I originally posted this story back in January of 2010, when my daughter was a little over a year old. It was powerful to me then, and remains so every time I think of it now. I hope it speaks to something in you today.
I had to go to the cable company today to get a cable box. You know the story, since we’ve all had to deal with this.
I knew the line was apt to be horrendous so I packed Jennifer’s snacks and a few toys and other essentials in her stroller. When we walked in the front door, I patted myself on the back a little for being so prepared; the line was looped around and around the tiny little room, with people standing in the doorway because there was nowhere else to go. Fortunately (and predictably) Jennifer was in good spirits (she’s a gem, I tell you) and was far too interested in looking around at all of the new people to even think about getting bored or fussy. We inched forward, very slowly, and I overheard some conversations about how long people had been in line. The general consensus, it seemed, was that it would take approximately an hour to get from the doorway to one of the customer service reps. I didn’t panic. We were both rested and had full bellies, so barring any unexpected happenings (READ: toddler-esque mood swings) I figured that we would be just fine.
As I leaned over and whispered to Jennifer, trying to give her attention so she wouldn’t beg to be taken out of the stroller, someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, ma’am? You’re here with your baby?”
“Um, yes, sir. I am.”
“Please. Please. Come to my place in line. I’ll trade places with you.”
Now, before I go any further, let me tell you where this man was in line. His place wasn’t near mine whatsoever. Because of the looping and twisting of the line through the rope-maze, he was directly next to me; his place in line, however, was much further ahead than I was. I was still nearly at the end, while he had only two people in front of him.
“No, sir…I can’t do that. She’s okay, really. We’ll be all right.”
“No, please…I insist. Please. Come ahead.” He lifted the rope up for me to pass under, and gestured for me to come through. “Please.”
I didn’t know what to say or how to refuse such an offer, so under the rope we went. As I reached his place in line, he stepped into mine. I was speechless and offered my awkward thanks.
“Um, thank you! Thank you so much! You don’t have to do this…but thank you. Thank you so much.”
Before I could grasp what had just happened, the two people in front of me (whose friend, I then realized, was in my place at the back of the line) turned around, and one spoke up. “Please, ma’am. Go ahead.”
I was absolutely speechless. I had gone from the back of the line all the way to the front of the line in less than a minute, while a complete stranger stood where I should have been in the back of the line…after having waited an hour to get to the front himself.
It wasn’t until I was telling this story to my husband tonight that I realized the powerful parallel between what the man in line did for me and what Jesus did for me. Twice, someone took my place…and twice, I have been unable to fully express my gratitude or repay the extravagant kindness. Very different situations, but it made me think. It somehow gave me a new perspective on the word “sacrifice.”
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sins. It is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)