The Power of a Place Holder


I always have more than one book on the go. In fact, I’m usually reading eight or 10 books at a time, including the audiobooks I’ve lovingly queued on my library app and three or four work-related research books. When I look across my desk or on the floor in my office or even piled three-deep on my bedside table, I find myself letting out a satisfied sigh when I see those little scraps of paper, brass darts or colored tassels peeking out from between the pages.

I love bookmarks. They are holding my place. They are waiting for me to return. Patient. Attentive. Never frantic or judgmental.

I found myself curious about this idea—holding one’s place. How utterly inconsequential it is, yet we all do it. We want to remember where we left off, so we can go back to it and carry on. Holding our place recognizes that a disruption has broken the flow, it stopped us in some way from continuity and consistency. And inherently it knows we long to return.

I am currently in the midst of a six-week international journey. This includes taking eight flights, two to Asia and the rest going to and from Africa, with stops all over North America, Europe and the African continent. I am both unbelievably scared and absolutely astounded at these opportunities to serve with teams and organizations that are doing beautiful and wholehearted work in their respective fields.

While the details of how these both came about, are redemptive stories unto themselves, they became possible because people who deeply love and care for me were willing to hold my place at home.

They are the ones who mark the spot where I left off and with gracious patience wait for my return. Yes, they carry on with their own lives and the things they need to do, but they let me know in so many small, but meaningful ways they are actively protecting the place I inhabit in their world.

My daughter sends me updates about school and friends. My son sends photos of cat shenanigans. My husband says goodnight each evening (albeit my morning some 17 hours ahead) and tells me he loves me. This is how we hold places for one another.

Holding my place tells me that I am known—really known. Holding my place tells me I am deeply loved and that I belong, without question. It reminds me that when I am gone, something is missing. Upon my return, I am ushered into the ongoing stories being written and woven together in both their lives and mine.

To be known, to be loved and to belong … aren’t these the deepest, most satisfying longings of our soul?

I don’t think it coincidence that one of the very last things Jesus tells us before he leaves earth, is that he’s preparing a place for us. We have a place set aside to be in beautiful communion and harmony with our Creator.

So, when I further consider that God inhabited flesh in the person and work of Jesus, and God moved into the neighbourhood (as Eugene Peterson wrote in The Message) to take his place among his beloved creation, it comes full circle that Jesus was and is forever holding a place for us. While on earth, he taught us how to receive and then extend this gift of holding a place for one other. Jesus taught us how to mark the spot where we each are fully known, fully loved and fully belong. Then he extravagantly tells us that, “By the way, my Beloved, I am holding a place for you after you leave this earth. I can’t wait to see you again.”

Every time we text our loved ones and share with them a story, a memory or a cat video, we hold a place for them. When a stranger walks into our church foyer, looking lost and alone, as we move towards them and invite them to sit beside us, we hold a place for them.

When our kids disappoint us, when our best friends’ marriage breaks apart or when we walk out of our last church because of racism, sexism and distorted gospel, we seek out those whom we can hold a place for. We cling to each other, because together we are known, we are loved and we were always meant to belong.