The empty seat across from us wherever we find ourselves this Valentine’s Day is not empty. It is filled with the love of the one and only true love, Jesus.
On the edge of a thriving metropolitan area, outside the anxiety of the city, sits a quaint and quiet five-star restaurant. With humble beginnings and a quick rise to fame, obtaining reservations is a daunting task. Bringing its visitors from hours away, it offers an evening of peace in its clean white design with splashes of vibrant color from fresh bouquets on each table.
This night holds particular elegance. Red roses adorn the dining room, soft candles usher in the promise of romance. Not one detail is spared in each place setting. Silver utensils and pristine wine glasses glitter their purpose. The lighting is as soft as the pianist and accompanying violinist who serenade its guests. The backside of the restaurant reveals four floor to ceiling windows each nestled in an alcove large enough for only a two person table to maintain its privacy. Each table overlooks the large vacant park buried under the evening’s delivery of light white snow. The park lamps offer enough light to make out the solitude and silence on the other side of the glass in the darkness of winter.
Every Valentine’s Day since the kids had left the house, Samson brought Anne, his wife of forty-eight years now, to this very table. However, Anne sits alone today. Promising him she would keep their traditions alive, she faces this evening alone. She can’t help but look up when she sees movement as if he will be arriving any moment. This is the first meal out she has had since his funeral service and despite offers from their children not to be alone, she keeps her promise to Samson. The familiar scent of the roses sweep her away in memories of the beautiful bouquets that adorned their wedding and that he delivered for her every year since at this time. The server arrives to accept her drink order. “Will there be another?” she asks, innocently. “Not tonight.” Anne replies. She cannot bring herself to look up. Her aged eyes fill as the depth of her loss, rises to the surface. She draws the white, pressed linen napkin to her face to cover her pain and absorb the memories that flow.
Elena arrives for her reservation fifteen minutes early as per her normal routine. Distracted by her anxiety, she misses the serene beauty here. After removing her coat, she checks her phone again. Nothing. Sipping her first glass of wine, she decides to message him. “Where are you?” No reply still, fifteen minutes later. Ugh! Typical, she scoffs to herself. She recounts the last month as she waits for Tony. There are big problems. Beginning to count, she prepares for letting him know all her complaints right when he gets here. And how dare he make her wait again! And on Valentine’s Day, nonetheless. He didn’t do what she asked him to help around the house again. She did everything! He was putting in too much time with his friends and they never had any time together. AND she was going to mention their favorite topic, when were they going to get married? She was going to tell him when he got here just how he needed to change. And to prioritize her and their life was the first step he could take. Elena’s phone jerks to life with a message from Tony, “It just isn’t working. I think it best that we don’t see each other again. I have already collected my things.” Stunned, Elena calls Tony. No answer. She texts back in desperation. No response.
In the third alcove, he sits across from her empty chair. Ethan’s leg under the table won’t remain still despite his efforts as he waits for Savannah. He didn’t mean to arrive this early but he couldn’t wait another second to make her his. Knowing she was the one since freshman year, he scolds himself for waiting this long to propose. He rehearses in his head over and over exactly what he will say. He imagines Savannah’s reaction to the ring in his pocket. Every penny he had he saved to buy her ring, and hopefully the dinner ticket will not go over his budget. She deserves all this though, and her gratitude for even the littlest of things would show itself tonight, even though he couldn’t afford more. Ethan also could anticipate her putting up a quarrel about eating dinner somewhere this expensive. They would be alright he would assure her. And she would reluctantly give in.
Valentine’s Day is not roses and chocolates for everyone. This may be the first Valentine’s Day of its kind for us based upon events of this past year. First Valentine’s alone, since the illness, since the wedding, etc. Rejection, loneliness, break-ups and deep loss fill the day for many. The empty seat across from us wherever we find ourselves this Valentine’s Day is not empty. It is filled with the love of the one and only true love, Jesus. He is with us today regardless of the narrative that best describes our current situation. He sees every tear, feels every hurt, removes anxiety and fear. He is right across from you. He rejoices with us when we rejoice too! Share with Him. He waits for us to open up to Him, to ask Him for help and to hold us when we are broken. While we are waiting for the other party to arrive, let’s talk to the One who is always there. We sit across from Jesus who knows us better than we know ourselves. Talk like you would to your best friend, it’s that simple, for He is.