Today I’m pondering emptiness. Specifically, this empty chair beside me. This week my family is at the beach. Stephen and our four boys are walking along the sand tonight, and I opted for some quiet time on our balcony. The ocean lies in front of me in all its beauty, with the soothing, rhythmic rolling of its waves. Splendor is before me, and I can’t take my eyes off this empty chair next to me.
I imagine my daughter sitting in it. We’re chatting and giggling and planning our beach time for tomorrow. We’re deciding to go shopping together after we swim in the morning. We’re going to cook dinner for everyone after our afternoon nap. I imagine all sorts of interactions between us. I imagine anything except this empty chair.
Because of the unique nature of our relationship with her, I don’t have a rolodex of memories to draw from. I have far too few precious moments spent with her to remember. Instead, all my ordinary, everyday moments – the good, the bad, the monotonous, the hilarious – all are tainted by a subtle emptiness.
I’m new to grief, but I’m wondering if this emptiness, this sense of something missing, will always be with me. Will it fade over time? Do I want it to?
I have a love/hate relationship with this emptiness. I hate it because it hurts. I hate it because it’s always there. Sometimes the void is more dominant and other times, its merely on the fringes, a steady reminder of loss. I love it because, in a twisted way, the void keeps me connected to her. The emptiness keeps her on my mind. So, I don’t want to feel this way, but I’m scared of the day when I no longer will. This tension doesn’t make sense, but grief and logic don’t play well together.
In this perfectly ordinary moment of sitting alone on a balcony, I’m met with the overwhelming presence of God. I’m typing through tears because in this space, the depths of emptiness are calling. But God. Always, but God. He’s here with me. He hurts with me. He fills me so that I cannot be lost to the emptiness. In her book, A Path Through Suffering, Elisabeth Elliot writes, “Ordinary things can be very holy and very full of God.”
This ordinary moment is full of my extraordinary God. Emptiness has pulled up a chair, literally, but the presence of the Lord overshadows all else. His presence produces peace and comfort. His truth provides clarity. It’s a glimpse of his glory that strengthens me.
I thought that he would be glorified in our completed adoption story. I was excited for my life to magnify him in this way. I imagined a lifetime of moments sharing our story with her and exalting him through it. In my limited view, there was no space for his glory in any other version of this story. I couldn’t imagine his glory in a failed adoption or through the death of our daughter. I could only imagine his glory in my successful story.
I was wrong. He is proving himself glorious even in this emptiness and unyielding pain. In this ordinary moment on my balcony, I’m met with a glimpse of his beauty that outshines the lures of emptiness. He hasn’t removed the emptiness, but he won’t let me be lost to it either. He’s using this emptiness, redeeming it, to show me greater things that I’m longing for. I’m imagining a day when there will be no emptiness. One day, I won’t be missing anything or anyone (Revelation 21:4). I will be complete in him. The work he began in me will be finished (Philippians 1:6). I will be glorified (Romans 8:30).
I imagine being with him forever. I imagine receiving the eternal weight of glory that my earthly afflictions have prepared me for (2 Corinthians 4:17). I imagine seeing him face to face and knowing him fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).
This empty chair reminds me of what I’ve lost. It’s likely my future will include more ordinary moments where the quietness of an empty space speaks loudly of the brokenness in this life.
But in my brokenness, he heals. In my loss, I’m gaining Christ. And in the emptiness, He is faithful to fill me.
My story is different than I thought it would be. It includes an empty chair now. But all the parts of my story are for his glory.