In 2009, alpinists Fabrizio Zangrilli, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and Simone Leorin stood at the base camp of K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, and literally watched a friend fall to his death. They helped load the deceased man onto an emergency helicopter while they consoled his climbing partner.
That climbing partner, it is important to note, would return to K2 the following year and himself tumble to a brutal death. Perhaps most baffling, however, is that the alpinist trio not only still attempted to summit, they returned to the foreboding mountain multiple times in the next few years to try again and again.
Why do mortals attempt such immortal feats? Why would anyone have the audacity to take on a task that is obviously impossible and inevitably fatal?
Woven into every node of the human soul is the desire to be a part of something bigger. It comes so naturally that we struggle to recognize it behind the more obvious organs of life. Yes, a climber climbs because he loves to climb. But as Zangrilli says with insight and profundity, “The will to try something big, something dangerous, something extraordinary, it’s part of who we are.” It’s the same with church planters.
Thanks to the Bible, we know the cosmic source of such longings. Genesis 1:27 tells us we were created “in the image of God.” Every person who has ever existed, therefore, is undeniably bound up with something big, dangerous, and extraordinary: God himself. It makes sense when we read that God gave a great mandate to his image-bearers: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). It was a task so monstrous that it’s almost absurd: one primitive couple in a random Mesopotamian garden told to cover and rule five quadrillion square feet of wild earth.