Wallenda: Divine Direction or Testing God?


Wallenda: Divine Direction or Testing God?

 Written by: Shonda Savage


Last Saturday, I stood on the edge of the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. Being blocked from entering the site the Discovery Channel claimed for Nik Wallenda, we traveled about one-quarter of mile to the next available road, then walked another 200 yards to peer down the 1500 feet deep, stunning gorge



Though I snapped pictures of the gorge, I couldn’t get too close to the edge. I felt nauseous at how close my son and husband were to the edge. On our drive home on Sunday, I wondered if Nik Wallenda could be testing God. My mind imagined the scene where the devil led Jesus to Jerusalem and they stood on the highest point of the temple. The devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard your carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”



Jesus answered the devil and said, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:9-12)



Sunday night I tuned into the Discovery Channel along with millions of other viewers. I watched the stories, and all the background information that aired prior to Wallenda’s live walk across the gorge. As these interviews progressed, my musings about Wallenda testing God started evaporating like mist in the desert. Then came the actual moment that he took that first step and the camera he wore got the shot looking straight down to the dry riverbed below. I once again had that nauseous feeling I had the day before actually standing there.



How can this guy actually do something like this? If he falls, it’s fatal. The end. Goodbye. But he made it! And now here are some things that stood out to me about this event.






In interviews that aired before the live walk, Nik stated, “I don’t consider myself a daredevil. I think in part thats because I was raised doing what I do. I started walking the wire at the age of two and by the age of four, I was walking on my own. So to me it’s life. It’s nothing abnormal. It’s actually normal.”



For Nik Wallenda, walking on a wire is normal. It’s NOT normal for most of us, so that makes us afraid to do what he does. Nik was raised in a family of high-wire performing artists. Wallenda is a performing artist and is utilizing his God-given talent. Because God has not given this talent to a large number of people, perhaps it seems odd to the rest of us. However, Wallenda is comfortable with it and he has the boldness to literally walk in his purpose.






In an interview, when Wallenda was asked about being afraid, he responded, “I don’t know if I’m afraid of anything. Fear is a choice. Danger is real. I try to keep that in mind all the time. You can decide if you’re scared of something or not. Your mind is a very powerful tool that people don’t realize that. I don’t think people understand how powerful our minds are.”



Wallenda’s family legacy for the past seven generations has been walking the wire. He’s had a lot of practice doing what he does. As I thought about this more, I think that a fall from a two-inch wire strung across a quarter-mile at 15 feet could be just as fatal as the 1500 foot fall. Couldn’t it be just as dangerous for us driving to work or to the store? Yet, no one questions our driving.



Prayer and Faith



As Wallenda steadily walked across the two-inch wire, he praised and thanked Jesus all the way across. He lifted up petitions to our God. The LA Times reported, “…one aspect seemed to capture more attention than the others: Wallenda’s prominent profession of faith during the 23-minute walk across the 1,400-foot wire.”



With every step, the 13-million viewers heard Wallenda pray, “Guide me God, praise you Jesus, glorify your name oh Lord, bless you Jesus, thank you God…”



These 13-million viewers generated more than a million tweets. This event caused millions of people to hear the name that is above all names — Jesus. This is definitely an opportunity for believers to witness to those who are not. And for those who are believers, perhaps it stirred their faith in Christ. By watching this event, one friend of mine who has been ill for several months texted me, “That was such an inspiration! It encouraged my heart that he commanded by the power of the name of Jesus that the wire be still. Oh to have that faith.”



Blessing Others 



The National Park Service would not grant a permit to Wallenda to perform his death defying feat. He did, however, receive permits to walk the wire on the Navajo Indian Reservation situated near the Grand Canyon. According to International Business TimesThe Discovery Channel, NBC Peacock Productions, and Wallenda completed numerous forms, paid tribal land fees, and obtain permission for filming. Not only that, but they also agreed to pave roads and parking lots and clean up the mess left in 1988 by a previous daredevil.



This blessed the Navajos Indian nation. As from what I saw last weekend, many on the reservation live below the poverty level. There is no running water; all water must be trucked in. Many of the Navajos there depend on tourism as tourists stop at their markets and purchase handcrafted jewelry and pottery. Because of Nik’s performance, the number of tourists increased that weekend. And they hope because of this event tourism will increase throughout the year. This Navajo nation was blessed because of Wallenda’s performance. And the land is left in better condition now than it was before.



Wallenda has accomplished much more than many of people ever will. Each of us has a calling and God-given talents. Do we walk boldly and courageously with those talents? Or do we keep them hidden from others? Do we boldly pray the name of Jesus in front of others? Or do we keep our faith quiet? Do we find ways to help the poor? Or do we pass them on by?



Still, I don’t know if Nik Wallenda tested God or if it was divine direction. But I do lean toward the divine direction. If it this feat was attempted by someone who decided last year he was bored with life and wanted to walk across the Grand Canyon on a two-inch wire, I’d say he was testing God. But because Wallenda has trained for this type of performance all of his life and his desire to accomplish this feat was so strong, I lean more toward it being a divine direction. Also, millions of people who never heard the name of Jesus, now know about the name above all names and are talking about it. And a nation of poor people received a financial blessing.



So whether Nik’s motive was purely selfish or not, we may not ever know. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”



© 2013 Shonda Savage



  1. Shonda, your musings mirror my own. I love your insight about him “doing what is normal for him…something he’s prepared for all his life.”

    I also love your references to his boldness…of action and overt faith. You know Bold Living is what I’m about, but I never confuse boldness with recklessness or arrogant attention-seeking. Boldness for Christ’s glory is done with much thought, prayer and humility–added to confidence in a God who is able.

    Only God can know a man’s heart, but I’ve decided to believe in Wallenda’s sincerity to honor God by boldly using his gift.

    Thanks for your post.

  2. I had the same thoughts as you when I heard and started watching Nic Wallenda’s journey across the Grand Canyon. The same bible verse (Luke 4:9-13)came to my heart and mind. I am still trying to understand this “calling/ passion/ career” of tightrope walking. This was at one time a circus act with a net used below the performers. It seems as time has gone on people have become more and more daring/ adventurous/ courageous. Are we testing God? Are we doing creative and unique things for the glory of the Lord or the glory of man… or both?

    In the end only God truly knows our intentions, and I agree with you as with Paul… “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:18

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