Some of the greatest memories I had as a child were the times I spent evenings in my backyard playing roller hockey. Not having a lot of friends my age, I would spend hour after hour, sometimes till 11 at night, taking slap shots against imaginary goalies and pretending I was one of the legendary National Hockey League greats. Having memorized the names of hundreds of NHL players, I would play full five on five games where I pretended to be Montreal (my favorite team) playing any number of the then 29 different teams in the league.
Not only would I play every position, but I would even broadcast the game as I played. My favorite announcer was the great Chris Cuthbert, who currently televises games on NBC. Imitating his higher pitched head voice delivery, I would call and play the game at the same time.
Hour after hour would go by. I’d work on stick handling skills and routine drills like seeing how many times I could bat a tennis ball into the air with my stick without letting it hit the ground. The exhilarating part of playing yourself was that you could always find a way to come out on top. Playing every position gave me the opportunity to score way more than if I had actual teammates! I was always the hero.
Sometimes the battles grew intense as I threw crushing body checks (usually against unsuspecting chairs), only to reach a full climax with raising my hands in victory, the Stanley Cup held overhead (in my case a black garbage container).
Eventually, I would collapse exhausted onto a rickety old brown couch we had probably picked up at some second hand store. That is when the whole 60 by 40 ft barn became silent. All you heard was the crackling of the wood fire place and the wind whipping across the front of the two exterior storm glass doors. Nothing moved except our family dog, who would come over and snuggle down beside me on one of the cushions. There I was, 11 years old. Just a boy with a dog, a hockey stick, and a fireplace.
Nothing about that couch was remarkable. It was old. One of the legs wobbled when you sat on it. There was a reason it was in the garage. Not to mention it sure took its share of abuse. From holding up to ten kids piled on it at once to suffering countless basketball strikes off the side, it is a wonder it did not cry out for mercy on more than one occasion.
While nothing about that couch was unique, it was the times of sitting on that couch that changed my life. They would be the times where I would learn to meet God. It was on the brown couch I learned to talk to him about my problems. It was there that I discovered God for myself.
Over the years, I would bring a lot of questions to God on that couch. I would talk to him about losing some of my best friends after their parents separated. I would talk to him about my dream to one day become an NHL hockey player. And I would talk to him when I saw my own parents’ marriage coming apart.
It was as if that brown couch became the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Hour after hour I would sit and be silent before God. The questions of life swirling around my mind and ascending to the heavens in an unspoken litany of thoughts. On the brown couch, life came into focus. It was the place I could go to escape reality.
Today that brown couch has been left far behind. It likely rests in a trash heap somewhere, but the memories linger on. When my family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio that brown couch turned into an office chair that overlooked a local school campus. After moving to Hardy, Virginia that brown couch became a prayer closet located just underneath the stairs in our basement apartment. Now, it is a recliner chair where everyday I read God’s Word, pray, and journal about what God is doing in my life.
For various people, brown couches come in many different forms. For some it is those few precious moments around the kitchen table before their kids get out of bed. For others, it’s the few moments in their pickup truck before starting the day at their job site or that time lying awake in bed before getting out to start the day. It’s not so much what the place looks like, but what happens in that place.
Where is your brown couch?