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I gripped the steering wheel, blinking back tears and just barely keeping my emotions in check after saying goodbye to my college-bound son. I thought the goodbyes would get easier, but I was wrong.

I’m so proud of him, and it brings me great joy to know he’s heading back to Bible college after his Christmas break.

But these goodbyes–they do a number on this mama’s heart!

Why does it have to be so hard, Lord? I never thought it would hurt this much to let my kids go.

But I already knew the answer.

It hurts because I love them.

The rest of the drive to work, I thought back over the goodbyes in my life.

In 1998, I bid my parents goodbye in an airport and flew across the ocean to Australia. Over the next sixteen years, there would be more of the same. Visits were precious and treasured times, but oh the goodbyes were hard! I came to both love and hate airports.

Then 2014 brought a whirlwind change as we returned to the States. This time the goodbyes were multiplied. Church family, students, school staff, dear friends, the precious girls in my Sunday school class.

Would I ever see them again? Maybe not, on this side of heaven.

And now, one by one, my sons are leaving home. Each one takes a piece of my heart with him.

That’s what all these goodbyes have done–taken a small part of my heart.

But I wouldn’t change anything.

Because here’s the thing:

Yes, loving with open arms can bring pain. But the loving is worth the losing. 

Jesus is our supreme example of this. He came to earth, knowing He would be received by few and rejected by many. He willingly laid down His life on the cross, knowing most of mankind would turn their backs on His gift of salvation. He bled out His love, knowing His love would be scorned by many.

He loved freely, knowing how much He would lose. 

May we be compelled to love the same way Jesus loves!

To freely share the message of salvation, knowing there will be those who reject our words.

To pour out our lives in service to others, knowing our work will not always be appreciated.

To love with all our hearts, knowing those we love could break our hearts.

Loving with open arms is really the essence of the Gospel. When we look at the cross and see what Jesus did for us, we understand how important it is to love in spite of what we might lose.

Yes, it hurts to love. But the cross of Christ shows us that loving is worth the losing.

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)