“I saved a seat for you!”
These words from my new friend were exactly what I needed to hear to take a deep breath and relax. Just moments before, I had been sitting in my car and very seriously considering just going home. As a generally outgoing person, I was embarrassed by how nervous I was to go inside. It was a women’s Bible study, and one of the first places I’d gone in my new city. Before I went inside, my biggest fear was that I would feel out of place. I worried about where I would sit, who I would talk to, and if I would feel welcomed. But once I walked in and heard my friend call out to me, I realized that someone had already made a place for me. Even while I was outside worrying in my car, there was already a seat with my name on it.
And as I sat in there in the seat that had been saved for me, I remembered Jesus’ words to his disciples: I am going to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).
And then I got it. In the simple action of saving me a seat, my new friend had reflected Jesus to me in such a sweet way. She had made a place for me among friends, just like Jesus makes a place for us next to Him at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is our place maker.
And as women of God, we should be place makers too.
But if we are honest with ourselves, it comes much more naturally for us to be place keepers. Place keepers guard our own places at the table rather than making room for others. We look out for ourselves before looking out for others. We close our circles and stand in huddles.
But place keeping is dangerous because it leaves people feeling left out and unwanted. It leaves people feeling out of place. And no one should ever feel out of place in the Kingdom of God. We belong to the family of God, and that means that we should be relaying the same grace and belonging to others that we have received from our heavenly Father. Jesus went to prepare a place for us because we belong with Him, and in order to make women feel like they belong, we should be preparing places for them in our midst.
So while it’s true that we will all feel out of place at some point in our lives, we can’t allow that point to be amongst believers. We should be a place of belonging and not a place of exclusion. If we are going to be women who reflect Jesus, we have to choose place making over place keeping.
So how do we do that?
Here are two simple ways to be a place maker instead of a place keeper:
1. Make a place at your table. Place makers scoot over to make room for other people at the table, but place keepers guard their own seats. Simply put: place makers are inclusive, while place keepers are exclusive. For some reason, exclusivity gives us a false sense of security and significance. But including others doesn’t mean your place is any less significant or any more relevant. Adding a seat at the table doesn’t have to endanger your own seat. Find a bigger table. Widen the circle. More voices won’t drown out your own. Making someone else feel worthy does not dilute your own worthiness. Place makers have to be confident in their own places, rather than allowing insecurity to force them into exclusivity. Jesus wasn’t exclusive and we shouldn’t be either. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15–17).
He healed outcasts (Mark 1:40–45) and conversed with adulteresses (John 4). If Jesus didn’t consider anyone to be unworthy of His table, we shouldn’t either. There is room for all of us at His table.
2. Make a place in your heart. Place makers are less concerned with what others think of them and more concerned with what they think of others. The primary motive of place keeping is selfishness. We protect our reputations. We focus on relationships that seem valuable to us—relationships that are effortless, or that we believe will increase our social standing—rather than taking interest in those who are on the outside. We turn a blind eye to the girl standing in the back of the room or the woman sitting by herself and allow ourselves not to see her. But that’s not the example that Jesus set for us over and over again in Scripture. Jesus had compassion for the lonely and showed love to the broken, and if we are going to reflect Jesus, we have to do the same.
In Luke, Jesus talked about inviting people to the table who can’t repay you, people who have nothing to give back to you. “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:12–13). We can’t just make places for those who can make places for us in return. We can’t allow ourselves to ignore others who, we believe, have nothing to offer us. We had nothing to offer Jesus when He chose us and made a place for us. Don’t make places for just those whom you believe have something to bring to the table. Love and compassion for the least of these—that’s the heart of God (Matt. 25:34–40).
Jesus set the example. He made a place for us so that we, too, can be place makers. It’s our responsibility to be includers and welcomers. It’s our responsibility to make places at our tables and to make places in our hearts for those who need to experience the love of Jesus Christ and the belonging of the family of God.
Let it never be said of us that we made anyone feel out of place, unwelcome, or unloved among the people of God.