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The Empty Chair

The empty chair - which sat in front of me - devastated my heart and soul.

I just completed my 17th year of teaching this year, and I had an experience like none other this year. One of my students was brutally murdered. She died along with her mom, who was also a teacher at my school, her older brother, and her younger sister.


I cannot put into words what looking at the empty chair did to my heart for the rest of the year. Even as I think about it, my heart begins to race and sorrow fills me again. The students felt heartbroken just the same.

One day, as my students were packing up, a student looked over to the empty chair and sadly stated, “This just isn’t right.”

I wanted to cry, yet I held it together and replied, “Because it is not right.”

Seeing this empty chair, where she should have been sitting, simply broke our hearts. No one could replace this chair because no one was or will be THIS student ever again. This has me thinking about my own “chairs” in my life. Places where God has called me to fill.

Right now, my “chair” is quiet, and my calling is to be one of support. For instance, one place I truly believe God has called me to is to provide consistent dinners for my family. We have a BIG family; it is chaotic at times! Trust me - I know I will not be receiving a big award at the end of the year for this - however, by filling in this responsibility during this season, it provides a steady place for my husband to land at the end of the day. At church, I feel a need to be supportive of my husband's (Mike Willis) and now my daughter’s (Hallie Roe) ministries as well. Sometimes, it means simply showing up; sometimes it means providing food for something they are orchestrating.

The Bible is very clear that all who follow Jesus have gifts to use. I Corinthians 12 describes how each of us are given gifts, and these gifts work together to build His Kingdom. He determines each of us have something to offer. We are not

“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” I Corinthians 12:11 .

All throughout the Bible, people used their gifts to further the Kingdom of God.

I enjoy reading about the life of David. After he was anointed by Nathan, he went on the run from Saul who was trying to kill him. While on the run from Saul, David gathered together a whole band of men who assisted and helped him. They are known as “David’s Mighty Warriors”.

Here is their account from 2 Samuel 23:8-17:

These are the names of David’s mighty warriors:

Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.

During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.

These men helped David to establish his kingdom which God anointed him to guide and lead. These men took their “chair”. They weren’t the leaders, yet they were powerful and used by God for His purpose.

In order for the Kingdom of God to prosper, we need to each do our part, otherwise, “chairs” remain empty.

What do we do if we don’t know what our “chair” is? I’d like to offer some suggestions.

Seek for a place to serve.

Find a place to serve, but just know if you HATE it, you can try something else! Seriously, you’re not stuck to something or somewhere your gifts are not being used or your gifts simply don’t fit. You have the freedom to figure this out!

Serve in your strengths.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What are my strengths?

  • What do I enjoy?

  • What gives me energy?

  • Who would I enjoy building community with?

The community in which you serve builds needed friendship and companionship. We are in this together. You will be spending time with these people and building a community with them as well. Where we serve should be life-giving to us and others as well.

Stay for a season.

Once you find your “chair” commit to it for a season. When things get challenging, and they will, stay for a season: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc.

I’d like to place a disclaimer here: there are seasons when rest is needed, and I honor that. There are seasons when rest is required for each of us and that is okay. If you find yourself in such a season, rest and know you are loved and valued!

I am reminded of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus tells his disciples the following things (I am paraphrasing here): go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what I have taught you.

...go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what I have taught you.

Jesus ends with saying, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The last thing he told them was he WOULD BE with them.

He is with me today; he is with you today; he is with us today as we find our “chairs”.


Lana Willis

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Jul 18, 2023

Mark 6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

Even Jesus had his folk there to stop, rest, eat, leisure time to themselves. He wants our obedience in whatever area he lays before us. Yes Lord. Here am I. Send me.

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