when you have to leave them behind


If you know me or have been reading along with me for a while, you already know a few things: there's this really long, complicated relationship that I've been in the process of sorting through and getting over, there's something about the intersections of the sacred and secular that really speak to me, and there's something I always love about a good metaphor. You probably know a few more things too at this point, but those are the three I'm sticking with this time around.

Now, if you follow me on Twitter at all AND follow me on here, you might be a little jarred as you go back and forth, because apparently Twitter is where the sarcastically dry part of my personality resides, and around here is where the contemplative part of me lives. But something I read on Twitter the other day put me back in that reflective position, thinking about how sometimes we need to leave people behind as the absolute best choice we can make for them and for ourselves.

What got me thinking about all this was this tweet from Jonathan Martin I came across the other night.  The part that stood out to me goes like this:

Sometimes it's painful when God is leading you to a place where other people who have been important in your life cannot follow.


Those words resonated deeply with me, as someone who's been thinking a lot about what it means to have the paths of important people in our lives, people that we love and would do anything for, diverge from our own. And one of the things that strikes me most profoundly about this quote is that it retains the sacredness and beauty of holding just what certain people have meant to you and symbolized to you while also acknowledging that those things aren't always immutable. Because things change, and not everyone who's been with you in the past can accompany you to every other stage of your life. Many do, but sometimes you have to leave people behind you never thought you would.

We as humans are meaning-making beings by our very nature, and so often, we try to come up with reasons or rationales for why the people we most wish could come with us into future chapters of life cannot, but sometimes there is no reason for us to understand or comprehend. Sometimes, the only answer we get is that those people simply cannot go with us. And as a logical person, I hate having to write those words, but I also think that's where faith comes in, whatever form faith happens to take in your own life. Perhaps that's simply trusting that God has reasons for the things that happen which She has simply chosen not to reveal to us. Perhaps it's just an implicit understanding that things are the way they are for a reason and that they are better that way.

Because the reality is that the corollary to the fact that when people cannot follow us into new chapters and seasons of life is that we have to then leave those people behind.

And the English language has a hard time with expressing this in my opinion, because I think, typically, the phrase "leave behind" has negative connotations, like you are choosing to abandon someone against their will, when that's not the way I see this idea at all. 


As I've worked to understand what this means for myself, I like to imagine this "leaving behind" more in the vein of someone going to study abroad or someone moving away to a new city. They are likewise "leaving behind" people they love, but not in the sense of abandonment. Of course, the people they leave behind will likely have a myriad of emotions, but everyone knows that ultimately the decision to go away is the best for that time and place. They know that the journey and experience will be good for that person and they accept that they simply cannot follow that person into that stage of their life, even if they wanted to.

And perhaps more appropriate to the metaphor of someone moving away to a new city, there is always the chance that person will move back home again, perhaps for good at that point, but there's no way to know that for certain at the moment of their departure. I think the same is true of people we need to leave behind in life. There's always the possibility that our paths will reconverge at some point in the future, but we won't know that until it happens. And at the same time, we also cannot continue standing at the fork in the road indefinitely, because that only prevents you from moving on towards what you are being called to, just like you can't stand at the gate at the airport looking back forever. Eventually, you'll have to get onboard and leave. This is often the hardest part, but it's also necessary.

we cannot continue standing at the fork in the road indefinitely, because that only prevents us from moving on towards what we're being called to

And perhaps I should reiterate that none of these things are easy for me. In fact, I'm probably more inclined to claw and fight and resist than most of the people I know when it comes to moving on and allowing myself to "leave people behind." My mind keeps spinning around all the different possibilities I conjure up in my head of how it could've worked or how I could've just adjusted everything enough for it to fall into place the way *I* think it should, whether that's in terms of relationships or otherwise.

No, absolutely not. If anything, I'm one of the worst people I know at learning to do this, learning to "leave behind" the people that are no longer able to follow me into the next chapter of life, but it's something that I'm continuing to learn is necessary and healthy AND also painful as hell. I don't try to diminish that all in this.

I suppose the one thing that I'll close this post with is saying that I'm always intrigued whenever my favorite shows have one of those what-if episodes, showing how things could've turned out if a few details in the characters' lives had been altered at some point in the past. It's always a really fascinating thought exercise of speculative fiction within fiction itself, but it's also a reminder that even if we think things will work out "perfectly" if we could just have things the way we wanted, often so many other things would've also changed drastically, a reminder that things are the way they are for a reason.

I'm no expert in this. I just happen to write about what's going on in my own internal process, because I think it's important to remind as many people as I can that we're in this thing of life together, and so often, the things that one of us is going through, we all will at one point or another.

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