The Blue Armchair and the Presence of God
Jan 01, 2017 12:07AM
● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I could feel his presence as I entered each room. He had only been gone one year; past conversations and memories bopped around in my mind—random flashes of the past with no clear timeline. Dad making himself known in my heart and thoughts. His love was tangible. The house was pregnant with his solid faith and unconditional love. We missed him terribly, but we walked the legacy he set in place before us. With each step of remembrance, I felt his nod of approval, his pleasure.
It was the first time in his home since he had passed. I was so relieved his blue recliner chair was there, the leather worn in places where his hands used to push forward to fold out for a nap. The seat of it revealed the wear of a consistent presence like the dent in a blanket left by a warm dog after it gets up and stretches.
During some of our last visits, an external bladder pouch sat next to him on the floor, taking the role his cancer-ridden organ used to play. Sweet as he was, he used to ask if it would upset my children to see it. I was honestly glad they did. They remember the battle he fought so courageously and the toll it took. His robe would hang slightly open where the tube delivered its contents to the pouch on the floor. None of us minded. At the time, we were so grateful he was still with us.
I can’t look at that chair without seeing the red-white tufts of hair poking out over its high back or the freckled, hairy, lanky arms sitting on the armrests.
I can remember the snore that snuck out from his catnaps when the recliner was extended in a horizontal position.
I can picture his headphones on while he yelled at a particular political candidate with such passion of convictions.
I can detect the faint remains of the medical odor that became part of him through several battles with cancer over four decades.
I can hear his voice calling me over, gently cooing: “Doll, I hope you keep writing. You are touching lives and don’t probably even know it yet.”
(I don’t know if that last part is true or not, but that my father esteemed what I did meant the world to me. I renewed my commitment to continue and improve my trade.)
I ache for the shape no longer taking form in that chair.
If you have lost a close loved one, my guess is you know this pain well and how strange it is to walk the path he or she walked without being able to still find that loved one there.
His chair at the table.
The sidewalk he crossed by the frog pond at his senior community.
All of them testified to a life well lived. He was gone, but my children, husband, and I still felt the influence of the memories and experiences in those places.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel sinking into that empty blue armchair for the first time since we lost him. I both dreaded and eagerly anticipated it. If I could have crawled into the seams just to be closer to the memory of him, I would. I often thought about laying across his grave. I just wanted to be with him and soak in more of his love and wisdom.
But I can’t. He is not here. He is in glory with his Father in heaven. He was human and cannot be in two places at once. Someday, we will be together again in eternity, but right now, death has separated us.
Did you know that, with Jesus, that is not the case? Maybe you know it intellectually, but do you know it in your heart? When we place our trust in Christ, He resides in our hearts in the form of the Holy Spirit, a gift He gives us of His presence until we are with Him face to face.
When I sit in that blue armchair, my father is not tangibly with me. I might have remembrance wave over me rather powerfully, but I cannot conjure him up.
With Jesus, He is always with us, God with us, Immanuel. That is the hope of Christmas and the Truth we carry around all year. His presence can be accessed all the time. His heart is forever inclined toward ours, offering strength in weakness, light in darkness, healing for our wounds.
My friends, do you know what God says about being with you? Tuck these promises deeply in your hearts.
As you approach 2017, please take some time to meditate on the beauty of the gift of Christ and the Holy Spirit He sends on His behalf. May these verses carry you through whatever you face in the new year.
Exodus 33:14, ESV
And he said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
1 John 4:16, ESV
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Psalm 16:11, ESV
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Revelation 21:3, ESV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."
Psalm 23:4, ESV
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
He sits with you in the armchair, and like the afghan my own father once draped over me, He wraps your heart in His neverending love.
Tell Him you love having Him there, and cuddle up in His promises:
“Abba (Father), You are always with me, and You never let me go.”
Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Happy New Year, and the peace of Christ to you!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.