Sometimes I feel like Blondin. In 1858, the French acrobat pictured above stretched a 2" hemp rope from one side of Niagara Falls to the other, and attempted to cross it. One misstep and only death awaited him. People crowded both banks, and the smart money wagered he would fall.
16 years ago, curiosity overcame my values and led me into a year-long struggle with soft core pornography. Thankfully, God woke my wife in the middle of the night, and that almost destroyed our marriage. I regularly attended two recovery groups and developed accountability relationships with some men with the same struggle, resulting in 15 years of sexual sobriety.
Counseling and changing brought forgiveness and reconciliation, and our marriage now far exceeds anything we had before. But a residue remains. I find myself more vulnerable to sexual temptation, and I have to draw more rigorous lines to avoid falling.
One tool is to consciously balance risk and reward. Or, like Blondin, I need to balance on the tightrope. Slipping off just a little can bring disaster, and I know that. If Blondin began to think of a good steak he could more easily lose his focus and fall.
For me, I need to determine what I stand to gain if I give in versus what I stand to lose. That is primarily a rational and intentional and deliberate process. That suits my analytical bent, and God tells us that spiritual transformation comes from a mental transformation (check out Romans 12:1-2).
So, the key to spiritual formation? We can better avoid yielding to temptation when we balance the risk and reward. To realize we're on a tightrope with serious consequences for giving in. Yes, we have forgiveness, but some sins change how we operate. They sometimes permanently ruin relationships.
Underlying this: God best knows how we should do life. That's the foundation of the guidelines he wants us to obey. We benefit the most when we do. We stay on the rope.
But the metaphor of Blondin has a flaw. After days of safely crossing, Blondin asked the crowd it they thought he could carry a person across and return safely. They roared their belief. Blondin turned to a man in the crowd, "OK, you, climb on my back. Let's go."
He did, and they did return safely. The man? Blondin's manager, Harry Colcord. Here's the flaw in the original, and how it can be more accurate. Before the crossing he cautioned, “Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.”
Think of us clinging to God and following his lead. Of course, if we move too much we won't plunge him to his death, but we can move enough for a tough crossing. We can let go.
Kick Starting the Application
Do you have a temptation that you continually struggle with, that doesn't go away for long? What makes you so vulnerable to it? Have you balanced the gain/loss of giving in, at the time of temptation, or before? How has it worked?
Does the idea of intentionally and rationally clinging to God offer some help? Pragmatically, how can you best do that?