An interviewer once asked Mother Theresa why she gave her time and energy, indeed her whole life, in the face of the millions in need. The misery was so pervasive, the interviewer purported, how could she possibly hope to change it? I found it fascinating that, at first, the tiny woman did not understand the question. Her focus was so fixed on the dignity of each human being that even if she could help only one, she believed it was worth giving her whole life. I believe that is the focus of Christ. He says it himself in the story of the lost sheep – the shepherd leaves those who are safe to rescue the one that is lost.
I once thought about what it would be like to be lost while walking through the jungle in Papua New Guinea. It made me shiver, even in that tropical heat, to think about trying to find my own way in that place. The jungle was thick with hidden dangers – vipers, poisonous spiders and centipedes, sago swamps full of thorns the size of stiletto knives and leaches almost as big. I had no idea which plants were edible and which were deadly. I had no idea where to find fresh water. I had no idea which of the many paths would lead to a safe place and which would lead deeper into danger. I did know that in only a few short hours darkness would descend and I didn’t even want to think about all the things that would come out then! But because I had a guide to lead me, that walk through the jungle was like a stroll in a park. Well, almost.
Consider one who is spiritually lost. He’s in a frightening place full of hidden dangers, unknown paths and lack of nourishing food and water. It’s a place of constant stress, with nowhere to turn, no way out. Then the guide shows up – suddenly there is someone to point out the pitfalls, someone to shine a light on the path, someone opening a door into a comfortable room with a feast spread out on the table. Imagine the sense of relief as the lost one follows the direction and accepts the hospitality of the rescuer. Imagine the peace.
As people of faith we too are like guides in a jungle full of dangers. We have the means within our hands, within our stories, within our lives, to lead others to a safe place, a place full of light and living water. Eugene Peterson has said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it.” And so, it is within story – our story, that love, nobility and truth live, waiting to be revealed and understood.
And even if only one makes it safely through the jungle of life because of something you have said, or shown them, or written, that is enough.