Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line

High wire artist, Nik Wallenda joined the ranks of legendary daredevils when he became the first person ever to walk across the roaring Niagara Falls.

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Yet my lineage is a miraculous blessing— as long as I view it through the eyes of a grateful child of God. I believe that God gives us the power to transform any story from darkness to light. He has taught me how the stories of my forebears, no matter how painful, can benefit my life and the lives of my children. He has shown me how negative can be rebirthed as positive. To tell that story, though, the negatives cannot be overlooked. To show the miracle of transformation— the movement from despair to hope— the despair must be revealed. The truth must be told. As a young child, I loved fairy tales. I looked at the Wallenda family saga as something of a fairy tale. Karl Wallenda, the man who excited my imagination, was a hero. He remains so to this day. I continue to derive sustenance from his never-​say-​die example of optimism. I never tire of quoting his mantra: “Life is on the wire; everything else is just waiting.” I view my great-​grandfather as a man of boundless courage and fortitude. I’ve never seen him as a competitor, but only an inspiration. It is never my intention to overshadow his feats. They remain remarkable. But as I have come of age, I have learned that, unlike some mythic character out of a fairy tale, Karl Wallenda was made of flesh and blood. 

As a family man, he suffered through a long series of spectacular failures. His private life resulted in chaos and confusion for those close to him. That chaos filtered down to his daughter Jenny, my grandmother, and Jenny’s daughter Delilah, my mother. These women were deeply hurt. They bore emotional scars. Those scars had enormous impact on me. They are part of my story. To tell any story with honesty and candor, scars cannot be hidden. Scars must be shown. If scars are to heal, they must be attended to. There’s no way, for example, to understand the story of Christ without seeing His scars. If His scars are airbrushed out, we miss the message. His scars are the means by which we comprehend His undying love for us. His scars are the means by which we feel His undying love for us. His scars are part of God’s instructional plan, symbols of how human pain can lead to divine glory. For me, Jesus’ story is the big one. It’s the story that says even the most brutal and tortuous ending isn’t an ending at all but merely the beginning of forever. It’s the one that says that lies can turn to truth and death can turn to life. So I will do my best to reveal all scars and shortcomings— especially my own— without assigning blame or wallowing in self-​pity. I will do my best, through my own limited understanding, to briefly tell the story that little Nik, walking a wire a few feet off the ground, could never have known. This gutsy kid— happy, hyper, fun loving— had no idea of the monumental saga that was, in fact, his legacy. Looking to stay on the wire, trying to find balance, he was blissfully unaware of how the history of the man in his dreams would shape his own life.


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