No Substitute for Being There in Person

Sometimes there’s just no substitute for being there in person. 

Can you imagine sending an employee, who reports to you at work, to your daughter’s school Christmas play? “Your father would have been here, but he had a super important conference call he had to take…”

Delegation is a necessary skill and focusing on the task at hand is important. But sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing and show up yourself, in person. 

It’s easier and “more efficient” to make a quick phone call, send an email, blast out a video or send a subordinate. And most of the time, those are smart choices. 

But sometimes sending those substitutes is worse than simply not showing up. It can send the clear message, “you’re not really important to me.” 

Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for being there.

Consider the consequences of not showing up…according to Slate, “many healthy men who were eligible to serve in the military during the Civil War never ended up enlisting. The Enrollment Act of 1863 provided that a draftee could pay a “substitute” enrollee the sum of $300 (about $5,000 in today’s terms) in order to enlist in his place. Such famous Americans as Grover Cleveland and John D. Rockefeller took advantage of this provision, in effect buying their way out of service.”

It’s not exactly something to be proud of, is it? 

I’ve read that anything someone else can do 80% as well as you can do, ought to be delegated to that person. The idea is that it helps that person grow and expand their skills, and it frees you up to do things that correspond to your unique abilities. 

I think that’s great advice. But when is delegation a bad idea? When is it just not OK for you to send someone else to do the job? A few instances come to mind…

When you need to make things right in a relationship… when the stakes are high… when you are uniquely qualified to get the job done… when you’re trying to express love.

The cost of going in person is almost always high. It might feel quite inconvenient. 

But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? The going…the being there in the flesh…communicates your willingness to pay a price, and that the one for whom you showed up is worth it to you.

The word is incarnation. 

It means “in the flesh.”

And it’s what we’re celebrating this week. We exchange gifts and hold all manner of festivities because Someone thought we were worth it to come in person. 

I suppose He could have sent someone else or communicated His message in another way. I understand He’s pretty resourceful. 

But for reasons best known to Himself, He came. Himself. In the flesh. His visit was both a rescue mission and a love song.

And we’ve been celebrating His coming for 2000 years.

Because sometimes there’s just no substitute for coming in person. 

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