Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not Here to Save the World

I never wanted to be Superman.

When my younger brothers tied blankets around their shoulders as capes, I cradled my stuffed animals and covered them with Band-Aids, saved plastic dinosaurs from hurricanes, set up Barbie orphanages that would empty into perfect doll families.

I was never Superman or Wonder Woman, but that is not to say I craved no glory.

When I was young, I read biographies of missionaries and heroes: Florence Nightingale, Gladys Aylward, Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson. They seemed good as I wanted to be good. They seemed remembered as I wanted to be remembered.

I carried these desires into adulthood. While my siblings would tell you I faltered at times in kindness or selflessness, I made human flourishing my passion and my field of study.

I learned of injustices – from the plight of stateless refugees to the ritual lawlessness of some of the world’s most powerful – and my heart swelled with the assurance of those in the right. It was easy to become a champion of already-popular causes. It felt natural to put the convictions of others on my lips.

I was no Superman, but, I thought, I could still save the world.

Now newly graduated and heading off to work in a country that isn’t my own, I reel from the perfume of praise. “You’re a good person,” someone tells me, “They’re lucky to have you,” adds another. For a moment I believe them, swell with pride at my abilities and inclinations.

This desire to be a hero is a compelling idol because its motives seems so pure. Yet the more I learn and the older I grow, I become convinced – I am not here to save the world. I am here only to live faithfully in it.

The difference between these two roles is the difference between that of the savior and that of the servant. I am a servant, not a savior, a “worker, not a master builder,” and I serve a God who saves through his very servanthood.

This means what I have always known – I am no Superman. No special powers distinguish me, no calling sets me above and apart. This marks a path of humility in the place of glory, and derision, at times, in the place of praise.

The path to a better world is not quick, nor is it easy, exciting, or even always rewarding. It is a path of unpopular opinion (“we are fools for Christ”) and dogged endurance. This is the only path forward – the only change more meaningful than the flashiness of superheroes who leave cities rubbled in their wake.

I am not here to save the world, but I am here to be a part of it. With humility and diligence, I give myself over to the task.  

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