Exploring Sacred Space: The Blue Chair, C.S. Lewis, and A Sacred Place
Next article is up online!
If you want to stay at my place, however, I have it below…with my sister‘s pictures that were in the print edition. Gorgeous photos.
Exploring Sacred Space:
Seeing God in Everyday Life
The Blue Chair, C.S. Lewis, and A Sacred Place
I have this favorite chair at home. It is a big, comfy armchair with dark blue fabric, and it has been with my family ever since we lived in Vancouver, Canada over 10 years ago. On the wall beside my desk, I have a picture of my dad and me from the ’90s at our home in Canada — he’s sitting in the blue chair, drinking coffee and I’m across from him on my kid’s chair, drinking apple juice out of a mug, trying to be like daddy. The blue chair has a history that spans all the way back to my grandpa.
Whenever I come home, I am drawn to my room because that’s where the chair sits. But what is so special about that chair? Why am I drawn to it? Why is it different to sit in the blue chair than any other?
Power of memories
I do not believe there is anything special about the chair itself. It’s just a chair. The thing that is special — the thing that draws me to it — is the memory attached to the chair: the memory of two generations before me, sitting, thinking about their lives, reading their favorite books; the memory of the times I’ve had in the chair, at peace, in turmoil, in confusion, in clarity. So much life has been experienced in the chair, so many sweet times with God.
I think this is why I’m drawn to it still — I have the hope that more life will be experienced, felt and seen. I am drawn to it because I am drawn to life itself. For 20 years, I’ve been going deeper into life and this chair helps me — it helps me grow. It helps me see clearly and it helps me struggle with the thoughts that sometimes plague my mind. With hot coffee on the table and sometimes a candle lit, I pick up the next book that will help sort things out for me or help me see life in a new way. Over the next few hours, I make more memories and the chair takes on deeper meaning as I dwell there.
Everyday places become sacred spaces
How do spaces, like the blue chair, become sacred? What is it that causes the change from normal to sacred? Over time, I saw that it is our repeated presence in a certain place that makes the area sacred — our presence makes it special, personal and filled with memories. Everyday places like a couch or a kitchen or a bedroom become sacred places where we dwell there often and meet with God. It’s important for everyone to have a space like this — one that is unique to who you are, and one in which you can retreat from the world to be alone with God.
When I was in Oxford a couple of summers ago, I visited The Kilns, the home of one of my great heroes, C.S. Lewis. There, I had the opportunity to walk around his house and visit each of the rooms — the kitchen, his personal study, his bedroom, the common room and all the others. Thanks to the C.S. Lewis Foundation, it is not a museum, but a working household, which makes for quite a warmer experience. Besides my childlike giddiness, the other feeling I had was a strong sense of Lewis’ unique presence in the rooms, in the walls, in the fireplaces — his spirit was in that place and there was no denying it. When I looked at his writing desk, I could see him in my mind, scratching down his latest thoughts on Christianity. But was I just crazy? Was I just seeing things?
I think not. There is something to be said of knowing you are in a sacred place when you enter one. I knew from the moment I stepped through his front door that I was entering a house that I would never forget; The Kilns was a sacred place for Lewis and I could feel it. I was entering the place where he lived, laughed, wept, ate, read, wrote and thought. The Kilns was where Lewis spent most of his life, and to me, where you spend your life becomes very much a sacred place — perhaps so sacred that your presence never leaves, even after you do.
Presence and sacred space
You say, “You’re too mystical sounding, Carson.” I say, “Try visiting your childhood home without feeling anything inside, without sensing the presence of your family members — try resisting the memories, the sounds, the times you had, the years you experienced, the lessons you learned and the weight of it all.”
I imagine few can.
In this life, where we choose to dwell — where we choose to put our presence — is either life giving or life draining. I hope we all find a unique place to meet with God, and meet with him regularly enough for the place to take on meaning — for our presence to be felt there by whoever comes after us.
*Photos by Shannon Leith