Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Empty Chair

There ought to be three places to sit in our front room. There is a sofa along one wall, comfortable green leather. It a sofa that is not really for sitting on, but begs to be lain upon, all stretched out. There are two arm chairs, one of which reclines when you pull a lever.

Three places, but only the one, the sofa is really used and most times usable. One chair has been bagged by the ironing. The pile expands and contracts are regular intervals, as ironing is done and distributed to cupboards and drawers, only to be replaced by the next batch off the line. The other chair, the reclining one, is often the dumping place for coat hangers, bags, coats, read and unread newspapers and other stuff.

Yesterday I made a special effort to clear the clutter from one chair. I wanted one of the chairs clear in case of visitors. I had had an especially distressing day. News from Spain was grim. The doctor from the hospice had been in touch to say that Mike’s condition had further deteriorated and the weeks or months we had anticipated had dwindled down to merely days. He told us that it was perhaps time to come out.

I have always known that there will be an end to face. I just hoped it wouldn’t come. I cried, cleaned the kitchen, cried some more, half cleaned the bathroom, cried some more…you get the picture. And I cleaned off one chair, just in case I had a visitor, who would come to cry with me.

My mother used to have a particular bee in her bonnet. She is quite obviously disabled, partially sighted, partially hearing, very shaky on her legs. The church knew that she was not able to make her own way to church, but there was always this insistence that she phoned someone to ask for a lift. My family are usually very good at looking after mum, but things happen, and the shopping doesn’t always get done. When friends in the church find out that she is not being looked after they ask, “Why didn’t you phone?”

Why didn’t I phone and ask someone to come around and sit with me, cry with me? I think it’s because there are some things you shouldn’t have to ask for. It should just come under the label of “family”. If should simply be offered because you care enough to offer it. I am fed of carrying my sorrow to someone else’s doorstep.

The chair remained empty.

An empty chair is not necessarily a silent chair! It just seemed to be telling me how little I was cared for. By the end of the day I had wound myself up tightly into a ball of hurt and resentment.

God talked to the ball!

First of all He reminded me that, sad as it is, people will inevitably let you down. As much as we would like to lean on people, sometimes the fall over and take us with them!

Secondly, in Matthew 5 it reads “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I liked that! It’s not “might be” or “should be” but “will be”.

Thirdly God spoke about the other empty chairs in other people’s homes. Did I think that maybe I could go and sit in those chairs and cry with other people?

What a challenge! What a ministry! I’m still working on an answer.

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