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Essay

The View from the Back

By August 15, 2014 No Comments
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There’s a new seating chart in our minivan lately. Usually, I like to drive, my wife sits in the passenger seat, and the kids sit in the back. My youngest, Savannah, sits in the way back—she still needs a car seat. Now that my leg it in a locked brace due to a knee injury I get to sit in the back with my daughter. Everywhere we go, I grab on to one of those previously useless handles above the door and drag my dead leg into the seat. Savannah likes that I’m back there—she reads me books, steals my iphone, and giggles at my aging body. I have to admit it has given me a new perspective. I can see my family from behind, their heads sticking up over the seat. I no longer have control. Though I try to drive from the back seat it really doesn’t work—it usually gets me in trouble. So I spend much more time looking out the window, noticing things about the familiar scenery that I’ve never noticed before. The drive from Sioux Center to Sioux City is beautiful; the terrain, contrary to popular thought, it not at all flat, but full of lush, green, hills. I can also say that I better understand some of my kid’s complaints that used to irritate me. My older daughter complains about feeling car sick. I get it…I can’t believe how bumpy it is riding in the back. My son yells “turn it up!” when trying to listen to the radio or movie player. I find myself saying the same thing… And my youngest, every trip, complains about being cold. Let’s just say the vents in the back work really well. 

Living with a knee injury has been one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced. I like to DO things… I like to be on the go. This injury has forced me to sit for long periods of time. After 5 weeks I’m still on crutches, just starting to get my mobility back, but still feeling stuck. Last week during physical therapy I was lying on the table, getting iced, with no one else around. I was looking out the large south-side windows that let in blue sky, puffy white clouds, and the green of corn and beans, when I had a moment of clarity—a moment of peace. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of hope. I came to the realization that life is large—it’s bigger than our circumstances, our knee injuries, our small, narrow, ways of life we tend to get stuck in. 

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.

I can’t say that I’ve always appreciated the Psalmist telling us that our days are like grass. I love life… I want to live, I don’t want to be reminded of my impeding death. Maybe my PT epiphany is a turning point, a realization that it is only when we finally embrace our limits, our finitude, that we are finally able to live. I enjoy sitting in the back with my daughter—she turns seven next week. My time with her is short… shorter than you ever realize when you’re changing diapers and staying up all night. I’m thankful for the chance to sit in the back—an opportunity I never would have taken had I not messed up my knee. I thank God for my knee in…. nope, can’t do it. I thank God for teaching me a few things through a very difficult situation.

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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