Even though a dear older friend at church loved this book about the marriage of Joni and Ken Tada, I never meant to read it.
Rather, Joni Eareckson TaEven though a dear older friend at church loved this book about the marriage of Joni and Ken Tada, I never meant to read it.
Rather, Joni Eareckson Tada kept finding her way into conversations with a different friend at church. That friend asked me to repeat Joni's name, asked what she wrote, asked for her name written down. So I left for the used bookstore on Sunday, hoping it might have a book I saw there before or another of Joni's works. Flipping through this, I thought it looked too full of suffering (something I've really been fearing lately). Yet this was the book in stock. So this was the one I bought.
Early on the story seems so hopeful. A woman who is nearly 32 and paralyzed, and thus thinks marriage will elude her, finds a man she once prayed for (after admiring the back of his head when distracted at a worship service) starting to admire her. Really admire her. He even empties her leg bag of urine on the first date.
Yet the story turns awfully gritty and hard. It turns out Ken partly loved Joni's personality, her beauty, her love for the Lord bigger-than-life persona. Living with a quadriplegic woman, providing so much of her care, of course is more involved than Ken had expected before marriage. (Granted, marriage is harder for anyone than imagined.) The daily grind begings to wear on him, distance builds in the relationship, Joni distances herself to lessen the strain on Ken while hating the distance... After a while it all seems so grim.
Being 32 with damaged arm tendons and a slightly questionable immune system, I found myself moving from relating to (wrongly) using the account as a barometer. If I should find my autoimmunity to ever include more than thyroid disease, would this be the burden a husband would feel? Should I determine to never marry? Empty apartment or condo (a house seems like quite a high aim with damaged arms because it might necessitate finding a more sustainable career path), empty kitchen table, empty bed, empty passenger seat, empty womb, empty life, friends being less available as age brings more marriages, struggling to find suitable jobs (though I must say the Lord always has gotten me through - just in ways that show His hand had to have given the answers because they were too unique for me to find/recognize)... That's how fear speaks, right? That what we fear will happen. That it will turn out as just as we think or worse. That the grace of God won't be there (incidentally, Jay Adams is very good at speaking into this last point in a tiny booklet called "Christ and Your Problems"). That's it's all about me, my desires, my idols (*gulp*), my circumstances.
And yet, by the end this book spoke hope where fear had settled deep into my bones. Sure, what Joni feared sometimes happened. Similarly, what you and I fear might happen. Plus good changes that are given may be taken away. We can't count on what God hasn't promised. Yet the grace of God IS intricately woven through any believer's life (even if we eclipse it in our imaginings). And sometimes, Christ is seen most, and the most good comes, in the grittiest, harder-than-ever-imagined circumstances. Circumstances life paraplegia (where one can't even go to the bathroom unassisted), compounded by horrible and distracting chronic pain, cancer, a masectomy, pneumonia (something quite dangerous after years of paraplegia). What has proved most insightful from Joni's life for me is what I love most about this book. It brings the reader back to Christ. His presence. The hope He brings. How we find fulfillment (without looking for it) in following the Lord and, out of service to Him, pouring our lives into others.
As the light creeps back in dawn is on the horizon. The hardness is there, but so is the surpassing beauty of Christ. Suffering threatens to conquer, but Christ is most present in it and working more good than Joni and Ken ever guessed in their lesser struggles. The Lord is deeply binding the hearts of two people, bound formally by a covenant, through great trials. Their life changes to rejoicing in their union with God and each other. Home changes to being about an *us* rather than a structure or two *I's*. We find that GOD is present, GOD is strong, GOD is loving, GOD sustains, GOD changes circumstances sometimes and His people always, GOD gives growth and peace and hope, GOD fulfills, that GOD does all things well... Christ's grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect, seen, felt, in weakness. The rest, the hope, the help are not in us but in the Lord.
Don't you see the HOPE for you Joni and Ken there? And the HOPE for you and me (whether or not our health holds, we can ever afford houses, our wombs stay empty and our homes at least emptier than hoped)??? For the God who *sustains* the Tadas, who *teaches* them, who *works so wondrously* in and through their very real pain and trials, who *binds* them closer, who *gives* joy when circumstances can't account for it, is ACCESSIBLE TO ANYONE IN CHRIST. By being so real about their struggles and God's work in them, they show WEARY, WEAK, SINFUL, MISERABLE people something of THE SUFFICIENCY AND GOODNESS OF CHRIST. For that, I am very thankful the Lord led me to buy a book I didn't want to read!!!
This is a bit too autobiographical, but it shall do....more