Wallenda – Personhood, Preparation, Prayer, and Purpose

Just days ago, Nik Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas family, completed an incredible and historic tightrope crossing over Niagara Falls over a two-inch cable.  It took less than 30 minutes for him to walk 1,800 feet from the U.S. side to the Canadian side at night over treacherous waters and through the swirling mist.  The event was a nationally-televised feature attracting millions of viewers in addition to the scores of thousands who were on both sides of the falls watching the exploit in person.

The television network sponsoring the event covered Wallenda’s efforts meticulously and with great spectacle.  Prior to his walk, they conducted an interview with Nik.  One commentator asked how he stayed so calm and what routine he followed in order to maintain his poise. 

Wallenda’s response was astounding.  He stated, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ and that’s all it takes.”  He then went on to comment on his ability to stay cool and calm, knowing the skill level he had developed and the training he had endured in preparation for this event. 

The scenes were riveting as I watched Wallenda’s incredible feat of focus, balance, and perseverance.  The lessons gained were applicable to us all.

Lesson One: Personhood

In my book, The Seven Most Important Questions You’ll Ever Answer, I write about the issue of our identity.  I note, “We all spend our lives either searching for, trying to prove, or confidently living out our identity.”   Entertainer Lily Tomlin once said, “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”  For the Christian, personhood is very specific and is defined by our life in Christ.

In the face of this incredible risk, Wallenda’s instinctive response in quoting a verse about his identity in Christ told a lot about the source of his security.  His message was clear to the true believer and intriguing to the millions watching by television.  When we know who we are we are not insecure about what we are supposed to do.  For the Christian, whose identity is found in his new life in Christ, this is a powerful reality.

Lesson Two: Preparation

Throughout the night, Wallenda made regular references to the importance of training and preparation.  He connected all that he was accomplishing to the reality of years of hard work and discipline.  The book of Proverbs is filled with references to this important character trait.  We learn that the man who “excels in his work” will “stand before kings” (Proverbs 22:29).  The efforts of the “diligent” and hard-working will result in influence and provision while the desires of the lazy person are never realized (Proverbs 10:4, 13:4, 12:24, 21:5).

Paul demonstrated this principle, showing the balance of assurance in his identity and resting in God’s grace, but working very hard at the same time.  He wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Paul also wrote of the vital role of personal discipline in the race of life.  This discipline would help him run to win and keep him from being disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Lesson Three: Prayer

The application of all of this leads to a life of prayer.  A genuine, moment-by-moment communion with Christ and reliance on His sufficiency serve as the lifeline for daily performance.  As the cameras rolled and millions listened in, Wallenda’s microphone was picking up his prayers as he walked the wire over Niagara.  You could hear him praying, “Thank You, Jesus,”  “I love You, Lord,” and “Praise You, Father.”  While the antics of his stunt may not be of interest to many, the amazing reliance he demonstrated as he performed was inspiring. 

Each of us must demonstrate this same reliance on Christ throughout the days of our lives.  We may not be walking on a cable over Niagara before an audience of millions but we are in an intense spiritual battle before the watching eyes of a spiritually needy world.  Our task is intense and supernatural and can only be accomplished as we abide in Christ, seeking Him in prayer and trusting Him to live His life through us.

Lesson Four: Purpose

Upon completing his walk, Wallenda checked in with the Canadian authorities, presenting his passport as he stood on the terra firma of Canada.  While this interchange seemed staged for the cameras, it was interesting to note his response.  The border agents welcomed him to Canada and asked (as they always do), “What is the purpose of your visit?” His response was explicit: “To inspire millions around the world.”  Wallenda wanted others to learn from him and also pursue their dreams through hard work and endurance.

This is always the mark of a truly great life.  Each of us must get beyond a self-absorbed life and think of how we can inspire, encourage, and serve other people.  All that we do should be done for Christ and others.  

Of course, our ultimate example is Christ, whose work is infinitely beyond a “walk across Niagara.”  In His journey to the cross for the sake of the redemption of mankind, He was resolved “not to be served, but to serve” and to “give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  His example inspires us to live, not just for our own interests, but for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).   

Our Daily Application

Most of us will never be able to relate to the exploits, risks, and renown of Nik Wallenda.  However, in the quiet and obscure places where we live out our faith, we can learn the lessons he has learned.  We must reaffirm and live out our identity in Christ.  We must be diligent and hard-working every day.  We must rely on the living Christ through a praying life.  We must live for others and the ultimate purpose of the Gospel. 

When our journey is finished, the media outlets around the world will not be touting our accomplishment.  However, the lives of people we have influenced for Christ will be on eternal display.  Most importantly, we will hear His voice: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.