February 14th, 2011 - The Empty Chair

Sometimes it is amazing to me the times God chooses to speak with me about what is on His heart.

This last Saturday was such a time.  The past week had been riddled with challenges, the current day impossible and incapable of ending fast enough.  I collapsed in a chair before the fire around ten in the evening, emotionally exhausted and trying to not even think about having to get up early for church the next day.

Church...

And then I remembered.  It was my turn to teach the Firestarters Bible class.  I inwardly cringed as I thought of how I had only glanced through the subject material I was supposed to teach from and basically had no idea what I was going to do.  To top it off, I felt completely spiritually dry with absolutely nothing left to give.  I leaned my head back and inwardly cried out a desperate prayer for help as tears burned the back of my eyelids.  How could I give into anyone feeling as completely wrung out as I did? 

The Father's Love Letter. 

My eyes slid open at the quiet words whispered into my spirit.  I have been touched many times watching the video but had not thought of it for some time.  Though moving from my chair was not something I particularly wished to do, I had asked for help and He had given me something.  I went to the computer and downloaded the recording, then just sat in the computer chair and let it play through a few times.  The words and music flowed over me and I felt the Lord's presence come.

Then all of a sudden, I was watching a scene play out before my mind's eye as clearly as if I were watching a movie.  I want to share it with you because I believe there is a special glimpse of the Father's heart here that more people need to see besides myself.

But first, take a moment to listen to the Father's Love Letter.  Even if you have heard it before, there is nothing like hearing words from His heart again and again. 

I saw a kitchen like one might see in a movie depicting the perfect country life.  Old fashioned warm colors, a table overflowing with food, bread rolls nearly tumbling out of a basket lined with a checkered cloth.  The sun was shining brightly through the window.  All was perfectly peaceful and homey.  Seated in one of the chairs at the table was myself back as a little girl of maybe seven years old.  I was looking over the incredible meal set before me with a child’s anticipation, too low in the chair with the table coming up to my chest.  I looked up and saw that seated directly across from me was Papa God. 

It is interesting, I have always wondered what the Father really looks like and how I would feel if I ever were to see Him.  Jesus has always been easy for me to picture with His hands open and beckoning, a smile on His face.  But when it came to the Father’s appearance, my imagination remained shadowed by vague impressions from paintings depicting an imposing old man with flowing gray beard in robes with a fierce expression. 

So…what did I see when I looked at the Father?  I can say it in one word: Love.  I do not recall noticing His hair, whether or not He had a beard, what He was wearing, or even most of the details of His face.  But I saw His eyes.  It is hard to describe but somehow there was no need to take in anything else.  All that the Father is can be seen right there in His gaze.  His eyes were deep royal blue and focused on me with so much love it was staggering.  The skin about His eyes was slightly creased with laugh lines.  He was smiling at me.  The most secure and wonderful feeling flowed over me as I looked into His eyes and smiled back.  I had always thought there would be a nervousness or holy fear in seeing the Father.  I felt no such thing.  There was such a beautiful feeling of belonging, of being loved completely and treasured beyond measure.  I felt I could stay seated at that table basking in His love forever. 

Then, as I watched, the Father’s eyes shifted to look just to the left of me.  I watched as His eyes changed from glowing with that unexplainable love to swimming with tears of sadness.  The change was so real and tangible that I felt pain slice into my heart at the sight.  This awesome Father of mine was hurting.  Something was making Him sad.  I looked to my left and saw that the chair beside mine…was empty.

In that instant I heard the Holy Spirit ask me a question: “Whose seat is the one next to yours?”

I felt a consuming desire to find the person who was missing.  To bring them to the table and see all traces of sadness and grief vanish from my Father’s eyes.  For the family to be whole, every seat at the table filled and everyone together to partake in the meal.  I wanted them to feel the love that I had felt  when looking into His amazing eyes.

Later, as I pondered what I had seen, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.  I suddenly saw the older brother in a very different light.  I saw him dining with his father night after night, seeing his father’s saddened eyes look to the empty place that belonged to the younger brother.  I saw him passing his father on his way to work the farm, watching as his father looked down the road, his eyes straining in the hope of seeing his lost son returning.  And I found myself wondering, why did the older brother do nothing to locate him?

That seat next to mine belongs to someone.  Do I know who they are?  Could I be the one that reminds them the Father loves them and wants them to come home?  That love I saw and experienced when the Father looked at me is the same for the person who was not at the table.  He loves that person and grieves their absence from His table like nothing I have ever imagined.   

I don't want to be like the older brother in Jesus' parable that goes on as though no one is missing, saying, "Pass the gravy, please" and not seeing or feeling what is on my Father's heart.  I don't even want to get busy on the farm, doing a bunch of good things, but still failing to apply myself to that which is most heavy on my Daddy's mind...those that are missing from His table.

I want to be the child that says to my Father, “Don’t worry, Daddy.  I’ll go find them and let them know supper’s ready.”

So, whose seat is next to yours?