What A Poet And A Flying Wallenda Can Teach Us About Faith In A Crisis

A man faces a rising sun from a mountaintop with outstretched arms.
“I see faith persisting, hanging around like a benevolent twin, “ poet Lisa Breger says. (Photo by Zac Durant/Unsplash)

My friend the poet Lisa Breger, whom I consider to be a modern-day mystic, sent me her thoughts this week about the challenge of holding onto faith in the current health crisis. Lisa has overcome many adversities in her life. She is one of the wisest, most Christ-like people I know.

Her reflection on faith was so moving, I wanted to share it with you. It mirrors the complex feelings many of us might be experiencing.

Here is what Lisa wrote:

“Faith doesn’t mean everything goes your way, like a big score at the craps table. It doesn’t mean the drowning man is saved or the sickness doesn’t cripple.

“Now that I’m older and have had my share of losses at life’s craps table — afflictions that left me less than myself — I see faith persisting, hanging around like a benevolent twin, or more precisely it’s the hand I reach for in a time of fear. With a little faith, I don’t scare myself to death.

“But what is it that I reach for in faith? It’s not the belief that everything will work out.

“For many, faith is nothing more than wishful or foolish thinking, a dead end as far as pandemics are concerned. They say it’s science, pure and simple, that gives hope. They ask, ‘Why hasn’t faith saved us, kept us from the plague? Why did God, supposed maker of all things, let this happen?’

“When things don’t work out, when the diagnosis is worse than expected, the pandemic is worldwide, and financial ruin insurmountable, what else is there but faith?

“Life happens. When it does, I can dip my spoon in the clear well, the still waters, and know faith.

Yellow-orange tulips, yellow tulips abd white jonquils in a garden patch outside of a wooden cabin.
Meditation, nature walks, poetry, birdwatching and gardening are the practices that ground poet Lisa Breger. (Photo by J. Alden Marlatt)

“These are the things that bring me closer to this knowing: daily prayer and meditation, poetry, exercise, nature walks, bird watching, gardening.

“Along the way, sometimes in my darkest hour, there is the unexplainable. Perhaps a stranger comes along and tells a story, maybe bestows a kindness, and for a moment all signs illuminate the way and darkness is no longer blindness.

“I think of Nik Wallenda who performs amazing high wire feats. He comes from a long line of acrobats, some of whom lost their lives during stunts gone wrong. Still, the Flying Wallendas, as they call themselves, continue their tradition of performing aerial acts.

“I watched on TV as Nik crossed Nicaragua’s Masaya Volcano with the fiery crater beneath him, volcanic gases and gusts of wind and smoke swirling all around him. What struck me was how Nik thanked God or Jesus for almost every death-defying step he took.

Aerialist Nik Wallenda walked across a fiery volcano on a high wire, stopping to give thanks as he progressed.
Nik Wallenda walks across the fiery Masaya Volcano on a high wires, stopping often to recite Scripture and give thanks. (Photo courtesy of cinemablend.com)

“Sometimes the wind gusts were so strong he stood still and sang hymns or recited Scripture as he tried to hold his balance on the swaying wire, thanking Jesus.

“I feel like Nik often as I go through my equivalents of the high wire act, some feats more dramatic than others.

“Sometimes it’s the challenge of maneuvering through a day with self-doubt and uncertainty.

“Some days the simple trip from front door to mailbox can seem like crossing the Masaya Volcano. Thank you, Jesus. Walking through cancer treatment, each treatment increasing in difficulty, or going to the store in a pandemic with a subpar immune system — definitely flying Wallenda.

Church candles burning.
When the diagnosis is worse than expected, the pandemic becomes worldwide, and the financial ruin is insurmountable, what else is there but faith? poet Lisa Breger asks. (Photo courtesty of publicdomainpictures.net)

“Yes, there is fear, but faith is the balancing pole that keeps me steady on the beam as I inch over the abyss, as we all keep inching.”

Thank you, Lisa, for these wise words.

Thank you for reminding me to seek blessing wherever it can be found. At a time when it’s easy to despair, thank you for challenging all of us to reach for the balancing pole that will keep us steady on the beam.

(Visit Lisa Breger on Facebook)

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Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.