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The Frail Thin Line

By July 17, 2014 No Comments
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I appreciated yesterday’s post by Theresa (or was it Mary? I thought Theresa just turned 40 not to long ago?) The part about “acting our age” really hit home. As I write this I’m sitting in a recliner with my leg propped up on pillows, a knee immobilizer on my right knee. Been sitting here for a little over a week now. For the past six months I’ve been helping organize a serve project for high school students in the Sioux City area. Last week, 40 high school kids along with their adult leaders spent the week meeting God in their neighbor. Sure, they did some work, but the work really isn’t the point. The point is to have our world opened up, to get over ourselves, and experience God at work in the world. The project couldn’t have gone any better: the students had enough work, enough tools, times of worship and testimony—a great week.

The problem came during the Tuesday night community time when we took kids to the rec center for fun and games. All day I talked smack, making sure the high schoolers were ready to face my basketball furry. Truth be told I’m not that great of an all around player, but I can shoot lights out, and, if the rim is a little lower, I can put down some sweet dunks. It was all in good fun… just a way to connect with the young people, you know. So we played full court, I made some shots, missed some shots, and overall had a good time. Just as we were ready to leave one kid figured out how to lower the hoop. Dunk contest. Long story made a bit shorter… as I went up for a reverse jam it felt like someone threw something at my leg, like a sledge hammer. As I tried to get up to give the culprit the business…I couldn’t get up. I took one look at my knee and realized there would be no Black Hills hiking vacation this summer. Torn patellar tendon. I spent the night in the ER, re-telling the story about my basketball downfall. Most people smiled as they listened, not because they thought it was funny, but because they’ve been there. That moment when your mental age and your bodily age don’t match up. In two weeks I turn 40, and I’ll spend the day on crutches. Fitting.

What has stuck with me through this experience is the thin line that separates normal life from catastrophe. We were minutes from leaving, on our way out the door, just one last dunk. And yet – the trajectory of that choice sent me and my family down an entirely different path. Not that it’s been all bad, over the past week I’ve been able to work on a few writing projects; I mean, what else do I have to do? But there has been a bit of despair, some disappointment, a lot of frustration, and I’m not even one week into a long healing process. The end to my recreational basketball career has forced me to reflect upon the grace and providence that sustains our lives—the thin, frail, line we inhabit as we make our way in this world, and all the little things I know I take for granted each and every day. My little detour has reminded me that life and health are a gift from God—I’m not guaranteed or owed any of it—so I need to treat it as such, remember to take it all in, and enjoy it for all it’s worth. 

And thank God for pain medication.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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