Sunday he completed this spectacular feat.
I’ll admit, I’m skeptical of this type of talk, let alone when it comes from those at the center of pop-culture. Is Baumgartner just expressing the typical celebrity pseudo-religious hype? Hard to know. I don’t know him. But even if he’s sincere in his belief that falling from the edge of space is God’s plan for him, raises the question: What exactly is God’s plan for us?
“This is God’s plan” is easy to say when you’re at the top of your game – setting world records! What about times of sickness, loss, frustration, or uncertainty?
I always have this question when I hear people talk like Baumgartner: is God’s plan generally specific or generally general? Put more plainly, is God’s plan to develop and execute a plan for events or develop and execute a plan for people? Or in this case, is God’s plan for Felix Baumgartner to sky-dive from the edge of space (likely enshrined as one of the greatest daredevils ever!) or to be a certain kind of person whatever he is doing?
I think God does work in specific moments of history, through individuals and communities. Jesus proves this!
But I also think this is the exception not the rule. A scan of Jesus’s teaching or the New Testament letters quickly reveals how God’s plan is for his people to represent him in history, not to plan out history for his people. God’s plan is fundamentally relational.
At the very least, these types of examples should cause us to reflect on how we talk about God’s dealings in the world. Love of God and neighbour, the virtues of the Spirit, and a depth of love are relevant for all the situations we face.
Felix Baumgartner seems genuinely thankful to God for where his life has gone. Great. But we need to remember, especially in the echo of celebrity praise, that thankfulness is an attitude towards all of life all the time, not an attitude towards specific circumstances.
After all, there is much more to be thankful for than jumping from the edge of space.