This past weekend I was blessed to have a number of friends visit State College for Penn State's Blue/White game and a good friend's bachelor party. These friends make up some of the best friends in my life. They have been true brothers in Christ and I love them. Then today something terrible happened: they left.
As I got to see each of them off I found ways to comfort myself: "well at least I'm still in state college and still have some friends here." Then I realized I'm graduating in 2-3 weeks. The reality is this thing won't last. Such comfort isn't much comfort at all.
"Last things" are often hard for me (and no, I'm not referring to views of the millenium). I still have alot of memories of last things. I remember my last high school tennis match. I remember the last time I pulled out of my high school parking lot. I remember the last night I spent at home before moving to state college. I remember my last day working at GIANT food stores. I remember my last day working at the country club I spent three summers at. I remember the last day of the summer training program I was a part of two years ago. The list really does go on.
Now even as I type that it saddens me, and it saddens me even more to think about how many "last things" I have coming up. Such a feeling is strange to me; Myers-Briggs tells me I am a 19-1 Thinker vs. Feeler. I've often felt this way and wondered why. For much of my life I've just billed it up to nostalgia. But why I am nostalgic? Why is anyone? What about how God created us makes us like this?
It could just be because I really liked the things I was leaving, so leaving them hurt. But I don't think this is the case as I look back. I liked high school, but I liked college alot more. I definitely didn't really like my job at GIANT. There are others things I listed that I did like. But the degree to which I enjoyed those things doesn't seem to be the determining factor. So what is it?
I think I finally made steps towards an answer to this in recently listening to a Tim Keller sermon on Psalm 103. Specific to the question at hand were his comments on verses 15-17:
"As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more." - Psalm 103:15-16 (ESV)
As Keller was speaking on this he paid special attention to the phrase "its place knows it no more." He specifically used the example of going back home after leaving a place and seeing all the different things and seeing how few people really know you anymore. He talked about why that seems to bother us so much. Basically we all want a place we can really call home. We want a place that will always know us. I may not like the school I'm at or the job I'm working, but after a while it starts to feel like home, and I like that. I like to feel like it's a constant in my life.
My friends make me feel at home. They make me feel welcome. I'm afraid when they leave that "my place will know me no more." So the first thing I do is try to fix that feeling: find something that will still make me feel like my place will know me. But I can't. This phrase in Psalm 103 isn't something we can change: it is a fact about man. We live for a time, then we die, and our place knows us no more.
Is it then wrong for this to bother me? I don't think so. The passage doesn't end there. The next verse isn't: "so deal with it!" No, the psalmist instead offers us a remedy. He offers us a true home:
"But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children," - Psalm 103:17 (ESV)
The steadfast love of the Lord is a true home for us who fear him! He'll never leave after a weekend. There will never be a "last time" I have with the Lord. His steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting. This desire I have for a true home is let down every time I can't find that true home on earth. As a result, I'll continue to be sad every time I have to see my friends off. But I pray that I won't mourn as one who has no hope, but as one with an eternal home from "everlasting to everlasting" in the steadfast love of the Lord.