Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Empty Chair

I felt called, once, to visit an acquaintance at a local hospital, where he was receiving inpatient psychiatric care. I'd never visited this part of the hospital, before, so I didn't really know what to expect. I'd spoken with a mutual friend who hadn't particularly encouraged my going; he'd visited and didn't feel as though he'd blessed or helped.

Still, I felt called to go.

I told my husband. He--being the cautious, protective sort--wasn't especially thrilled with the idea, but, to his credit, he trusted and offered to drive me. He waited in the minivan with Cade and Clementine while I walked in the hospital, wearing maternity overalls.

My acquaintance had provided me the information I needed to receive access, so a nurse at the front desk unlocked the door to the visiting area. There were people everywhere: some sitting on sofas and chairs, others just sort of milling around.

I'd assumed I'd have to wait for my acquaintance to join me, but--to my surprise--I saw: he was already sitting in the visiting area. He was talking with two other men at a small, square table.

The chair just to the left of my acquaintance was the only empty chair in the room.

I don't think I have words to tell you how I felt in seeing that empty chair. I'd already felt confident that God was calling me to that place, but--when I saw the empty chair...the only empty chair!...beside my acquaintance, who hadn't known when I'd be visiting--my heart was flooded with joy. There may as well have been a shaft of light pouring into that chair; I knew it was my chair. I knew it was waiting for me: that I was the person meant to fill it.

It was a very humbling, satisfying, overwhelming moment in my spiritual journey and one I pray to never forget.

My acquaintance hugged me and introduced me to his friends, and I sat down in my chair. A pack of cards rested on the table, and I asked the men if they'd like a fourth, for spades. We proceeded to play, and I played well thanks to the countless "wasted" hours I'd spent playing the game, in college.

With the pressure for eye contact diminished, conversation flowed easily and well among us. Before I left, I asked if I might lead us in prayer; we joined hands and bowed; and God gave me words.

I don't share this story because I think I did something profound for my acquaintance that day. I share it because God did something profound for me.

If you're anything like me, at least once in your life, you've felt called or compelled to do something, and you've talked yourself out of it. You've told yourself: I'm not the best person for this job. I'm ill-equipped. There's someone better.

And you know what? You haven't been wrong, entirely. Because there's always someone better, more experienced, more polished and less bumbling.

Never-the-less, God doesn't make mistakes. When He calls you to do something, His reasons likely have as much or more to do with you than with anyone else. He wants to grow and teach you. He has a perfect plan for your life.

So just go: even if your hands shake, your knees knock, and you're at a loss in terms of what to say. Everything will be okay.

God's already in that place to which He's calling you, and He's preparing it (him? her?) for your arrival. Go. Find your empty chair.

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