I was likened to a football player. Being barely over five feet tall, a football player is not exactly something in which I desire to be compared. And frankly, none of my counterparts sitting in that room that day fit the description either. Upon this strange likening, I found myself slightly caught off guard. It was my understanding that I had been chosen to help lead a children’s ministry, not be a linebacker on a football team. But for some reason, on this particular Monday the day after a long Sunday, the pastor felt the need to use football as an analogy of being displeased with those whom he called employees. Apparently, someone didn’t drive the proverbial ball far enough down the field. It seemed that maybe the quarterback was throwing interceptions. I guess if we were a football team that might have been acceptable in this meeting, but we weren’t a football team. We were a group of people who had worked tirelessly loving and serving people the day before. We were prayed up, we were believing for breakthrough in people’s lives, we were full of faith that people were being saved. But clearly there was pass interference and it trumped anything good that God could have done that previous Sunday. The coach went on to say none of us were really needed; there were many people who could do our jobs; any minute someone else could step in and do what we do. I pondered the absurdity of his words amidst the shock at being spoken to this way and realized he was right. I was not the only person in the world who could lead a children’s ministry. I was not the only person who cared if little kids learned about Jesus. But there was one thing that “coach” was wrong about: I am not replaceable because I am the only me. I was the only one God created uniquely and wonderfully to fulfill a purpose in this world, in that specific place, at that specific time. The hard truth was that he was wrong in saying that I could be replaced. Sure, someone else could do my tasks but no one could replace me. No one would love those kids the way I would love those kids. No one would take the time to minister to and lead those children’s volunteers the way I would. And many years ago, while God knit me together in my mother’s womb, He knew all those things. Over the course of 40+ years He was working something out in me so that I could be confident in His truths and would recognize when someone was speaking outside of those truths.
Fast forward a year or so, a new team, a new coach (due to ending my career contract with the previous team, and being given another opportunity to serve this new coach). This coach was different. He didn’t speak coach speak at all. He spoke God speak. He made comments that inspired partnership. He even validated and encouraged those people who no one else would have considered encouraging. Sure, they deserved being encouraged, but didn’t he see that the person was a drug addict? This girl he was saying would be a pastor, didn’t he notice she had pock marks indicative of a meth issue? That guy who came to church with the smell of alcohol on his breath, why was this pastor telling this guy that joy was his birthright? This guy probably didn’t even know his biological father. This “coach” was nuts! But wait, was he nuts? Or was he actually pastoring, was he ministering healing and hope to people? I hadn’t experienced this type of leadership in my life. I’d caught a glimpse of it over the years, but this guy went to another level. And it dawned on me, God was trying to use this guy to soften the blow from being treated as a player in a game. Because this leader determined to speak life, people grew and were able to walk out purpose in their lives. Not live feeling pitiful.
The truth is, most of us are painfully aware of our pitifulness. Most of us don’t need a reminder that we can be replaced. We know deep down there will always be someone who could do our job. Even as a wife and a mother, someone technically could step in and do that job for me. My own natural capacity isn’t fooled into thinking I am the end all, be all. But the bottom line is this: God made each one of us creatively and uniquely. We are all wonderfully irreplaceable. That is why He sent Jesus. That is why Jesus did what He did. People do not need to hear that they are replaceable. They need to hear how much they are loved – it is the goodness of God that leads people to change. They need to hear that even in their scrawniest of attempts they are valuable. Everyone already fixates on their weaknesses so they don’t need reminders of those things. They need to be reminded that where they are weak, HE is strong. Where they fall short, He bridges the gap. Make people feel important, and the return on that simple investment will be priceless! Jesus already paid the price and it wasn’t so we could discount that with a half-off code or a gross comparison to being a football player when we’re just trying to do life as a people trying to love other people. We are fully precious in His sight!
Are there personal relationships or situations where a leader has undermined your value? It’s not easy to admit this because we live in a culture where we are told to respect authority and leadership so we fear that maybe we really are broken and don’t deserve to be valued. We live in a culture where we fear having truthful conversations. Well, Brave Grace and recognize that you are valuable. Determine to get into the Bible if you’re not fully certain if what you are being told about yourself from a leader or close friend is pumped with Godly truth. There has to be an element of personal respect and a Godly foundation of understanding who HE says you are before you might recognize when something does not line up with those truths. Respect and value starts with you first respecting and valuing yourself through the knowledge of who you are in Christ Jesus!