her husband-to-be.

8 minute read
The Bittersweet Space of Goodbye June 11, 2018  |  By Alida Thomas
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This reflection was originally published on Alida's website.

I get married in less than three months. 

And move to a new province a week after that. 

Each of those statements is weighty and exciting and joy-filled. But each is equally growing and challenging and new: in the way that anything new is equally thrilling and terrifying. 

I have nothing but peace and confidence and the utmost of excitement in marrying Nick. Our story certainly isn't what I expected, but with every passing day, the sheer grace and generosity of Jesus in it leaves me almost baffled. Learning and choosing to love another person is proving to be one of the single greatest endeavours of my life: and one of the deepest joys too. And I'm fully aware that we're just getting started here, forming and building a life together in pursuit of Jesus and of each other through all that life will bring our way.  

But choosing to love and learning to love has been more of an adjustment than I expected too. In beautiful ways and in bittersweet ways too. In ways that have challenged my weaknesses and emphasized my strengths at the same time. 

Life is a learning curve, that's for sure. And Jesus seems rarely content with letting us get comfortable or complacent, always inviting us into growth and into new and deeper ways of becoming love. And if I'm learning anything in this season, it's that His invitations, while sometimes daunting, always result in knowing Him more fully and seeing Him more accurately. 

And that journey? The journey of growing in our understanding of His love and growing in our lived-out expression of what it means to be love? That’s the goal of life, isn't it? 

I’m doing quite a bit of looking ahead these days – but also a lot of looking back and reflecting on the sheer goodness of God that got us here. And an equal amount of holding on desperately to this right-now space and savouring this place and the unique expression of life that’s been built here.

I didn't move to Vancouver with a backup plan. I didn't have an exit strategy. I was a starry-eyed, dream-filled kid who felt the tug of the west coast and the call of God to put down roots here and invest as if this was my forever. 

So I did.

And it became home in a way that no place has ever been home before. I ache for this city. I've wept over this city. I've been absolutely frustrated with this city and the distinct challenges here. But, I absolutely love this city, with a love that I can’t shake and that has only grown over the past years.

It's home. The coast is forever in my veins.

It's the place that has been the backdrop to the most difficult and formative years of my life - but also some of the (simultaneously) most beautiful. The place where I found community and family with a depth and reach that I still can't quite wrap my head around. It's where I've been a part of two church communities that have shaped me and moulded me in profound ways and that moved me out of my skepticism of the church (as an establishment) into a deep love for and commitment to the local church. It’s a place where I failed and grew and took risks and where growing in maturity and faithfulness often felt like a relentless grind and still somehow a joy-filled adventure all at the same time.

It's the place where I saw a gathering of a group of friends passionate about worship (in all of life) grow into a movement and where we stood back with humbling gratitude for what God was doing in our midst. Where I learned - over and over and over (and still learning) in paradigm shifting ways - that Kingdom life looks less like “big” moments of breakthrough, but more often mean the steady rhythms of savouring Jesus, showing up, clinging to hope, fostering joy, and practicing gratitude.

It's the place where summers meant spending every possible moment at the beach or in the mountains, where springtime painted the city pink with the soft hues of cherry blossoms, and where winters meant getting well acquainted with rain and Gore-Tex and still going outside even when it's wet. It’s the place where I got to cheer on the Whitecaps and Canucks as a local. Where I've studied and worked and have seen God slowly and graciously (amidst a lot of stumbling and fumbling) bring direction to my vocation - and more importantly, redefined my definition(s) of success and achievement. It’s where God redefined my identity and captured my heart with a vision for Himself even before a vision for his mission.

It's the place that holds the winding coastal roads and rocky beaches and mountain trails where I processed grief and burnout and sickness and where God, slowly and graciously, rebuilt things that once felt irreparably broken. It's the place where I've made my home in tiny urban apartments and in the green house on the corner shared with incredible women - with backyard fire-pits and late-night chats, and the irreplaceable joy of getting to live only a floor away from my big sister. It's the place of coffee shops where I'm a regular, the running routes I can run on autopilot, and the countless places I go back to again and again because they feel like coming home. 

