Life on the Wire

God, calm those winds.
Lord, you have authority over that.
In Jesus’ name, Father.
You are the King of Kings.
Thank you for the beautiful creation you made.
You are my everything. 
You’re my all in all.

I was so mesmerized that I couldn’t take my eyes away from the TV screen. At the same time, I was so fearful for him that I wanted to run into the other room. I was so inspired by his incredible Christian witness that I could only whisper, “Thank you, Jesus. Go for it, Nik. God is protecting you. You can do it.”
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On Sunday, June 23, aerialist Nik Wallenda walked a quarter of a mile on a two inch thick steel cable across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Sponsored by the Discovery Channel, which showed Wallenda’s walk live (but with a five second delay in case something happened), Wallenda walked without a harness, crouching down and stopping two times as the winds whipped around him and swayed the cable.

Who can even imagine doing such a thing other than the Flying Wallendas, a seven- generation family of aerialists, acrobats, and daredevils. When asked why he risks his life like this, Nik responded, “My great-grandfather Karl said, ‘Life is on the wire; everything else is just waiting.’ For seven generations, 200 years, since the 1780s, it’s what our family’s done. Just like my kids. I’ve got a 10-, 12- and 15-year-old, and all of them walk the wire already.”

Nik vowed to become a hero like his great-grandfather and dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a child. The 34-year-old Wallenda, who wore a microphone and two cameras and was coached by his father from the other side, prayed aloud to God almost the entire way across the gorge.

You are my rock and my salvation
Glory, glory, glory.
Looking good.
Thank you Discovery Channel for believing in me.
Gretchen, you’re awesome.
Thank you for everything you’ve done. 
I want you to focus.
Thank you, Father God, for calming the cable.

Nik Wallenda has a greater agenda than becoming rich and famous because of his unfathomable feats. He is an unabashed and humble Christian who uses tightrope walking to witness to his faith and encourage others to claim faith in Jesus Christ for themselves. When Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls just a year ago, he returned to the site of the walk the very next day and picked up the trash that all the spectators left as a reminder to keep his pride in check.

I can’t remember the last time I was inspired as much as I was watching Nik walking the wire, praying constantly, using the balance pole, and listening to his father’s encouragement. And I thought simply walking down and back up the Grand Canyon was a challenge!
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When was the last time you were inspired? When was the last time you inspired someone else? The word “inspiration” comes from the Latin word “inspirare,” which means “to breathe into.” Inspirare has been especially used by Christians to describe the influence of God on those who wrote the books of the Bible. Just as scripture is “God-breathed,” so those who inspire others by their faith and example influence, touch, and guide by breathing God into them.

Wallenda has said, “I hope my life inspires people, that what seems impossible isn’t impossible if you set your mind to it. What I do, people can’t relate to it. ‘How do you walk on a cable that small?’ Because I train for it and focus on the training. It’s my dream.

“So I hope what people get out of it is that you can overcome any challenge as long as you set your mind to it. You can do anything you want in life, even if it’s walking on a cable the size of a nickel a thousand feet above the ground.”

I will never be a tightrope walker. I’m not built to take those kinds of physical risks. But when others do the impossible, it inspires me to stretch and grow. Inspiration helps to overcome my natural inertia so that I don’t spend my entire life waiting. I can become more than I think I can be and do more than I ever imagined I could do.

The Bible is filled with people who said “no” to God, who didn’t want to step foot on the high wire. They wanted to stay in their comfortable world, were reluctant to become spokespersons for God, and refused to dream the impossible dream. “I’m too young.” “I’m not a good speaker.” “I come from the wrong town.” “That’s not the way we do things.” “I can’t, Lord.” Yet when God breathed into them, they were inspired to live life on the wire and became heroes of our faith.

Are you ready to live life on the wire? Otherwise, you’re just waiting. Will you allow God and others to inspire you to risk, dare, and do things you never thought possible? Do you believe that God can use you to inspire others to greater depths of living, loving, and serving?

Life is lived on the wire, wherever that may take us. Every day I am inspired to step on the wire by people who start an exercise regimen after being sedentary for years, claim new spiritual gifts, go back to school, care for family members who are dying, create new dreams when old ones are dashed, or say, “Here I am, Lord.”

I am inspired by Amy, who has suffered more than I can imagine. Amy is estranged from her children. She has battled alcoholism and recently contracted a chronic auto-immune disease, which forced her to quit a beloved job and go on disability. Her grittiness, persistent faith, and refusal to jump off the wire and give up inspires me to keep going in the face of my own petty complaints.

I am inspired by Russell, who lost his dream job a few years back. Rather than lament his fate and hop off the wire, he threw himself into volunteering, using his financial skills to help those in poverty complete their income tax returns. Russell is part of an employment ministry, is retraining and learning new skills himself, and is discovering that God can breathe new life into his spirit.

I am inspired by Jenee Woodard, who gave up her career as an academic scholar to care for her autistic son in Jackson, Michigan. Inspired rather than discouraged by her reality, Jenee decided to create an online lectionary sermon resource called The Text This Week, more commonly known as textweek.com.

From her home, Jenee studies the biblical texts in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin and provides a vast array of sermon materials, commentaries, articles, artwork, and music. Textweek is one of the most influential Christian websites in the U.S. and generates two million hits a month, all because Jenee made a decision to live on the wire.

Of course, local churches also have to choose between living on the wire or just waiting. Congregations that are continually discerning God’s direction in their unique setting by visioning, experimenting, and risking new ministries are healthy and outer-directed. On the other hand, congregations that simply wait, hoping for a miracle, withdraw into themselves and shrink.

What are the keys to living on the wire? How do we respond to inspiration? The author Ray Bradbury once said, “You can’t TRY to do things, you must simply DO them.”

•    Be open to God’s call. Have a God-sized dream that will stretch you and challenge you to develop new skills. What’s next for Nik Wallenda? He wants to walk between two skyscrapers in New York City.
•    Train relentlessly and discipline yourself to focus single-mindedly on your goal. There’s no time to wait. Wallenda developed a unique training regimen to simulate the gusty and unpredictable winds over the Little Colorado River Gorge.
•    Rely on the support of others. There was no stronger motivation for Wallenda than his wife and children waiting on the other side.
•    Claim faith in a God who soothes our anxiety, keeps us grounded, and offers grace upon grace. It was the voice of Wallenda’s father that symbolized the presence of a God who breathes into us calmness, determination, and hope.

How is God calling you to live on the wire?

Blessings,
Laurie

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