Leaving Well: A Hard Call to Surrender Your Family

Leaving is never easy, especially when your family is as close-knit as mine. As a pastor’s kid, I’ve always been steeped in ministry. My family has experienced many aspects of ministry together: from cleaning the sanctuary in preparation for the worship service, to hospital visits, to funerals. Looking back, I couldn’t imagine that sharing God’s love with people would look like it does now. The cost of gospel service has changed from serving together as a family to my parents sending me seven thousand miles away to proclaim Christ’s good news.

Through the process of preparing to go overseas, I’ve expected that leaving my family will be hard. But, until recently, I had not taken into account their side of the process: the sending. I have taken for granted the fact that they are sending me to a country into which they’ve never stepped foot. As a result, I’d been unintentionally insensitive to their process of sending me well. So, here are three ways that I am learning to leave them in a healthy way.

Surrender Them as They Surrender Me

C.S. Lewis stated in Mere Christianity, “Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours.” This quote rings true for me as I prepare to leave my family. I remember the day when God called me to the country where I will be living for the next two years. Surely, I thought, I had misheard him or misunderstood. I would like to say that, as Isaiah did, I shouted, “Yes, send me!” But I first thought of my family and how I could never leave them. I depended on them more than I realized.

“Unless I completely surrender my family to my Savior, I will not be completely dependent upon him.”

Yet God so patiently whispered, “Will you surrender them?” In that moment I began to release my family to him. I know that unless I completely surrender them to my Savior, I will not be completely dependent upon him. I also have to recognize that as I surrender them to Jesus, they are surrendering me. They feel the heavy weight of Jesus’s words in Luke 14 (ESV), “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” I realized that this verse not only affects me but also my family as well. So I began to seek intentional ways to encourage them in the process that they are going through.

I have to be patient with them as they learn to send me. I have to recognize that they may need to grieve or discuss how my leaving is difficult for them. I am learning to weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice because surrender is never an easy thing. But surrender is the best thing when we realize the One to whom we are surrendering.

Recognize the Cost

Many people ask me how I feel about leaving my normal, comfortable life to move to a foreign place seven thousand miles away. They expect an answer filled with excitement and glee because, yes, it is exciting! I long with every fiber of my being to be in the place to which God has called me. But, as my friend Whitney, who is also going through this same process, so eloquently said, “Many people think that the choice we made was an easy one as if we haven’t counted the cost.”

Jesus was clear about the price of following him. It means carrying my cross and leaving the comforts of my current life. It means looking at my home culture and even my family and recognizing that following Christ is worth giving up all of these precious things and people I love most.

“Jesus was clear about the price of following him. It means carrying my cross and leaving the comforts of my current life.”

Yes, I am excited, but I also recognize the price. I realize that I will miss holidays, birthdays, my sister’s graduation, and friends’ weddings and babies being born. I will not have a “career” or a big house or children right now because Jesus has asked me to say to him, “You are worth more.”

We are learning as a family to be open about this cost with each other and the different ways we process that cost. There will be days that a much-needed hug from my parents is thousands of miles away. But I can enter God’s throne room confidently, throw myself at his feet, and beg him to comfort me. And I know without a doubt that my parents will be in that same throne room begging him to comfort them too. The cost is high. But he is worth it.

Fix My Eyes on the Goal

When I finally see Jesus, these current circumstances will pale in comparison as people from all nations worship the Lamb who was slain. This is what drives me now and will continue to drive me as I leave. I hate to see my leaving cause pain for my family and friends, but I know that their eternities are secure. I cannot say that about the people to which I am called.

So when the tears fall heavy and anxieties try to surface, I remind myself of Christ’s throne and all of those who will surround it. I remind myself of the unending worship and grace that believers will experience in his presence. I know that my parents will be standing with me as we worship the King of Kings.

My desperate desire is for the people of that foreign land to be standing next to me at his throne. This longing is stronger than my desire to have a comfortable career, a spouse, a nice house, and even my family. Leaving them is just one step closer to eternity with Jesus. Leaving them well is just one more way to surrender my life to him and his will. When the days become long, the Skype calls are not enough, or God calls me for more than two years, my family will say together: he is worth it all.

Meghan Gagliano is currently the children’s minister in her local church until she leaves this fall to serve overseas for two years with the IMB. Her one desire it to see Christ’s name made known, whether that be in her hometown or in a city thousands of miles away. Follow her on Instagram or her blog.