The Greatest Christmas Gift of all...And it's Not What You Think
Is there a certain thing your spouse does that drives you crazy? No matter how "perfect" a relationship appears, the answer is most likely yes. In today's blog, Alisa Grace shares a personal story about how God changed her perspective using an old blue chair.
I don’t know the exact day I started hating our navy blue recliner. It has been part of our family for almost two decades now, longer than our youngest child - who is now a freshman in college! In fact, we bought it just before she was born so we would have somewhere to rock her. So, I guess it’s safe to say that at some point, I actually liked the chair.
And while I liked the chair in the beginning, my husband Chris loved it. I mean loooooved it. So much so that it became his chair. Over the years, it’s where he watched the Sunday football games, relaxed after work, took many long weekend naps, and most recently, where he snuggled our new grandbaby for hours. Yes, that chair has seen a lot of miles and a lot of life over the years…and it shows.
In terms of home décor, 18 years is literally ages. The brilliant deep blue that it was in the early days has noticeably faded. A large black stain glares from the side. And it no longer matches anything in our living room décor. Did I say anything? Because what I meant is anything. I have a deep-seated need for my house to look nice and be in order. I don’t know why, but it really stresses me out me when it doesn’t.
I want our home look a certain way…my way.
It’s time for it to go, but Chris refuses.
Around ten years ago I pressed him numerous times to get rid of it, but he just wouldn’t hear of it. He’s known for hanging onto stuff long past its expiration date. He just can’t bear to throw away old things because “we might need them later” or he can “use their spare parts” for something else. There’s something about that personality trait of his that is, well, quirky. So, the best I could do was hide that ugly, worn out, blue recliner in our guest bedroom where it has remained…until two years ago.
Two years ago my beautiful, strong, indestructible husband was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer and began the grueling year-long treatment to save his life. Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe what he went through. Over the next 10 months he underwent five weeks of daily radiation, 28 rounds of oral chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor and install a temporary ileostomy, another four months of brutal infusion chemotherapy, and a final surgery to reverse the ileostomy. The chemo-induced neuropathy in his hands and feet continued to worsen over the next three months, going as far as his elbows and waist. To say he went through hell and back is not an overstatement. There were days he was so sick and in such pain that he wouldn’t have cared if he didn’t wake up. When he told me that, it shook me to my core.
It was on those long, cruel days that he would retreat to the familiar comfort of his old blue recliner with a warm cozy blanket to ride out the pain and waves of nausea. Day after day I could find him asleep in his chair – his only relief was sleeping up to 18 hours a day during those crazy months. Maybe it’s actually a good thing we held on to the recliner after all.
Suddenly I began to understand that the ugly blue recliner had actually become a beautiful place of refuge from the storm of cancer for my husband. In fact, about halfway through his treatment, we pulled it out of the bedroom and put it back in the living room where Chris could rest comfortably while getting IV’s and visiting with family. I decided that if it made him feel better, then darn it, he needed his comfortable old chair!
Like many of you, several of my friends and co-workers lost their spouses over the last two years to COVID, as well as to other illnesses. In fact, one friend with children still at home lost her husband just two weeks ago. When I heard the news, it was like a sucker punch, one that hit a little too close to home. It was at that point that I looked across the room at my husband, who is still alive, sitting in that ugly blue recliner I’ve hated so much and thought to myself: “You can bet that every one of those women would be thrilled to have an ugly blue recliner in their living rooms if it meant that they could have their husbands back.”
Wow, that simple thought was a game changer for me! I mean really, why have I made such a big stink about such a small, ultimately inconsequential thing as a chair in the living room??? Especially when it meant so much to my beloved! Did it really take his almost dying for me to realize that he is so much more important to me than how our house looks? My pettiness, my insistence of putting my preferences above my husband’s began to sink in, and I was ashamed of myself.
God gently brought to mind Philippians 2:3-4 “Don’t be selfish, Alisa; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others (such as Chris) as better than yourself. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in (his), too.” And I Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is patient and kind, Alisa; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way;…”
I love that phrase: be humble. Biblical humility is defined as:
“A quality of being courteously respectful of others. It is the opposite of aggressive, arrogant, demanding your own way [italics are mine]. Rather than an attitude of ‘Me first,’ humility allows us to say, ‘No, beloved, you first.’ Or ‘Hey, let’s try it your way.’ Humility is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and interests of others before our own.”
I had grown to be a greater lover of myself than the one person on this earth who means more to me than life itself. Ouch. Apparently self is still strong in me, even after three decades of marriage and running a marriage ministry!
Now, I find myself loving that navy blue recliner again, not because it changed, but because I did. In His gentle way, the Lord took the same circumstances and reframed it for me: Same picture, different view.
So now, instead of seeing it as an eyesore, I choose to see it as a safe place of comfort for the most important man in my life. Instead of rolling my eyes at his quirkiness as he sits in it, I see it as a symbol life, my husband’s life, that God has so graciously spared.
The chair didn’t change, my perspective did. My attitude did. That ugly chair in my living room is still dated and worn, but it also means that I still have my husband. And isn’t that so much more important than having the perfect home? And that beautiful blue chair will remain in our living room as long as he wants it there, and I will be grateful for it!
Yes, God did a miraculous work, not only in my husband’s life, but in my heart as well. And maybe that is greatest Christmas gift of all.
Alisa Grace ('92) serves as the co-director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships where she also co-teaches a class called "Christian Perspectives on Marriage and Relationships." While she speaks and blogs regularly on topics such as dating relationships, marriage, and love, she also loves mentoring younger women and newly married couples, speaking at retreats and providing premarital counseling. Alisa and her husband, Chris, have been married over 30 years and have three wonderful children: Drew and his wife Julia, Natalie and her husband Neil, and their youngest blessing, Caroline.