An Empty Chair

When families gather there is a general sense of routine. Aunt Janet brings the pies, Mom is responsible for the salad, and you can always count on Uncle Chris to crack a joke at the right time that fills the room with laughter. When we sit down to eat everyone tentatively takes a chair – but never the head of the table because tradition tells us that’s reserved for head of the home. But what about the heartache when a seat goes empty? This year I have two friends who have lost spouses so when everyone pulls up to the table there will be one less guest, one less smiling face, and possibly even some tear-filled eyes as they continue to grieve. Thankfully these two that have left us had a strong faith in our Father Jesus Christ so it’s not a forever goodbye, just a see-ya later. When loved ones pass into the loving arms of Jesus we have memories and physical reminders of them; perhaps their shoes at the door or maybe their favorite coffee mug. These memories are a weak shadow of the vibrant person that we once knew, but the mere fact that we can remember is a gift from God. Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them:

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 [NIV].

I know that God makes all things and in Genesis he tells us that’s it’s good – in fact he says we are very good. But I’ve never really stopped to consider that God is in the memory making business too. I spend time praising God for his provision or the safety that he provides for my family; but I’m remiss in thanking him for my ability to remember. These memories are a sweet gift that helps us reflect and provides aid to us on our journey. Memories can teach us how far we’ve grown looking back remembering where we have been. We can learn about what we value through painful memories, like looking around the Thanksgiving table and missing a loved one. The pain exists because we treasured them and now we are missing them. I need to be more like Paul and thank God for the sweet memories of my grandparents, the experiences that they gave me and the foundational seeds that they laid for my faith. But really it’s thru my memory that I can get to know Him better, reading and mediating on his word and remembering that others around me who bear his image are created for His glory. Thank you Jesus for helping me remember.

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