And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
– Acts 20:36-38
This is such a beautiful passage in Scripture. The context is even more stunning. Paul was preparing to leaven for Jerusalem. He wanted to be there during Pentecost. He stopped quickly in Ephesus to encourage them. He said that he had worked hard to share the gospel with them. He worked hard so he could build them up. He worked hard and gave it all away because Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Then, as Paul is preparing to board the ship again, they prayed and wept together. They hugged and kissed. This is the prototypical picture of a deep-soul connection between believers.
When I read this, I couldn’t help but think about this summer going to South Africa and then in August moving to either St. Louis or Orlando for seminary. With every step of faith I take for the Lord, it could be the last time I see my family, friends, and those I lead in the Lord. I remember a July evening this past summer, when eight Campus Crusade interns were gathered in my living room, praying for the ones who were going overseas. There was much weeping. We prayed for an hour for everyone. The truth was, and still is, we might not ever see them face to face again. That is a sobering and terrifying thought, yet one that can be distilled when I take comfort in my Savior. He is more glorious and satisfying than anything else. My friends overseas are doing the work of the Lord. When I go to Africa, and then on to seminary, I will be laboring for the Lord. Knowing that Jesus guides, sustains, and uplifts me is more splendid than the greatest friends at my side.
Paul gave everything he had to the Ephesians. He did it because Jesus gave all he had for our salvation. So, with all I have, I’ll take the free grace God offers to the hard places in this world. And when I leave the ones I love, I will do it with weeping and in prayer.
Even still, it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.