Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters. 2 Timothy 4:19-21 (NIV).
This seems like a Southern goodbye. My wife frequently notes that people from the American South take a long time to say goodbye. You (or they) say “well, I have to get going” and you may start for the door or intend to hang up the phone. Yet the person on the other end of the conversation then says “Yeah, me too,” pauses, and then continues with :….and then I was in my kitchen…” or something like that, extending the conversation through a protracted goodbye. A five-minute talk easily stretches to a half-hour or more.
That’s a Southern thing. True, you see it in other places. I was born a Yankee. I have northern friends and family who do this. But it’s almost a way of life in the American South. Maybe it’s the way we’re raised (see “Southern thing”). Or maybe they tell you the same thing several times. The older I get, the more I find myself doing this. Either way, it takes longer.
When you think about that, think about Paul. It reminds me of how Paul signed off his letters. In Paul’s time, letters were the only long-distance means of communication. That means that you’d have added greetings to your letters, sending greetings from or to people you knew lived near the recipient. Paul often did this: it’s how he signed off Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, here (in 2 Timothy), Titus, and Philemon. In all his letters, Paul sent (at least) generic good-bye’s. But in most of them, he sent greetings from and to the people mentioned above as well as others he knew would be nearby.
Paul might have fit in in North Texas. He’d understand the Southern goodbye. Sure, it can be time-consuming and, yes, it can even be annoying. But it’s great that people want to be involved in our lives. It makes me want to be involved in theirs. It’s love and mutual affection, mutual respect. I like the art of conversation, and I like that someone wants to talk. In a way, I feel sorry for folks in our electronic world because that art is changing. Text messages are so brief, so impersonal, so incomplete. Emails are intended to be direct and to-the-point. My wife is constantly urging me to go back to writing letters and cards; perhaps she has a point. Paul might agree.
So let’s keep talking. In fact, my best to you, to your X and Y. In the name of Jesus.
For further reading: Acts 18:2, Acts 19:22, Acts 20:4-29, 2 Timothy 1:16, Titus 3:12, 2 Timothy 4:22
Lord Jesus, thanks for long goodbyes, for people who want to send their love to us, and for ways of communicating.