This morning I woke, coming out to the living room and sat here for a moment. A quick rehash of what might be accomplished today was on my radar screen. And then I looked at the floor. Four very empty children’s chairs. A part of me sees the prophetic in the picture. That if you “build” it they will come. The chairs had been moved from our destroyed home in Springfield. My wife and I had cleaned them up and put them on the floor. The first thing my grandchildren did upon arriving last night was go to sit in them excitedly.
There is something about the preparation for a child or children that excites me. These four empty chairs and a table suggested my love for them, hospitality towards them. I never look at those chairs or the pictures of my children without thinking of my love for them. Without uttering a prayer. (There is a large piece here for people. Do children feel welcome?)
Emptiness is a target for the love of the Lord. Do you feel empty? God can fill you up.A year ago I penned these words in a publication:
Like so many. I enjoyed the weekend. Yesterday was either Labor Day, where we celebrate the achievements both economically and socially of the American Laborer or the day of the “empty chair” for those so inclined. (So many listened to the talk that Clint Eastwood gave to the empty chair that they decided to make a day of it.) I opted for friends. I usually do.
But as I looked at that “empty chair” I thought how many chairs are empty?
Over the weekend, a dear friend and “dad” for many years suffered a heart attack. Not his first, nearly three years ago he suffered a heart attack in an airport. But what they did not catch was he had a stroke as well. It was nearly 4 hours before that was dealt with. The result was a man who went from being viable, to a man who could no longer communicate, and often did not seem as if he was “connected.” Two plus years later he was beating the odds. My last visit with him showed he could not talk but recognized my wife and I and knew what was going on. The battle has been hard for his wife.
So, when I received the request for prayer, a part of me wondered. “Is this it?” Would the chair in fact be empty? As the day wore on and the reports darkened, I came back at it with a new resolve as hundreds and perhaps thousands did as well. Last night a simple message indicated that it was not over, that his numbers were great and he would be home this weekend.
On Sunday I received a message “you home? You busy? Got a surprise.” My friend’s surprise was bringing 8 young people to “hang out.” Yes, I had “other plans” and yes I could have said “no-go away.” 3 hours later as they left, (Some might have questioned my sanity.) I looked at the “empty chairs.” Where life had been, emptiness had overtaken.
Many of us are in the middle of transition(s) and some do it well and others not so well. A young friend approached me on Sunday and said “your transition lenses aren’t transitioning any more. You can’t transition.” He was kidding…I heard something more.
Transition is not always fun. I have found you frequently do not get to take what you began with. That you often have to leave things behind. My wife would tell you outside of “falling off the roof” last year and suffering a brain scramble, I keep pretty good health. I work hard not to let things get away from me.
Why do I devote myself to friends and family? I am determined to not be an “empty chair.” This week my five year old grandson begins school. Five years ago, no one thought he was coming home. But I had made a “chair” for him. 28 days later he was here.
When I walk into a room and see empty chairs I am reminded of who is missing, but I also dedicate myself to the chairs that are full. Each one of us will face choices in the coming days. Some political, religious, business and relational. Some chairs will be empty while others will be full.
For as long as I can, I choose to sit in the chair of dad, husband, grandfather and friend.
Have you made note of the empty chairs? My friend with the heart attack? He did die late last year. Another friend of mine passed on this week. The result…empty chairs.
Empty chairs. Some will be filled, but even as I wonder. Are all are meant to be filled? Do we need another Hitler or a Dahmer? But were they not somebody’s son? God is the God of reconciliation and He has called us to be the same.
I think it is time for us to pray for the empty chairs at tables to be filled. The restoration of the heart of loved ones gone home. The return of the prodigals to the tables of moms and dads. (Do you realize the Jewish custom of an empty chair at a seder has come to represent those in war or those serving in the military?)
When I look at the empty chair I recognize the loss but I see the potential. I see the opportunity for love. For friendship.
2 Kings 1:4-7 Elijah said to her, “What hast thou in the house?” She replied, “Not anything, save a pot of oil,” and like the Sarepta widow, and the lad with his loaves and fishes, the young student-prophet’s widow was to prove how God is able to multiply what we surrender.
The small pot the widow had did not provide for the size of the miracle to come. She had to ask neighbors, to involve others. Empty chairs are like that. They can prove to be a neighborhood proposition!
When all the borrowed vessels were filled, the excited yet grateful widow said to her eldest son, “Bring me yet a vessel,” but sorrowfully he replied, “There is not a vessel more.” Then comes the suggestive phrase, And the oil stayed. God never allows His provision to run to waste.
There was a thought that floated around the church in the 90’s. “How do you bathe an alligator? Build a bigger bathtub.” The idea being that if you wanted to grow you had to have the room AND the chairs!
Many are looking for provision but have nothing to contain it. Many want to be in ministry or get a particular type of job but have not prepared for it.
Want relationship? Put out “empty chairs.” Need a job? Work on skills. Need money? Put out the pots! Too many struggle with the idea that a “prophetic” act or preparation is goofy. Your loss.
Even at our fellowship, I and others walk about laying hands on empty chairs, calling in the broken, the hurt, the shamed. I am sowing goodness into the seedbed of community and grace with my words and the laying on of hands.
Some chairs are meant to be empty for a time perhaps, but I am not the judge of that. I know what legacy looks like. I know what building for eternity is. It is the heart of God. That all the empty chairs might be filled. That the table be filled. That hospitality, community and His goodness reign.