The Great Blondin.

Can you imagine a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile and spanning the breadth of Niagara Falls? The thundering sound of the pounding water drowning out all other sounds as you watch a man step onto the rope and walk across!

This stunning feat made Charles Blondin famous in the summer of 1859. He walked 160 feet above the falls several times back and forth between Canada and the United States as huge crowds on both sides looked on with shock and awe. Once he crossed in a sack, once on stilts, another time on a bicycle, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

On July 15, Blondin walked backward across the tightrope to Canada and returned pushing a wheelbarrow.

The Blondin story is told that it was after pushing a wheelbarrow across while blindfolded that Blondin asked for some audience participation. The crowds had watched and “Ooooohed” and “Aaaaahed!” He had proven that he could do it; of that, there was no doubt. But now he was asking for a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow and take a ride across the Falls with him!

It is said that he asked his audience, “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” Of course the crowd shouted that yes, they believed!

It was then that Blondin posed the question – “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?’

Of course…none did.

Get in the wheelbarrow Bill!

God, I believe that you are inviting me and all people to trust in your incredible force of love, not just for a heaven after we die, but for this life now.  Change me, O God, into one who is not afraid to get into the wheelbarrow.  Who is not afraid to let go, surrender to, and trust in something greater than my small self.  Letting go, not to a God who is intending me harm, but to a love that is desiring my greatest good and inviting me to the exhilarating adventure of radical trust and outrageous openness.

The rest of the story:


Later in August of 1859, his friend and manager, Harry Colcord, did ride on Blondin’s back across the Falls.  On August 17th, Colcord was strapped to Blondin’s back, and the pair set off across the tightrope. As they reached the halfway point – the most dangerous section of the rope – Blondin said to his friend, “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 shall both go down to our death.” Harry trusted his wiser, more experienced friend, and carefully the Great Blondin continued along until at long last the pair reached the other side, safe and sound.

And even in that phrase I hear such a beautiful invitation of God saying to me, “You are mine.  I am yours.  We are one.  And all shall be well as you learn to sway with me and not do all the balancing yourself.”