When I opened the door and looked around for the first time, I figured it was probably the smallest room I could have imagined for being a spiritual director.
Here was this little L-shaped church office of my wife’s. When Linda handed me the keys at home, she looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “You’ll like the Jesus chair.”
And there it was in plain view.
The Jesus chair is actually a slightly worn, wing back chair. It’s where visitors with Linda shared their stories, and it’s where I would invite my directees to sit. The chair was draped with a lovely green shawl, and its upright posture seemed inviting. It looked like it belonged in my late grandmother’s living room, next to an end table and a little dish of mints.
But where was Jesus in relationship to this chair? And where would he be for the directee, and for me?
I pondered all of this as I plopped myself onto a swiveling desk chair. Even as I thumbed through a book of prayers and tried to make sense of my earlier handwritten notes, my eyes kept returning to the green shawl and this apparently unoccupied space.
I told myself, “It’s time to pray.” So I bowed my head and pictured my directee in the Jesus chair and asked God to come near. Then, I began to look around and check the clock a few times to make sure I was still spending time faithfully in prayer. It had been a long day at work, and I needed to blow out all the crummy stuff inside. I decided to be brave, and with the window shade up and the world looking in, I spun myself around in the swivel chair. And not just once. It became my own Prayer of Healing Thanks to Centrifugal Force. And on every revolution, I noticed the Jesus chair looking on—legs still, arms open, freely giving me whatever room I needed.
Soon, my directee arrived, and given what followed during our hour together, I was beginning to see the goodness and meaning of the Jesus chair.
Several weeks went by, and before another direction session I went to the room a little bit earlier. The day had gone well, and I just wanted to get off my feet. For the first time, I decided to sit in the Jesus chair.
Oh, those cushions. It was snug, yet roomy, all at once. My back agreed. The bones of the Jesus chair held me upright, and I didn’t want to get up.
With my eyes shut, I surrendered to God the work assignments I hadn’t finished that day. I offered the Lord my two teens whom I dearly loved but couldn’t figure out.
There, in the Jesus chair, I sighed with a whole lot of questions that were still raising their hands, needing to heard. With my shoes now off and my toes now curled up in a crevice of fabric, I started to pay attention to my grateful yet somewhat frayed soul.
In the Jesus chair, honesty and freedom came ‘round. For a long, seamless moment, I sat with my directee and with Jesus. To put myself in this chair was to know I belonged with both of them and that in God’s design the three of us would bless one another.
In this chair, Jesus—through the immense company of Father and Holy Spirit—was already present. In fact, I wasn’t going to be surprised if he scooched up and leaned in a little closer. Why not? In spiritual direction, the posture of Jesus is always to listen, abide with the one he loves unconditionally and forever. And to think such love could somehow be contained and flow to another person through the cracks of a broken vessel like me, like each of us.
It wasn’t long before I heard a small knock at the door. I stood up and smoothed out the green shawl of the Jesus chair. The time for both my directee and me had come. I opened the door, and in that quiet, little room perfectly furnished for two persons, I gladly noticed three.