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Jan16WedTightrope walker Nik Wallenda finds the right balance thanks to his faith. January 16, 2019 by Jayne Thurber-Smith
Depending on which translation you read, it has been said that some form of God’s command to “Fear not!” appears in the Bible at least 365 times. That’s one command for every day of the year, and Nik Wallenda lives by it.
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- Faith & Friends
A seventh-generation member of The Flying Wallendas circus family, Nik made his professional tightrope-walking debut at the age of 13. When you watch him perform, he shows no sign of fear of heights or failure.
“My mom was six months pregnant with me and still walking on the wire,” he says, “so I was walking the wire before I was born! I am respectful of what I do and what it requires, but my faith plays a huge role in being fearless.”
Nik constantly puts his faith to the test, having broken numerous world records with his death-defying stunts. He is best known for becoming the first person to highwire walk across a Grand Canyon gorge in 2013, and a year prior to that for walking above Niagara Falls.
“I can’t go into something like walking over Niagara Falls blindly,” he says. “I have to train, prepare, research and study what things might be like. The preparation feeds into the fearlessness, because if I train for the worst-case scenarios, when I get out there I don’t have to be scared or intimidated by them.”
He is also fearless in using his platform to share his love of God. When TMZ covered Nik’s walk across the Grand Canyon, they shared a recording of prayers from his microphone. “He gave props to Jesus 63 times during his 22-minute walk,” they reported, “and the Lord 39 times!”
“I believe deeply in my Lord and Saviour,” he says. “I study the Bible and live by God’s direction in my life. We all have a purpose and I truly believe I am answering my calling. Often, my performances begin as dreams that I’ll wake up from in the middle of the night and think, That would be really amazing! And it becomes another goal.
“Active lava has been a dream of mine for a while,” he continues, “so I’m working on a volcano walk right now.
“You’re Not You”
Along with his high-profile solo appearances, Nik has also produced a variety of large-scale productions for amusement parks and similar venues in which he performs alongside several family members. Last February, the Wallendas suffered an unfortunate accident while practising a pyramid formation more than seven metres above the ground. One member became unbalanced, causing the entire group to topple. Five performers suffered injuries, while Nik and two others were able to stop their fall by clinging to the cable.
“That accident resulted in something I’d never experienced before, and that was PTSD,” he says. “I always knew something like that happening was a possibility, but never thought it would become a reality. I’m usually very good in the middle of a crisis. I calmly assess the situation and deal with it. It wasn’t until about nine months later when we were training to recreate that pyramid, and in the same setting, that I experienced an almost crippling fear for the first time. It was to the point where I thought, Man, do I need to retire?”
He began to search his soul, asking himself if this really was what he was supposed to be doing. Then a good friend who was also performing in the pyramid came up to him.
“He said, ‘Nik, we all look to you for a leader. We are inspired by you, we’re motivated by you, and you’re not you right now,’ ” Nik recalls. “It was a revelation to me. I realized this was something I needed to deal with, and my faith helped me to overcome those internal negative struggles.”
He uses the analogy of the devil whispering to him on one shoulder and an angel on the other.
“That’s a real battle, and the mind is so powerful that it can tear us up if we allow the wrong thoughts to enter in,” he says.
Focusing on What Matters
Nik counters negativity with Scripture, because he knows if we allow it to take over our minds, it can turn into anxiety and depression.
“When fear creeps in, I say, ‘No! I’m better than that and I serve a God who is greater than that,’ ” he says. “I don’t think my faith is stronger than anyone else’s. I do think my occupation demands me to be more grounded in my faith, as my parents were. A lot of it has to do with the way I was raised. As a child and later as a teenager, it was not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night to see my mom kneeling at my bed praying for me.”
It’s not always easy, but Nik tries to give every thought over to God. He has come to terms with the possibilities of an accident or losing his life.
“That’s just the world we live in,” he says, “whether someone slips and falls in the kitchen or gets run over crossing the street. The reality is, when it is our time, it is our time, and there will be a celebration in heaven when we do leave this earth.”
Nik encourages us all to live a life where we cast all of our cares upon God, no matter our circumstances.
“When I walked the Grand Canyon, I had 85-kilometre-an-hour gusts of wind hitting me,” Nik recalls. “I had trained for worse but even so, it’s not the most calming situation, so I just tried to focus on Jesus and on knowing that my strength comes from Him. He provides a peace that passes all understanding.”