I have never wanted to save the world.
My friend Amy Peterson did.
In her new book, Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World, Amy tells of her time as a missionary in a country so hostile to the Christian faith that to this day she cannot reveal its location for fear of retribution to her friends there.
Amy’s story, culled from the extensive journals she kept of her life in a sleepy little Southeast Asian town so hot that she grew used to the feeling of sweat trickling down her spine, is fearless in its introspection. Amy is committed to telling her truths even when they make her – and us – uncomfortable, such as the growing realization that maybe she’s not participating in this missionary thing out of love for Jesus but because she needs to know she is doing great things for God. Or perhaps it’s because she absorbed the message the evangelical church still gives: that missionaries are more spiritual, and therefore more important, than the rest of us.
While reading Amy’s story, I began to wonder if I had ever wanted to save the world. Even in my teens and ‘20’s – the time in life when people expect you to be passionate and a little crazy – I never burned to fulfill Matthew 28 and make disciples in a faraway place (I like indoor plumbing and my own bed far too much). I have had my hands so full with the people right in front of me that I have not had room for saving people halfway across the world.
So no, I do not want to save the world. But then I started thinking about my whole “hands-full” thing and I realized: I may not want to save the whole world, but I sure do try very hard to save my own little corner of it.
I have a friend who calls us “fixers”: women and men who take on the burdens of the people in our lives like fire sucks in oxygen to make itself hotter. We swoop in to give the money, cook the meal, drive the trip, hear the story, and make the call that will save the day. We pull and push on our loved ones to do better, be better… all the while pushing ourselves hardest, like a modern-day Atlas holding the sky on our shoulders lest it fall on everyone we love.
What’s the difference between trying to saving your corner and trying to saving the world? Not much, because here’s the thing: we can’t do either one.
We can’t do it, because saving people is God’s job.
Amy discovered this, all the way over there in Southeast Asia. As for the best thing she discovered, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. (Find it here or here.) Let’s just say that for Amy, and for me as I read her story, the sky slipped off and it felt a lot like freedom.
Photo via Visualhunt.com