August 26, 2017

Mugwumps on Tightropes by Marnie Pohlmann

The spotlight rises along a pole that towers above even the highest row of seating. The circle of light stops to single out a lean, muscular man in shapely tights who stands on a small platform at the top.
He picks up a long pole and strikes the pose of a ballet dancer standing on tiptoe with his other foot raised, toes pointing to another platform some distance away. As the audience holds a collective breath he lowers his foot to step off his perch. He then lifts his secure foot away from the safety of the platform, standing for a moment in what appears to be air.  There is no net beneath him. We let out a deep sigh of relief when we notice a translucent wire connecting the platforms on either side of the center ring.

The performer feels the thin wire with his toes, carefully placing one foot in front of another. His eyes look ahead to the far platform. Standing on one foot he sways, the wire shaking. The crowd gasps.  The pole he holds appears to unbalance him and we wonder why he carries such an unwieldy tool. Wouldn't stretching his arms wide provide a less awkward stabilizer?

The tightrope walker reaches the middle of the wire and pauses. Suddenly, he twists around to face the way he came and takes a few steps back toward his starting platform. Then he pauses again and turns once more to continue the path he began.

Again, he spins to change direction, seemingly undecided which direction to walk toward. He walks back across the wire, which dips low in the center. Finally, he spins once more and goes forward, quickly now, almost running, in the direction of the far platform. He climbs from the middle of the wire to safety.

Setting the pole on the platform walls, he turns and lifts an arm in triumph. The crowd erupts with cheers.

The Christian life can seem like a tightrope. We start out confident, leaving our past behind and stepping out in faith onto the narrow road God has laid before us. One step at a time, we choose to live radically for God.

Then, difficulties come. Children, work, illness, finances, and a myriad of other struggles begin to interrupt our life. We lose our balance. Without habits that bring stability, like personal time with God and prayer, we begin to lean left, then right, almost falling and confused as to which way to turn.
Moses warned the children of Israel about this very circumstance.
"So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left." (Deuteronomy 5:32 NIV)

At times like this, we are in danger of not only falling but of becoming a mugwump rather than a strong, confident disciple of Christ. A mugwump is the type of Christian who has their face on one side of the fence, and their "wump" on the other side. They cannot decide which side to commit to so swing back and forth like the tightrope walker, not knowing which direction to go.

After all, some of the Christian life is attractive but so is some of the life we used to live. Sometimes it is simply easier to live on one side, and other times it is easier to live on the other side, so we go back and forth.  Making changes in our daily life choices, our relationships, and our own character to become more Christ-like is not easy!  Scripture tells us,
"Don't go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you--they are totally useless!" (1 Samuel 12:21 NLT)

The tightrope walker shows us that when we put one foot in front of another, we can go forward. Yes, the way is narrow, and sometimes we find ourselves in a valley with a slope to climb. If we look at our feet, we become afraid or confused and lose our balance. However, like the tightrope walker, we must keep our gaze on our goal and then we are able to see our eternal destination rather than the dangers surrounding us.

Scripture, like the circus performer's long pole, gives the balance. When we struggle to maintain balance in life we need to become unbalanced - completely dedicated to God by holding tightly to His Word. To onlookers, this may not appear to be an effective method when it is really what helps keep our position stable. When life tips this way and that, maintaining our relationship with God, concentrating on the character of Christ, and listening to the prompts of the Holy Spirit, will grow us strong enough to fly along our earthly journey like an eagle soars.

Will you, as Joshua did, make the choice to point both your face and your feet toward God?
"But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served? Or will it be the gods of the people in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NLT)

Choose to live radically for God – a step at a time. As you make your way, a great audience of witnesses and angels are cheering.

As I make my choice to follow you, strengthen me to not look to the right or the left. Protect me from the temptation to serve old ways. Your way is narrow like a tightrope yet I trust you to make my feet secure. Guide me safely to You. Your spotlight may not show the thin wire clearly along the way yet I will still take one step at a time, and as I allow you to guide my steps the path will become clearer as it says in Psalm 119:105, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

*Photos courtesy of Amy Jasper with her family, having fun as they balance in high places.

Marnie is quite unbalanced these days, feeling like she is slipping off the tightrope of life. However, as she keeps her face and feet toward God, He continues to guide her steps.  Read at Phosphorescent how God's presence in her life helps in the scary times.


  1. I love how the description of teh tightrope walker meshed so well with the real life examples. Thanks for this eloquent and thoughtful post.

    1. Thanks, Tracy. No metaphor is a complete picture of God in our lives, but I'm glad my comparisons came through. With a little more work I think this may be added to that "Circus" start that I read at writers' group so very long ago. Do you remember that one?

  2. An excellent lesson, Marnie, on the balance needed in our spiritual walk, which can be like walking on a tight rope. Your sustained metaphor reminds me that I must choose each day whom I will serve, God or mammon. I am praying your beautiful and thoughtful prayer this evening. Thanks.

    1. It's so easy to become a mugwump without even realizing, isn't it? we turn our toes out for a few steps and suddenly our eyes are off the goal. Like putting on the armour of God, I think I need to add checking my direction each day - in life and in writing.


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.