It sounded too outlandish to be possible: a man was going to jump from an airplane at 25,000 feet without a parachute, trying to land on a net less than half the size of a football field. But that’s what Luke Aikins did last Saturday.
He became the first person to skydive with neither a parachute nor a wingsuit. Aikins jumped from an altitude just 4,000 feet short of the summit of Mount Everest, landing on his back in a net suspended 200 feet above the California desert. Then he climbed out into the arms of his wife. Why did he do it? To show that “if you train right you can make anything happen.”
Here’s my question: Why do we care?
We’re fascinated by the thrill of near-death experiences. We’ll hold our breath watching an acrobat cross a canyon on a high wire. We’ll buy a ticket to see trapeze artists and lion tamers. We’ll flock to movies like Jason Bourne that feature high-speed chase scenes and death-defying stunts.
We want to escape the normalcy of our routine to feel the excitement of the extreme. Somehow we know that the world we experience is not all there is. As C. S. Lewis notes, the most spectacular sunset evokes in us a sense that there is still “something more.” When you hear a brilliant musician or hike through a scenic forest, don’t you feel it? Our world at its most beautiful is not enough.
This “something more” is a symptom of the “God-shaped emptiness” Pascal found in every human heart. As St. Augustine noted, our hearts are restless until they rest in our Lord. Until we are home, we can expect to feel homesick. This world, no matter how much we invest in it, will never feed the deepest hunger of our soul.
So here’s the balance to maintain in our fallen world. On one hand, we should hope for the best in people and circumstances. We should love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), offering others the grace God offers us (Ephesians 2:8–9).
On the other hand, we should not be surprised when fallen people act like fallen people. Our broken world affects every dimension of our lives (Romans 8:22). Sinners sin, and we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23). If we put our hope and trust in flawed people (including ourselves), we’ll eventually and inevitably be disappointed.
So serve those you meet today, not so they’ll serve you but because you are a servant of God and those he loves. The less you need those you know, the more unconditionally you can love them. To quote Lewis again, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”