Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Empty Chair

Have you ever noticed someone get up from their chair? Maybe it's their favorite chair and they just got up and went to another room in the house. It is no big deal, because maybe they have done this dozens of times before...maybe hundreds! It's just a seat, right? So, why does it become the empty chair when they are gone?

My dad had a favorite chair. He had a stroke in January 2012. He was given 10% chance to live through the night but we all prayed fervently for Dad and God answered our call. Dad survived that night to the amazement of the physicians but they did not hold out much hope for us. The doctor told us that he would be bedfast. My mother's faith was very strong and she said, "No he's not! These doctors don't have the final say!" He was in Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana for one week and then sent to IU Health Bloomington Hospital in Bloomington, Indiana for rehabilitation. The stroke had left Dad without use of his right side but he did well and God continued to answer prayers and perform miracles for my dad. God continued to keep the healthcare providers amazed and shaking their heads in confusion. Mother knew Dad would soon be able to come home from the hospital and she purchased my dad a very nice, comfortable recliner. This became Dad's favorite place to sit and when he could not rest in bed, he was able to find comfort in that chair.
Dad, Christmas 2012

I did not know when I took that picture of Dad at Christmas that year that the clock had already started to wind down quickly. Sure I knew he had colon cancer and that it had spread to his liver. We found out in July 2012 that he had stage 4 colon cancer with mets but God continued to do so many things for my dad. Doesn't he look so good here?

Do you know how many times my dad got up from this chair to go to the restroom or to go lie down on his bed? I cannot count the times I watched him do that. I saw the chair without him in it and it was never an empty chair, just maybe unoccupied, but I knew he would eventually walk back into the room and situate himself on the cushion and prop his legs up to rest. The chair was not ever "empty" to me. I knew he would be back.

Today my dad's chair sits empty. It is the empty chair. I know my dad will never walk back into the room and sit down to visit with his family. I know that if I stop by after school like I used to do that I will be gazing upon an empty chair. You see the chair is empty because my dad is gone. He has a new home and he doesn't need this chair anymore. He won't ever need it again.

The empty chair is a promise to me. The empty chair means that one day I can leave an empty chair behind, too. It means that no matter how much I miss my dad and how much I long to see him again, that the chair is empty because he is somewhere else waiting for me. I imagine him to look across the Jordan River that he used to tease me and say it was lapping at his feet, and I can imagine him looking at the horizon, waiting for me to cross that final river and lay my anchor down. I can imagine that he will be so happy to see me there and we can hug each other and tell each other how much we love one another and this time there will never be another empty chair to look at. We will never have to say goodbye and we will be together forever with our Lord and Savior who died for us. Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day so that we could have eternal life.

I Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the LORD.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

I do take comfort in these scriptures. I believe every single word of it. I know that one day Jesus is coming back for His people and no matter whether I go by way of the grave or the Lord catches me away in the clouds, I am going! I am going to see Jesus and I am going to thank Him for what He did for me. I am going to worship Him for all of eternity! I am going to see my many, many loved ones who have gone on before. The best part is that there will be no empty chairs. Jesus will be sitting on the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords and so shall we ever be with the LORD.