Always

It’s common knowledge that I’m a sucker for a good love story. I’m all about the “happily ever after,” riding off into the sunset, the perfect kiss as the end credits start to roll, and whatever cheesy cliche you want to hang on the end of it.

But one thing that every great love story has in common is the inevitable crisis. There is some great struggle to overcome or circumstance that brings the relationship into jeopardy.

Why is that?

I suppose it’s because crisis is part of every human story.

A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing honor once again to conduct a wedding ceremony for one of my sons. As I led them through their vows I was struck again at the absolute of the phrase, “until death alone shall part us.” It is a pledge that, as long as I have any ability to choose, “I choose you.”

Always.

That’s an important word—always.

Andy Grammer put this idea to music in a crafty song by that title, “Always.” It’s worth a listen here. He owns up to the fact that there is so much that is beyond our capacity to control. He acknowledges that most everything changes. But look at how he put it:

Now, see, your clothes your shoes and your best friends
They ain't gonna stay the same
Your reckless years and your mistakes
I promise you, they fade away
But trust me, the one thing that nothing in this world can change
Hey, you and me will be always
Always, you and me will be always

That’s the promise we make when we walk that wedding aisle, isn’t it? It is to be always. It doesn’t say we’ll be always perfect or always happy or even always in agreement. But we pledge to be always.

Over the years I have challenged couples to walk into marriage with the determination that this joining of lives will end in a cemetery instead of a courthouse. Sounds easy enough. But to decide and to live out the decision for a lifetime to be always together… that’s a big ask.

But that’s the way this whole marriage thing is supposed to work. It’s supposed to be always—as long as both partners have breath in their lungs. But I think I’m really just beginning to understand why that was the design in the creation of marriage to start with.

When I read the Scriptures, I am struck by the significance of this unique relationship. The Story unfolds it and develops it into a cornerstone of the human experience and the intended means by which mankind would follow the Designer’s instruction to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “fill the earth and subdue it.” (And that was before we messed it up – we already had a job to do.)

But as the Story moves forward, we begin to see God use this most crucial human connection to show us how He wants to be in relationship with us. He went so far as to identify the collective of all who would embrace His offer of life as a bride for His beloved Son.

That beloved and only Son, Jesus, came and lay down His life to give us life. He rose from the grave. Then, just before He ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us, His bride, He made a promise:

“Behold, I am with you always.”

Or maybe it could have been translated, “You and me will be always.”

No Hellos Without Goodbyes

As we rush through the holiday season, there are greetings galore. We gather with family and friends and share a meal, a treat, perhaps even a gift. We spend time together and, hopefully, recognize the rich blessings of sharing life with those we love.

But sometimes the reality strikes in the midst of the greetings that the inevitable parting will too soon be upon us. We love to gather but we hate to say goodbye. That is, we hate to say goodbye to people with whom we truly enjoy spending time.

And the hellos are joyful. But the goodbyes are difficult. It’s always been so, I suppose.

I was reflecting upon an occasion recorded in the book of Acts (chapter 28) when Paul had asked the leaders of the church at Ephesus to come and meet with him. They were very sad because he plainly told them he would not see them again. But he reminded them of the things he had worked so hard to teach them.

On that day, the hello was sweet, but the goodbye was so hard. And so many of our family gatherings and friend-rich occasions will find our hellos full of joy…but perhaps tinged with the sad reality of the inevitable goodbyes.

I think that one of the most wondrous aspects of life in relationship with Jesus is the assurance of forever spent in His presence WITH all of those who know Him. Just think about it…always hello and never goodbye.

But here and now, the truth is that we cannot have the hellos without the goodbyes. But, if we know that forever is sure because of Jesus, then our partings just increase our appetite for that time that is to come.

As you gather with your family and friends this season, enjoy the hellos. And, as you embrace the inevitable goodbyes, would you just make sure that they are really “see-you-laters?”

There really are no hellos without goodbyes…yet.