We did a lot of traveling when I was a little girl.
Trips from Oklahoma to Pennyslvania.
Trips from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.
Trips from Kentucky to Oklahoma.
My sister and I shared the back seat like two small puppies in a cardboard box.
We wrestled for space when we needed alone time-one toe touching the other person’s leg could send either of us into a fit.
I can remember us drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the big leather seat we shared and then daring the other to cross that line in the slightest way.
But when we were sleepy, everything changed.
We crossed that line with no arguing, stretching out in the seat with our legs overlapping and the need for boundaries gone.
We were the best of friends when it came time to rest.
But when we were awake, I’m sure we drove dad crazy kicking the back of his seat.
And I’m sure we asked three hundred questions and made at least that many comments along the way.
“How much longer?”
“Are we there yet?”
“Tell her to quit looking at me!”
“She touched me again!”
It’s funny how much I can remember about our back seat travels to and from my grandparent’s house.
We often traveled through the night, and one thing I’ll never forget is how afraid I was to look up at the dark sky.
If you’ve ever seen a western night sky you know the stars fill the massive darkness with flickering pieces of dust, some brighter and bigger – some smaller and more faint, but no matter which way you look you see millions of lights in every direction.
I remember pushing my little face up against the cold glass of the backseat window, peering out quickly and then just as quickly looking away, afraid I would see more than stars in the blackness above me.
I wasn’t really sure “who” was up there, but I remember being very sure someone was.
Looking back, I had no idea just how my view of the night sky would change over the years.
I had no idea this view that once frightened me would one day inspire me.
Now I look up and stare.
I look up hoping to see more than just stars.
I want Him who created the darkness and the light to make Himself known to me in whatever way He chooses.
My fear of the night sky has transformed into a love for the One who made it.
As I sat in a one-room school house last week during a writing seminar I attended, the back seat in the row of desks caught my eye.
I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of students chose to sit here.
I wondered what kind of kid would want to be the furthest away from the teacher.
Was it the bad kid? The ornery one who liked playing pranks?
Was it the kid that didn’t want to be there? The one who hated school and only came because his parents made him?
In movies, the back seat seems to be reserved for these kinds of kids.
But today as I look at that back seat and see the sun hitting it so sweetly, I wonder if maybe the back seat held a nervous child.
A child a lot like me.
A student who wanted to learn but didn’t want to be noticed by the teacher.
A student who feared eye contact with the one in charge.
A student who only came to learn not to interact with the one up front.
I was that student for a long, long time.
Slipping into situations and trying to go unnoticed.
Like the little girl in the back seat of our car bouncing along on dusty Oklahoma roads afraid to look at the sky, I was the student afraid to look at my teacher.
Then things happened I couldn’t control.
Life yanked me out of the back seat and plopped me right down up front.
Words like “wife, motherhood, SIDS, and cancer” became part of my life story and suddenly I was in the front seat in so many different ways.
Many times I found myself holding the steering wheel with a grasp that was painful, leaving my knuckles white and my fingers cramping.
Looking up at the night sky became a regular event for me as I cried out to Him who held the stars in space, begging Him to somehow hold my heart together.
Needing the teacher to notice me was suddenly a priority.
I had to be in the front seat.
There was no other option in order for me to survive.
Sometimes life grabs us by the collar and drags us right up front whether we like or not.
There’s no hiding in the front row, no “getting by” with doing as little as possible.
We are forced to pay attention to every detail and learn quickly while in this position.
It’s not always easy.
But just as life can catapult us to a front seat view, it can also say,
“Go to the back row, please. Keep moving til you reach the last desk.”
Sometimes others need the front row seat, and we must give them ours.
That’s not always easy either.
This week I’ve been home while Tim and Olivia have been on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and I’ve felt a bit like a back seat learner all over again.
I’ve looked at photographs from their trip every night.
I’ve seen the smiles, almost heard the laughter, and I’ve felt so far away.
In many ways, I’ve wanted to be right there.
To be honest, I’ve been a little envious.
I’ve wanted to love on the people they’ve met.
I’ve wanted to bond more deeply with people from our church.
As if my arms aren’t long enough, I’ve reached out with my heart and only been able to touch my computer screen.
I’ve realized this week as I’ve been pulled from the front seat and placed in the back that sometimes this is exactly where I need to be.
Off the radar…..
Out of the loop…..
Observing more than participating…….
Because there are lessons I still need to learn from the back seat even though I’ve learned to enjoy the somewhat scary ride of life with a front seat view.
This week I’ve needed to learn that Olivia can leave the country without me and be okay.
This week I’ve needed to be reminded that my husband is an awesome father and friend to so many people.
This week I’ve needed to remember how important it is for me to take time to be still and rest.
This week I’ve needed to learn that watching others serve God is a beautiful thing, and I don’t have to be the one taking the pictures or posing in them.
Where are you today?
The front seat or the back?
No matter where you find yourself sitting, know this:
You can learn from anywhere.
Just be sure you’re not choosing the back seat out of fear or the front seat out of pride.
Either choice is dangerous and holds you back from being exactly who God wants you to be.
Allow God to put you in the front seat when He needs you there, but trust Him even when you have to press your face against the cold glass to catch a glimpse of His presence in this world.
Be willing to move up or slip back.
A back seat view isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s very important.
I’m embracing my back seat view today and loving what I see.