In 1978, Karl Wallenda fell to his death while attempting to walk a cable strung between two hotel towers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I saw the footage of it just the other night as his grandson narrated what actually happened that day. The younger Wallenda spoke and I watched his grandfather make it 3/4 of the way across. You could see his struggle as the wind continued to blow and the wire he was on began to vibrate. In the end, the wind, and the vibration it produced on the wire, distracted his point of focus so much that he finally started to lose his balance.
At the final moments Karl bent over and took a lower posture in an attempt to steady himself. The one guiding him across the 10 story high wire called for him to “sit down”, relax and wait for the wind to ease up. As he attempted to do so he broke the one rule he had always drilled into everyone in the family: “Never, ever let go of the balance pole!” However, as he dropped to the safety of the wire he did let go of it and in that split second it slid between him and the wire. Acting like a cantilever, it tilted over and literally pried his fingers off the wire. He and it plunged over a hundred feet to the asphalt below. What had always kept him on the wire became the very thing that removed him from it when he let it go.
As I watched the drama unfold he was lifted off the wire and fell with his back to the ground and his arms outstretched, as if trying to grab what was clearly out of reach. At that moment so many things went through my mind. I thought of the terror he must have felt as he dropped 100 feet to the ground. I thought of his wife, children and grandchildren who helplessly watched, knowing they were viewing this man’s death. I also thought of the spectators who had come to see him perform and left with the vision of his broken body in a parking lot. All this, just because he let go of the pole.
There are some fundamentals in life that are just like that pole. These are the things that keep us balanced in what can be a very dangerous and unbalanced world. A quick look at the news on television can bring us dozens of examples. Political maneuverings, acts of violence, selfish ambition and greed clearly defines the heart of man and the world he is creating. It feels as if we could all plunge to our death at any moment, and many are filled with anxiety wondering where the stability is that they need.
The answer is found in the pole you carry. We each have one. Your pole is those things that bring you balance and stability, peace of mind and security in an upside-down world. If you have a pole and hold it close, no wind or vibration of this world has the power to distract you and knock you off course. If you let it go, you are vulnerable and headed for the same fate as Karl Wallenda. The world will drag you down off the high wire in a moment and leave you like a broken pot on the pavement of life, but I thank God my pole is not found in the things of this world.
What balance pole am I referring to? Primarily my relationship with Jesus. He is the stability of our time. He is the answer to every question life has thrown at me. There may be several in your life, but the main one that anchors you to truth, needs to be found beyond the dictates of this world. There are the poles of truth and integrity, honesty and transparency, purity and honor to name a few. There is honor and patience, forgiveness and kindness, thoughtfulness and self-control that all have the ability to save your life and the lives of others. When used properly, these have the power to keep a life in balance and a heart at peace for a while. But in a moment of distracted self-centeredness or plain human lust, we can let these go. When it happens, we need to return to the one true pole Who never lets us go!
Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Karl Wallenda as we walk our own high wire each day. We must stay focused, move with calm resolve and consider how our actions might impact the lives of others. We must give honor to others, be transparent with those we love and live a life so filled with integrity that others want to follow our example. No matter how hard the wind blows or how much the wire vibrates, we must hold on to the one balance that never fails. We may have to sit down on the wire occasionally during a difficult season, and wait for things to pass, and that’s OK! However, when it’s time to get back up and keep going stay focused on God. If we do, we will make it to the end and leave a lasting legacy that others will be honored to follow.