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Hollywood Stuntman Meets the Lord in the Air

Hollywood stuntman Robert Wilton shares his journey through doubt and fear to faith in Christ.

Beginning in my 20s, I worked for decades as a film and television stuntman, facing injury and even death for a living. On the set, I rubbed elbows with celebrities and movie stars. I was living my dream. At age 26, however, I received a gut punch when my 32-year-old brother suddenly collapsed dead from a heart attack. In rare moments of quiet, usually after a considerable intake of alcohol, I would ponder the senselessness of his death.

While doing film work one day, I overheard someone talking about God with one of the stunt guys. To my utter surprise, it was none other than the movie stunt coordinator himself. Eavesdropping on that conversation conjured up some old memories and questions. Did I still believe in God, or had I outgrown the childishness of Sunday school stories?

For one film gig up the coast, I caught a ride with the stunt coordinator—a man I dubbed “the Preachernator.” When conversation inevitably turned to religion, I told him I was doing fine without God. I began regaling him with stories of my close calls and narrow escapes on set. There was the time, for instance, when I was tapped for a fire stunt. The idea was to paint myself with a flammable substance, land on the roof of a car, whose driver would set me on fire, and peel out toward a wooden wall. But nothing went according to design. First, my rope line snagged. Then the fire wouldn’t light and I gave up and signaled for the driver to floor it. When he stomped on his brakes, I went flying through a wooden wall, only not on fire as planned.

As I picked myself up my heart leapt into my throat. I realized I had completely forgotten to apply the protective stunt gel to my head and face. Had I actually been set ablaze, I almost certainly would have sustained serious, possibly fatal, injuries.

The Preachernator listened to my story and said, “Sounds like God was still looking after you.” His words cracked my pride; Could God have been looking out for me, even when I was so far astray? I found myself thinking about God on a daily basis. Could he really love me again after I had turned my back on him?

Everything came to a head one night. I had been hired to jump off of a 60-foot-high catwalk, grab a chain with one hand and slide down to the cement floor below while firing a pistol. Fear began to overwhelm me, and I couldn’t shake the thought of possible catastrophe. I wondered if the moment to give my life to Jesus had finally arrived.

An internal debate raged within. One side of me said, “You’re only doing this because you might die, you hypocrite! Do it after you finish the stunt.” But another side said, “No, the whole point in giving my life to Jesus is in case I die. It’s smarter to do it right now.” So that’s what I did.

The following weeks confirmed (that) God had indeed heard my prayer. Before long, I worked up the confidence to evangelize my fellow crew members. God granted me dramatic change in some areas, but in others he gave the gift of struggle. In fact, I have experienced some of the greatest grief life has to offer. Once, a crew member asked me why his friend’s child had died. Where was God in this tragedy? I tried explaining God’s heart to him. The crew member said that much of what I shared made sense. But he also wondered whether my faith would survive the death of one of my own children. So did I.

I think of this conversation from time to time, because the question has been answered. I have lost children since that day. I watched my wife as she rocked our 19-day-old son while he died in her arms. Three years later, my wife watched me cradle our newborn daughter as she met the same fate.

God never promises us a life without pain and suffering. However, he more than sustains us through challenges. From the tremendous joy of a beautiful, 20-year-old daughter to the depths of deep sorrow, my life attests to the truth that absolutely nothing can separate me from God’s love (Rom. 8:39).

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