I first saw this meme about eight years ago. The intent might have been a smug dis of the ubiquitous “I Found Jesus” posters, buttons, and bumper stickers popular at the time. Or maybe it was not a dis, but both a funny and serious affirmation of the unlikely places where Jesus shows up. I laughed out loud when I read it, but you know, I think I did find Jesus behind the sofa.
When I was eight years old, my parents bought a brand new house in a brand new development of three hundred houses. Each house was red brick with white siding. There were five models of homes, variations on ranches and split-levels. Every street in the neighborhood started with the letter S—a postal worker’s nightmare and a source of fear for a little kid looking for his or her street in a blur of red and white houses. Although I loved the swarm of kids my age on my street, I hated the new house. It had no trees or bushes. In our previous yard, there were oak trees, pine trees, and hydrangea bushes. The newness and bareness of the property and the house itself felt a little soulless.
My parents owned the house for almost forty years. When I recall living there, I think of the one room I cherished. It was the living room that split the house into the upstairs and downstairs. It was the room for entertaining guests, not the place where we spent ordinary time or watched television. I loved the specialness and sanctuary of the living room. While other family members congregated in the family-room downstairs, I tiptoed shoeless on the thick white wool rug and hunkered down behind the living room’s white brocade sofa. It was a great place to be alone, play with my paper dolls, and browse the Encyclopedia Britannica Jr. Behind the sofa was also the place in my early days of literacy where I read my small, red leather King James Bible. Lying next to the radiator behind the sofa, I memorized Psalms and read the Gospel stories of the New Testament. It was there in my private little sanctuary that I first fell in love with Jesus.
Christmas was celebrated in the living room. The Christmas tree stood in front of the big picture window. When the Christmas tree was decorated and all lighted up a week or two before Christmas, it became my sanctuary within the sanctuary. I spent hours curled up under its branches. Sometimes I just lounged in the magic of the ornaments, the lights, and the silence. Sometimes, Christmas music played on the hunky hi-fi. Every year my father brought home a new Firestone record album with titles like Your Christmas Favorites. Songs from other countries, a cappella carols, and unfamiliar melodies floated through the room. The carols from these albums filled me with joy. The music and lyrics became part of my lifelong prayer and worship vocabulary.
In retrospect, the hours spent under the Christmas tree were my first Advents. The church of my childhood did not celebrate Advent but the time of quiet I spent under the tree was full of expectancy and promise. Something unknown and bigger than myself was about to happen. The Jesus I had met behind the sofa had moved with me under the tree. And more about him was going to be revealed.
This post was adapted and updated from a 2009 entry I wrote for the Purpose-Driven Connection. The bumper sticker came from a website called Azure Green. The one above is no longer available, but a different version appears on the site.