It is inevitable that sooner or later, life will deal a hard blow to your soul and to your spirit. The abandonment of a parent, the betrayal of a friend, the divorce of a spouse, the death of a loved one … different types of losses but common in that each one can and often does bring us to the very brink of our ability to cope with the ensuing pain. The pain of loss which often leaves us with … an empty chair.
I suspect there have been multiple empty chairs in your life. There certainly have been in mine.
I recall the wingback chair my mother sat on every morning as she read her Bible and sipped coffee. I like to think of her that way, rather than when she disowned me in my early 30’s (perhaps an unrecognized sign of the dementia that ravaged her mind in her later years).
I recall the pleather recliner my grandpa sat in for so many hours a day that the seat was more of a cavern than a cushion, but in my minds eye I can still see him sitting there, raising one arm up in worship to his Jesus. It was only a few years later that he went home to worship his Jesus face to face.
Those chairs belong in my memories, the physical chairs themselves long gone and the ache of betrayal or loss dulled by the passing of time.
But today I’m writing about a different empty chair. A physical chair that isn’t part of the past or attached to a memory – but one that is still very present in your everyday life. “THE Empty Chair” that you still have, either in your own home or someplace you still have opportunity to see it from time to time. And its emptiness still pains you.
Maybe for you, the Empty Chair belonged to a loved one no longer present in your life. A death. A relational split. They are gone, but the chair remains … and yet you can’t bring yourself to sell, donate, or otherwise let go of it. You look at the chair and simultaneously feel the comfort of their memory and of better days, along with the stabbing pain in knowing they/those days are gone.
If that is you friend, I am truly sorry for the pain you are experiencing. I pray you feel the arms of Jesus wrapping around you as you pause to take in His presence. He is with you, catching every tear, and He will walk patiently with you through the healing process. You are not alone.
For me, the Empty Chair never belonged to someone special, well … not special to me. It’s a yard-sale find given to me by a friend. It is the empty dining room chair that stares blankly at me across the dining table every morning. And my Empty Chair is a constant reminder to me not of what I lost … but of what I don’t have. Of dreams unfulfilled, prayers yet unanswered. A reminder that I am spouse-less, with no one to talk to in the mornings over coffee and no one to close the evenings with discussing the events of the day.
Sometimes I try to imagine Jesus sitting in the Empty Chair. That’s helpful, even if a bit silly sounding. But when my heart is near to the point of buckling under the weight of living “solo” for all these years, just that simple act of pretending that He is sitting across from me is enough to breath refreshment back into my weary soul. For if He is with me (and He is), I am never truly alone.
But other days – well, lets just be truthful. The Empty Chair taunts me. It wounds me. And some days, it triumphs over my hope-filled dreams for a future yet to be written.
I was talking about that to the Lord recently. We often talk about this subject, and by ‘talking’ I mean I complain and bemoan and occasionally actually pray about this. [anyone besides me do this?]
So here I am, telling Him again how lonely I am – pointing out to Him the Empty Chair (which I keep stacked with laundry to keep me from noticing that it’s still empty). And to my surprise, He flipped the script on me.
I think it went something like this….
THE SCENE: In my mind’s eye, I envision Him patiently listening to my ongoing lament about how lonely I am, and how patient I’m being in waiting for the answer to my prayers for a godly husband to knock on my door and whisk me away to marital glory and … (by now, I’m guessing His eyes are getting a little droopy because He has seriously heard this from me about 8-million times) …. and then FLIP!
ME: “… and yea Lord, seriously, I though that when this one guy asked me ou…..”
LORD: “Hey Jenny … what about MY empty chair.”
ME: “but turns out he just wants to be..”
LORD: (a-hem) “Hey Jenny, what about MY empty chair?”
ME: “friends… what? Huh? YOUR empty chair? What are you talking about Lord? Surely you don’t have any Empty Chairs!” (or does He??)
LORD: “Jenny, what about all the times I sat waiting for you at the table and you didn’t show up to speak with me? Or you sat there but were so lost in your own interests and internal conversations that you might as well have not showed up. You left the chair empty.
Or what about when I’ve invited you to be part of something I was working on, but you declined. You were too busy, or too disinterested, or couldn’t see in your own human understanding how following my leading in this thing might actually benefit you, forgetting that I work all things together for the good of those who love me. But you didn’t show, and I eventually had to find someone else to partner with me. You left the chair empty.
And what about when you have hemmed and hawed and made excuses for delay, after delay, after delay. Instead of an outright refusal, you acknowledged the instruction and offered your “intention of obedience” at a future time. For one, that isn’t obedience daughter. And for two, you are only hurting yourself in the delay. You left the chair empty, and it is still empty now.”
….. and then He continued with specificity.
LORD: “There is an Empty Chair next to your laptop Jenny that has been empty for far too long. You know full well that I have not given you permission or release to stop blogging. And I’ve spoken to you many times, giving you inspiration for what to write. You thrill when I speak to you like this, excited about the images that rise up in your spirit, the awakening of a longing to paint a word-picture that complements what I am sharing with you. You make a note, maybe even sketch a picture … but then you listen to self-doubt, you question My ability to use someone as broken as you, and you leave the chair empty for yet another day, another month, another year.”
((( ouch! )))
Friend, the honest truth is that I’ve been intentionally leaving this chair empty since early 2019 when I got sucker punched by the enemy and then let seeds of doubt and discouragement keep me from responding obediently to what the Lord has repeatedly reminded me I am supposed to be doing. And it’s not because I’m all that fantastic a writer. I’m not. And it’s certainly not because I’m a skilled artist! I know plenty of tweens in my church that are far better artists than I am. Nope, He simply wants my obedience so that He can say through me what someone needs to hear. That in itself has been a wrestling point for me, because I know the person sitting in this chair right now. She definitely doesn’t have her act all together (sorry to disappoint!). But a precious sister in Christ and gifted blogger friend (you know who you are) recently reminded me that with regard to blogging, we write taking a leap of faith that “someone out there” needs to hear what God puts on our heart to write. Or as Jesus reframed for me, when I don’t write what He prompts me to write, then I’m leaving the chair empty and then He has to go find someone else to say what He wanted to say through me.
So I am writing this blog for someone like me who not only knows the ache of The Empty Chair, but who also has left a chair empty.
Maybe it’s something God has called you to do that you’re not doing – and you’re leaving the chair empty.
Or maybe there is a relationship that has been fractured or broken, and God is prompting you to re-engage for restoration of the relationship. You are still hurt. Still angry. Not ready. You’re leaving the chair empty.
Or what about your spiritual walk? Is yours just a 2-hour Sunday morning type of spirituality, and then a free-for-all the rest of the week? Jesus wants to walk with you every hour of every day, through highs and lows, on valley floors and on mountain tops. If you relegate Him to a small corner of your heart, you’re in essence leaving the chair empty.
All of those examples could have applied to me any number of times over the last 2 years. In fact, I am beginning to see that Jesus invites me to sit in lots of different types of chairs, during the different seasons of life, and for different reasons.
The chair of forgiveness and reconciliation.
The chair of encouragement and edification.
The chair of repentance.
The chair of service and ministering to others.
The chair of obedience.
Friend, let’s not leave the chair empty another day. Let us surrender our will, take a seat, and trust that Jesus is sitting there right alongside of us to encourage and empower us for whatever He has called us to do.