Traveling has been a part of our lives from the very early days of our marriage until now. When our children were little, our singing took us away nearly every weekend and occasionally for longer periods of time. Although leaving was common, it was never easy. Suzanne said to us when she was three, “I know you have to go, but don’t leave without saying ‘goodbye’.” She knew that the “leave-taking” was very important to everyone’s security and sense of purpose.
Even before they were old enough to understand fully the concepts of time, distance, and location, the children always insisted on knowing the answers to five very important questions: Where are you going? How long will you be gone? Can we come with you? Who will stay with us? When will you be back? Over and over we would answer these questions giving specific information: “We are going to Houston, Texas. We will be gone three days. You can’t come this time, but Grandma and Grandpa Sickal will stay here at the house with you and will take you to your piano lessons on Saturday.”
Then we would give advice like, “Don’t argue; take care of the dogs and always remember to love each other. If you need anything, Grandma will help you. And, remember that whatever you do or wherever you go, you represent our family. People will judge us by how you treat each other and your grandparents.”
When Jesus was leaving his disciples to return to His Father, He, too, knew that leave-taking was very important. He knew that we human beings could handle separation as long as He “didn’t leave without saying goodbye.” And the questions His children needed to have answered were the same ones Suzanne, Amy and Benjy used to ask. With specific clarity Jesus gave them answers, although they could not fully comprehend the dimension of what he was telling them.
“I go to my Father,” he said. “You can’t come with me yet, but don’t worry, I won’t leave you alone. The Holy Spirit will be your constant companion, and I must go so that He can come. While I’m gone He will teach you everything you need to know. I will be gone, by my time, only a little while, though it may seem long to you. But you can be confident that I will be back, and when I come again, it will be to get you and take you where I have been all this time fixing up a special place for us all to be together…forever. After that, we won’t have to say ‘goodbye’ again.”
Then Jesus gave some special parental instructions. “Love and take care of each other. The way you treat each other will tell the world about our family, so remember Whose child you are. Some problems may come up, but whatever you need, you can ask for it using my name. I’ve signed for you, so all I have is at your disposal, and the Holy Spirit will see that you have it. And remember, we’re a part of the same family tree: I’m the roots and trunk; you are the branches, so our growing will be together. And when you feel lonely or afraid, rely on the promise that I have insulated you in prayer and you belong to me.”