Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship. -Acts 20:36–38, THE MESSAGE

When Shakespeare wrote that “parting is such sweet sorrow” in Romeo and Juliet, he might have been describing this farewell scene between Paul and his friends in Miletus. Two opposite emotions were present: joy and sorrow. Paul felt joy that a new generation of spiritual leaders was now assuming their place in the church, but knowing he would never see them again was heartbreaking. In the same way, the elders knew Paul had important work in Jerusalem, including a love offering he had collected for them. But this was their spiritual father they were saying good-bye to for the last time. Together they cried a river of tears.

How beautiful. How sad. There are people who keep others at arm’s length in life to protect themselves from this kind of sorrow. But if you think about it, it’s only the people who bring us great joy who can bring us great sorrow. If we are to have the kinds of deep and abiding relationships God has created us to experience, then this will be a bittersweet pattern in life.

I for one would not trade one tear I’ve shed for the joy of Christian love I have for brothers and sisters all over the world. Open your heart to true love. I would rather live with the risk of pain than to live without the joy of love.

Prayer: Thank you for the precious bonds of love you have given me through fellowship with those who share my love for you.

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