The Time of Departure

Time truly does fly

Who would have thunk it that when we began to write this column under the caption LifeTalk—with the January/February 2000 issue of Message—we would do so for 21 uninterrupted years? We didn’t!

What started as a conversation over lunch—in the fall of 1999 with Dwain Neilson Esmond at that time the associate editor of Message—has led us to this point. Dozens of columns, three editors—Ron Smith, Washington Johnson, and Carmela Monk Crawford—thousands of interactions with interested, captivating and gratified readers of questions posed, have filled our lives with blessings beyond measure. 

“Then why are you leaving?” Glad you asked. Because we thought it prudent to choose a time of departure while there was still a degree of interest in what we have to say about relationships in general and intimate relationships in particular. We also consider that we have enjoyed the privilege of sharing through this modality in the public square long enough, and the time has come for other voices to be given an opportunity to be heard as they grapple with the weighty concerns of your lives. 

Truth be told, at some level we feel like the Apostle Paul when he expressed his straightforward, sober and sincere sentiments about the reality of his circumstances when he announced in 2 Timothy 4:7; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” As he writes to Timothy, his younger missionary associate, Paul is in prison in Rome and can read the proverbial handwriting on the wall. While Paul knew his time of departure was just around the corner and looked forward to his heavenly reward as final vindication for his work on earth, we are more in tune—at this juncture—with his declaration of keeping the faith. 

Keeping the faith in writing this column has meant churning out our 500-to-600-word essay on time regardless of circumstances. It has meant sharing with you the unvarnished truth about the questions you posed on specific relationship issues, when it would have been so much easier to tell you what you wanted to hear. Keeping the faith for these many years has meant leading you to the sanctified source of the best relationship skills content ever, the word of God, and the Word—Jesus Christ Himself. 

To be sure, what better advice can anyone give or get about navigating difficult relationships in marriage, parenting, grandparenting, in addition to relationships with siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and in-laws, girlfriends and boyfriends, not to mention neighbors and co-workers, than what James 1:19 says: “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV). This is the gospel in workclothes right here. If you can practice and hone these incredibly exceptional relational skills with everyone in your circles of relationships, you will be of all humans amazingly delightful and delighted. 

So, we are getting off here, as we pen our last piece for Relationship Rx. We do so with hearts filled with gratitude for the privilege afforded us which has been a superb blessing to our own marriage relationship. For in being honest with you about your relationships, it pushed us to be true with ourselves about ours. By employing the skills and attitudes we implored you to put into practice, we are still standing in our marriage after 36 plus years. For this reason, we are thankful to God for the distinct favor of occupying this time and space, which have been our relationship gym for these 21 years. 

In parting we say God bless you. Remember to be patient, kind and forgiving in all of your relationships every day. And if we don’t ever run into each other anywhere down here, let’s plan to meet on the sea of glass where all of God’s children will wear magnificent robes and mighty good shoes. 


WILLIE OLIVER, Ph.D., C.F.L.E., an ordained minister, pastoral counselor and family sociologist, is director of the Department of Family Ministries for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters.; 

ELAINE OLIVER, M.A., L.G.P.C., C.F.L.E., a counseling psychologist and educator, is associate director of the Department of Family Ministries for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters.;


This article is part of our 2021 January / February Issue
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