Four years ago, my snapshot of family changed forever. The comfortable and familiar were snatched out from underneath my feet like a magician pulling a tablecloth away from the table decorations in one fell swoop.
This marked the beginning of the dance of the empty chairs.
Two years ago, my dad still sat at the head of the table and even though he never demanded the center of attention, we all willingly focused on him. His seat is now empty as the dance of the empty chairs continues.
Over the last few years, as my family snapshot has grown smaller, I also see another photo of how my family has grown. The symbol of empty chairs can remain as a reminder of all that is lost or I can see the blessing of new people sitting in those same chairs.
Life looks black and white, full or empty, blessed or broken, or God-centered and full of grace. I try to fit each moment, good or bad, into a box. My eyes capture one extreme at a time losing the opportunity to live in harmony with all. When my heart replays loss, I only see the dance of the empty chairs. How can I embrace the emptiness of loss while living fully in the presence of my family who is still here?
The symbol of a dance reminds me how one person always leads. As my mom and dad danced their way to heaven, I’m learning to let go so others can take the lead. Most importantly, I see how God will always lead the dance when I let Him.
New rhythms enter my dance. The gentle sway of sons, daughters-in-law, brothers, and wives. The sidestep of new family stepping onto the dance floor. A circle ever widening as the look of family changes and grows. And the gift of harmonious balance as I accept the changing faces of family and invite them to join the dance of the empty chairs.
God moved me across town to teach me what family looks like. As I let go of my sons and allow them to grow as God is calling them, He reframes my idea of family. God promises,
“He goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Jesus teaches us about family when He shared:
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:21
In order for me to embrace family, I need to invite others to join me at my table. I belong to a church that has become my family. When I spend time with them, I see how God works to grow my identity. He teaches me what connection looks like as my church family grows. Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees as to why He sits at the table with those who are not deemed worthy. His response is:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Love meets us all right where we are and crosses all boundaries. A family is made of love. Jesus loved all and calls us to do the same.
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As life ebbs and flows, people come and go and the sweet dance of life continues, we have a choice: joining the dance of the empty chairs or making room at the table for new people to gather as family.
I see a bright future around my table. A future that welcomes new faces while at the same time loving and honoring those I already call family. God makes all things new and He promises to be with us each step of the way.
What dance will you choose today? How do you already honor those who have gone ahead?
Blessings and praise that my dance continues!
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