“Go stand in that line and I’ll stand in this one.”
My husband hates to wait in lines, especially at the grocery store. He is always delegating people, me or one of our kids, to hold a place in another line in case it moves faster than the one he’s chosen. This can get really embarrassing when he tells me, immediately upon entering the store, to jump in the nearest line while he grabs the “just a few” items he needs. Empty handed, I smile as others join me with their full carts… and then avoid their annoyed looks as they move aside for my husband to squeeze past with his arms full of ice cream and toppings.
These days you can actually pay someone to wait in line for you, perhaps at a theatre box office or sporting event. One pharmacy’s emergency clinic allows you to go online and click on their “Hold Place in Line” button. Awards ceremonies always look like the seats are full. That’s because there are hired “place holders” who will fill the celebrity’s seat until their return.
Am I Only a Place Holder?
What happens, though, when a job seems like a place holder? When it doesn’t seem to matter who is filling a position? When workers or staff members feel like they are just an interchangeable part?
This brings to mind the sad stories of the industrial revolution where a worker faints from exhaustion and is quickly swapped out with a fresh replacement. Certainly we can’t imagine ourselves as bosses being that hardhearted. However, I have heard administrators carelessly say, "Oh that won’t be a problem. We can just get someone else to fill in.” When this is said in front of “replaceable” employees, it’s hard for them not to become despondent wondering if it really matters if they show up.
Each of us brings a unique flavor, a special set of gifts, to any job. And it is nice to be recognized as having an important role in any organization or company… that our contributions are valued.
Although I rarely missed a day of work teaching, I enjoyed the response I received when students welcomed me back: “We missed you!” I even had a class of sophomores who greeted me with a dramatic, "Don't ever leave us again!" What recognition of my value as their teacher!
A Welcome Place Holder
“Hold a place for me.” “I’ll save you a place.” “Here, take my place.” All of these sound so friendly and congenial as if we belong. As if we’re part of something important. What a welcoming atmosphere they all convey!
And we all hope we have a place where we belong… in an organization, a company, an office or even a family. And we want it to be meaningful, not just an interchangeable part or a place holder for someone better, more important or more worthy.
When a boss or administrator takes the time to recognize the importance of each employee, each staff member, the value and quality of their accomplishments rise with their feeling of worth. When we imagine an organization or company as being a living body, each position, each job becomes vital. And when people feel valued for their unique contributions, a company, a church, a family can’t help but flourish.
Yes, there will be times when we know we are taken for granted, when we feel like just a place holder. The world doesn’t guarantee to save us a place for recognition.
But I know I can always feel that self worth when I remember that I am a part of the body of Christ. I belong to something much greater than anything the world can offer. No matter what job or task I’m given, whether it be over or under someone else, I know that I have been chosen for that role for a reason, because someone, especially my Lord, needed me. That’s part of my calling.
The Ultimate Place Holder
And I know I have the ultimate “place holder”… the one who paid for taking my place: My Lord Jesus. The one who saved me for a place and who is saving a place… one prepared uniquely for me.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
(First publishied at Lead Like Jesus April 2017)