“Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:37,38).

GROWTH TOWARD GOD IS A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE, BUT IT’S ALSO A PAINFUL EXPERIENCE. We all want to make progress, but since grasping greater things always requires letting go of lesser things, it can be painful to go forward. Even when we’re going someplace exceedingly wonderful, saying goodbye is never easy. So this thing we call growth is a bittersweet blessing if ever there was one.

Paul’s painful farewell to his beloved Christian friends in Ephesus illustrates the agony that often attends progress. Paul was going to Jerusalem, for the last time as it turned out, and then to Rome, though he did not yet know the circumstances. Everything Paul had worked for as a Christian, an evangelist, and an apostle was coming to a climax, and if he had stayed in Ephesus just because he loved the people there, he would have not been reaching forward. But it would take a hard-hearted person not to be touched by his grief, and theirs, when goodbye had to be said.

In our language, there is an old adage that says, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” That’s the way it is with growth. We can’t change for the better without . . . changing. We can’t get where we’re going and still stay where we are. Progress, by its very definition, means moving beyond our present “location.”

Sometimes progress means leaving behind things we’re only too glad to leave behind: things that are unhealthy, unpleasant, and even sinful. At other times, however, the choice is harder: we must choose between good, better, and best. The road forks, and some good things have to be given up — even some lovingly cherished things — in order to move toward the ultimately good thing for which we were created: perfect, unending fellowship with God in His very presence, in a realm unbroken and unmarred by sin.

If we are to have the future that God wants to give us, we must be willing to let go of our present. That is one of life’s most important lessons. So let’s keep a clear head, say our goodbyes with gratitude, and then “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1).

“Growth is demanding and may seem dangerous, for there is loss as well as gain in growth” (May Sarton).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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