And now I'm leaving. Fading northeast at the end of this summer because I fell in love with an Alberta boy and starting our lives together as husband and wife now means making our home, for a few years at least, in Edmonton.

As it turns out, picking up roots that you let grow very deep is not an easy process: at all.  

I think I've been slowly processing the transition - grieving what I'm leaving behind as much as I look forward to what's ahead. I’ll be honest: my heart is having a really hard wrapping itself around the weight of what I’m leaving behind. It's bittersweet. Simultaneously lined with more joy than I expected and also far more sadness than I anticipated as well.

I have to learn to let go of the proximity I have to my community: to the regular morning workouts and the lunch-break catch-ups and the sea wall walks after work or the slow days with my roommates. I have to let go of the ability to jump on my bike and ride to the beach and the long weekend hiking trips in the Coastal Mountains and the runaways to Whistler even for a day or to jump in a lake off the Sea-to-Sky highway. I have to let go of the indescribable comfort of being surrounded by people who know you well and love you deep and the friends and colleagues that make up the rhythm of life and work and ministry here. And I have to believe that God will sustain those deep bonds across time and distance. I have to let go of dreams (and even some expectations) that I had for life here, not knowing if/when God might lead us back.

I have nothing but confidence that God is going before us in all of this and I don't have adequate words to say how much I can't wait to do life, for always and in all contexts, with Nick. He was an easy choice. But the cost is high. 

Worth it? Absolutely.

Easy? Not even close.

Sometimes Jesus invites us into seasons of staying. Into years of putting down roots and building homes and looking forward with long-term vision. Sometimes faithfulness means a long obedience in the same place. And sometimes He asks us to trust Him and step into the unknown. Into the new. Into the places we never expected to go, but find His Spirit leading us. Sometimes obedience - and invitation - means letting go.

It is, after all, about learning to lean into the joy and surrender of choosing and prioritizing His voice and His leading more than any other. He is the God who leads and sustains and surrounds us always with His presence and His goodness.

I don’t think I’m very good at goodbyes. I've had to say a lot, but I don't think that practice has made me particularly proficient. My Dad and I always had a deal that if we’d just leave a post-it note saying “I love you, see you soon” and leave without explanation or fanfare that we wouldn’t be disappointed. I never actually left that way, but I loved the idea – the attempt at a quick exit and a temporary farewell. (And the consequent ability to process the sadness in our own ways.)

I’m a dive-in fully girl, but I’m slowly learning to let go with the same faith that makes it so easy for me to grab hold of things. Turns out the act of leaving, the act of going, and the act of staying are all anchored in the same undercurrent of believing that God is good, endlessly faithful, and entirely trustworthy. The context might change, but the foundation remains.

I wish I could write a hundred post-it notes to my community and life in Vancouver, stained with tears and an attempt to express the depth of my love and appreciation and a P.S. I’ll be back soon. And that somehow that would make the transition feel less like letting go of a piece of my own heart. Yet, I suspect that the ache is an inevitable and even beautiful part of the process - and a reflection of love that went deep and is deep. 

I will be back. I know I will. We will be back, and that's even sweeter. But, I have no idea of the capacity or tenure of that stay and it's premature for me to make a return plan before - and only if - God leads us back. 

It’s painful, this act of leaving, but it’s so good too because it grows us and shapes us. And it’s so lined with hope and possibility and newness and the leading and promise of Jesus. 

I’m in awe of what God has done here, trying to root myself for as long as I possibly can in the joy-filled weight of gratitude for who He is and what He has done, knowing that the ache of goodbye isn't separate from that very same space. I holding on to the sweetness of what these next few months will hold: the transition, the continued rhythms of life here, the celebration of the love Jesus is building in Nick and I, and particularly the people who make my life so full and rich and more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be.

He’s never been anything but faithful. That’s never going to change.

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