I was glued to the TV like many of you, I am sure, the evening Nick Wallenda walked a third of a mile across Niagara Falls from the United States side to the Canadian side on a 2 inch steel cable. We may question his sanity risking his life in this way, but there is also, I believe, much to be admired and even learned from his daring feat.
It took two years of intense planning to accomplish his goal. He had trained for most of his life to walk the wire across Niagara Falls. We may question having that kind of goal, but for him it was an important part of his life. It was not just wishful thinking on his part, for along with his dream went meticulous, detailed planning and self-discipline that made the vision and dream a reality.
As I watched him, I was impressed by his calm demeanor and confidence, which I believe came to him through his detailed and profound preparation. And yet at the same time, I sensed his humility and lack of being arrogant and overconfident. I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched what he was doing.
I think the thing that struck a chord with me the most however, is when he was in the midst of the mist with the wind swirling around him, and he was all alone. No man could help him get out of the mist and wind and across the cable to safety.
I know, as many as you also know how frightening it is to realize that you are all alone with no one to help you through your challenging and often times frightening circumstance. It was then I heard him seeking help from the only source available to him on the 2 inch cable, dangerously dangling 20 stories above Niagara Falls. Nick began praying fervently to God and to the Savior to help him get to the other side safely and not let him plunge into the menacing chasm and certain death that lurked below him in the blackness of the night.
What a personal reminder and lesson this heartfelt prayer was to me personally. We really need never feel we are alone if we have faith in a loving Heavenly Father, and in the power of prayer. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this great truth.
Because of my own mobility impaired circumstances, I am attracted to the Savior's healing miracles of those who were paralyzed and crippled. One of my favorite healing miracles took place at the Pool of Bethesda, as recorded by John in chapter 5 of his gospel. A man who had been severely “mobility impaired” for 38 years of his life, was approached by Jesus as he lay by the side of the Pool. The tradition was that an angel had "troubled" the water at some point in time and ever after it would periodically bubble up spontaneously each day. The tradition was that the first person into the Pool after the "troubling" of the water would be healed. Let's read some of John's beautiful account of what transpired: "And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…" [John 5:5-9]
Several things are important to me in John's account. He saw the crippled man and knew he had been in that condition for a long time. He knows everything! That is comforting to me personally. I like to think he knows I have been in my condition for a long time. He, of course, knew that the paralyzed man wanted to be healed, but that he didn't know how to go about bringing that miracle into his life. The man could only say, "I have no man [to help me into the water so that I can be healed.]" At this time in his life he was totally dependent upon the "arm of flesh." And then comes the great lesson (for me anyway) "Rise, take up thy bed and walk!" The paralyzed man was alone in the sense that no mortal would help him into the water so that he could be healed, so he thought. The Savior taught him, and all of us who have read this account down through the centuries, that we are never really alone. We are not entirely dependent upon others or "the troubling of the waters" to help us through our challenging times, as long as we have faith in our Heavenly Father and in the infinite atonement of His Beloved Son in our behalf.
Thankfully, I learned this important lesson as a young missionary in November, 1958 in a small Mayan Indian village in Guatemala, which was nestled high in the mountains in the middle of a magnificent Ponderosa Pine forest. I went there after spending only one week in the mission home in Salt Lake City. In those days, there was no two months of language training at the MTC. After spending just one night in the mission home in Guatemala City, I was sent to this little village. To say I experienced cultural shock is the understatement of the century. The room in which we lived had no windows and large rats lived within its walls, chirping to each other all night long. I didn't know what they were talking about but it made me feel very uneasy. The cockroaches were huge and as soon as the lights were out you could hear them skittering across the floor and up and down the walls. There were "Moby Fleas" that seemed to be so happy that I had come to Guatemala to visit them. I was terribly homesick and physically sick as well, with the beginning of amoebic dysentery. I had never been that miserable in all my life. My companion was just finishing his 2 1/2 year mission; he would go home within the month, and was not very sympathetic to my puny sufferings. He was the only person in the village that spoke English and he would only speak to me in Spanish. I had never felt so alone.
After about a week, I woke up in the middle of the night, extremely sick, and had to get to the bathroom as quickly as I could. The bathroom was on the other side of our patio. I made a mad dash across the patio to the bathroom, forgetting that a clothesline was strung across the length of the patio. Running as fast as I could, the clothesline caught me across the neck and threw me on my back to the patio's tiled floor. I didn't make it to the bathroom, to say the least! As I lay there on my back staring up into that beautiful moonlit Guatemala sky, I cried out, "If only my dad could see me now, he would send me an airplane ticket so that I could come home. He would never let one of his sons live under these horrible conditions in this miserable village and country!" And then the thought came into my mind that my dad was at least 3000 miles away and couldn't help me. I realized also that no one in the village, not even my companion, could help me either. And so I rolled over onto my hands and knees and offered the most heartfelt prayer I had ever offered up to that time in my life. I needed help! I just couldn't go on this way and I knew it. By the time I cleaned up and got into bed I was a different young man. I didn't see an angel or hear an audible voice, but I was immersed in the Spirit to such an extent that I was filled with peace and the knowledge that I could not just endure one night in Guatemala, but many nights and many years if need be. That night I learned I need never feel again that I was alone!
Through the years, that knowledge has helped me deal with a number of challenging circumstances that have come into my life. The feelings of loneliness and despair I felt when a neurosurgeon gave my family and I his prognosis regarding my future cannot be adequately expressed. He told us that I would never be able to move my body again, breathe again on my own, speak, eat solid food, or live outside a care facility as long as I lived. But I knew because of what had happened to me in November, 1958, in a little Indian village, that as dark and fearsome as the future looked, I knew I was not alone and somehow, with HIS help, my family and I would get through this.
I am convinced that if we have sufficient faith in Christ and the power of prayer we can never truthfully say, "I have no man to help me…"