Northpoint had a going away service for me today. I can't think of a better way to leave than this.
Service was normal, however, cut short. They had a special prayer time for me, and then the congregation gathered in a circle around the sanctuary, joined hands, and Pastor Tom led us in all 4 verses, a capella, of "Blessed be the Tie that binds." I had told him before service started that whatever happened, he wasn't allowed to make me cry. And I did do well through the first three verses. But here is what caught me up:
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
Tom Bussen, a friend, confidant, and "rough time give-er" of the worship team stood to my left, and soon after the song started, he grabbed my hand. When we sang this verse, I couldn't stop the tears from coming, and I stood there and silently wept while he squeezed my hand. Pastor Tom pointed to me (which, I never realized he had such a wonderful voice) when we/they sang "but we shall still be joined in heart". I wept. Leaving family. Leaving the most wonderful group of people I have ever been privileged to surround myself with.
After the song, Tom B. and I were both in tears, and he reached over and hugged me for quite some time. Pastor Tom had me stand by the back door to the sanctuary, and as almost every person left, I was greeted with a warm hug, (even from those I didn't know so well) and so many well wishes and words of affirmation, thanks, and love. Some goodbyes were harder than others...Tom, Nanci Strahm (our worship leader's wife), the youth group kiddos, Janell MacIntosh, and of course Pastor Tom. I got to tell him goodbye last, once the sanctuary had emptied out, and he said nothing; he only hugged me and we stood there for quite some time. I, of course, wept, and when he pulled back, his eyes looked somewhat watered too.
I've never felt so loved, or like such a part of the body. Friends offered to come visit, made me promise to not delete my facebook, and promised to call often. I know that I will visit, and the reunions will be sweet, but for now the leaving is hard.
I must say that, in all of this, I am so blessed to have been led to such a wonderful body, a family, of believers; true representations of the boundless and joyful love of Christ. Its wonderful to be loved, and to love these people. So while the tears fall and it hurts to move, it's even better to know that I'm not going alone. That I am surrounded by such a truly great cloud of witnesses.
It's rained all day which hasn't helped to lift my spirits, and tomorrow begins a week of goodbyes and see-you-later-s to clients, my wonderful babysitting kiddos, and everything I've called home and certain for the last 4 years. I talked with a friend this weekend over coffee, and she talked about saying goodbye as a part of the grieving process. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to go through it this many times in one week. But where He leads I will go and where He leads He will provide. As for today, my heart is rejoicefully heavy and I so I've embraced today as a day of healing and really preparing my heart for what's next. It doesn't quite help the packing process, but Friday will come and I will be ready, because God is faithful.