When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19

I’m reading a book entitled Love and War, by Jim and Sybil Stockdale which shares the story from both their perspectives of his 8 years in a North Vietnamese prison as a POW. Several days before his shoot-down and capture, Sybil and Jim spent a week or so together in Japan on vacation. They said their farewells, and Sybil flew back to the States as Jim returned to his carrier, the USS Oriskany. Shortly, he would be roughly escorted, injured, as a POW to prison for the next 8 years, rarely hearing from his wife because his captors didn’t pass her letters on. They had no idea as they parted they’d be separated for such a long time. But they parted well with no regrets.

Jesus, in our passage, made an effort to be with Peter, the impetuous disciple, and perhaps finalize Peter’s preparation for what would come after Jesus ascended. I’m confident Jesus’ deliberate interaction with Peter ultimately fortified Peter to handle his ministry after Jesus’ miraculous departure. Their farewell led to Kingdom impact that helped changed the world!

Saying farewell to people, especially those we love, isn’t enjoyable. By definition, it’s about separation, being apart, either for the first time, or once again. And, just like the Stockdale’s and Jesus with Peter, there’s no way to know when meeting again will happen. One thing I learned from my dad, someone who we said farewell to frequently growing up, was to let people know how we felt about them when separated. Rarely did a phone call, conversation, or visit end without an ‘I love you.’ Personally, I’m trying to emulate that with all my family and friends as we depart from each other.

South is bidding farewell to Larry as he and his family transition to a new ministry. This is another example of a time where we make the effort to say our farewells ‘well.’ While we don’t know how long it will be until we see Larry and his family, our farewells should reflect our true feelings as well as a heartfelt hope for their future in California and their new ministry. If you’ve a relationship with Larry, make an effort to say farewell to him, and his family, as they move into the next chapter of God’s story for them.

By Rich Obrecht