Last week as the holidays began to set themselves fully in motion a thought struck me so hard I had to sit still and catch my breath. As people rushed to load cars with more food than any family in one house could eat this thought pushed itself past every joyful memory. As families opened arms and opened doors to one another I could not help but be reminded of one detail.
There's still an empty seat at my table.
It should NOT be there.
There's a kid missing at my house. There's a set of feet not swinging underneath that chair. There's a crumb dropper half a world away who may literally be waiting for a crumb. And the injustice in that cannot be wished away. No matter how hard I try.
I should be folding his clothes and learning how his laugh sounds when his big sisters play tickle little brother until he can't breathe. He should be pulling at my jeans wanting more goldfish crackers and juice. I should be tripping over his shoes in the kitchen and wiping up his toothpaste in the bathroom. His dad and I should be debating which toy should be the "big" toy under the tree this year.
We should not still be fighting this fight. We just should not. Bureaucracy is now the foulest word we know. We have proven 3 times over that we are fit parents. We are deeply scarred from this war. Each month, no each day seems to have its own battle. So many things aren't even discussed anymore because there are no givens here. This war has no rules either. We take each moment just as it's comes. And when that days battle are over we just exchange glances knowing that we are one moment tougher than we were before. We are one moment closer to our child.
Sometimes I wonder if my feelings are but a shadow of what God feels about us when we are separated from him. We are his children so it would seem natural that when we aren't in relationship with him that he would mourn us. That he would MISS us. His love for you and for me is so much deeper and boundless than mine is for my son. It must tear him apart to watch us choose not to be family, both with him and with each other. It must be unconscionable to him that those of us in his family would not willingly tell every soul we meet how simple it is to be a part of his family. The greatest gift we've ever been given is so often tucked into the deepest recesses of our souls that it's as if letting others see this salvation will somehow diminish it or expose us; as if his sinless son dying in our place on a piece of wood was not exposure in its most violent form.
I wonder if he walks the rooms in heaven sometimes and imagines us there the way I imagine my son in his. Do he and Christ walk the halls and plan whose room will face the sunrise and sunset? Do they create the colors in that room there just for me? John 14 tells us that's a distinct possibility. Verse two says, "My Father's house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? It says for you. You. Me. Christ is planning for us individually. He sees each of us as his own. How precious that the word would think I was important enough to plan for eternally.
How difficult it must be for them to watch us choose sin and separation from love, life and relationship. Over and over they see us choose empty objects to put in their places. They witness our hunger and our thirst for more and they watch us strive for the things that will never fill us up. And the entire time the answer is always right there waiting to be accepted. And they could make us believe. They could make us obey. With a single word God could command us to love and serve him forever. But a love that's demanded is no love at all. And above all God wants you to choose to be at home with him. He moved Heaven to send his son to earth to restore your relationship with him. He fights a war every moment for you. He doesn't want to give up on you even if you have given up on him. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
More than anything God wants your feet swinging underneath his table.
I imagine his dinner table stretches much farther than mine does. So great is his table that you cannot stand at one end and see the chairs at the other end. Along its edges are chairs and places designed for every one of us, but we get to choose if we want that seat. There will come a day when our opportunities to choose that seat will be gone and our chair will remain empty forever. "...for you know very well that the day of The Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
Your seat at the table should NOT be empty and neither should your neighbor's, your sisters, or the little girl in Honduras that has never heard the name of Jesus. It is our choice to accept the chair and then share that blessing.
There's always room at his table.
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Friend take your chair and start swinging your feet.