First, welcome back Sting. I heard this song a dozen different ways, but the song is written for the documentary Jim, about a missing photo journalist James Foley. He was held capital captive and eventually beheaded, but as Sting explains, he fought for food and blankets for his fellow prisoners. Before I heard the story behind the song I could not help but the empty chairs in my own youth room.
As a youth worker, maybe like you, I see too many empty chairs every week. I know kids, who are held in a spiritual captivity. They are doing the best they can, the fight for others but lose the battle themselves.
In the song, the prisoner says,
Some days I’m strong, some days I’m weak,
And days I’m so broken I can barely speak,
There’s a place in my head where my thoughts still roam,
Where somehow I’ve come home.
When kids tell me they are thinking about coming back to church or youth group, I tell them, “I’ll save you a seat”. There is always, and always should be, an open seat for the prodigal, the wanderer, and the searcher.
I can see this song from the point of the prodigal, he’s saying, “I’ve messed up a hundred times, but keep that chair open for me, don’t give up, I’ll be home.” He saying, praying, to God, keep a seat for me at the banquet table, I’ll get it. I’m slow, but I’m worth waiting for. The mystery of the gospel has not yet been unfolded for me yet, but give me time, pray for me, and keep the chair open.
Maybe you have a wayward son or daughter. Maybe you’re a youth pastor hoping that kid will come back. Maybe your a spouse hoping your other will come home. Keep the table set, and the chair open because somewhere I think they are praying you will.