Dear Women of Faith,
What a great calling that is, isn’t it? To be women of faith—wives of faith, daughters of faith, sisters of faith, mothers of faith. I can imagine God smiling as he sees all of his beautiful daughters exercising their faith in all of their various roles.
And sometimes it is an exercise—not a walk in the park, but a struggle to lift heavy burdens or push against hard things. We all experience these times, and often, in our closest relationships.
I want to share with you all some things I’ve learned along this journey in my relationship with my husband Ken…
It’s funny, but I have a hard time these days just writing “Joni.” I always want to write “Joni and Ken.” No, not as though it were stamped on a wedding napkin or written on a house mortgage document. It’s more visceral than that. Thirty years have passed since Ken and I began our journey together, and God has used every trial—every hurt and heartache—to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married.
And the more devastating the trials, the more He has wrapped us both around Himself. God has used depression and chronic pain and cancer—far more than even quadriplegia—to bind us tighter than ever. To each other. To Him.
That’s the “cord of three stands” the Bible speaks about. Husband, wife, and the Lord Himself. If the man and woman twine their lives around each other in marriage, that is good, and they’ll be stronger for it. But if both of them twine themselves around the living God, that’s best of all. It’s a union that will hold through anything that life—or even hell—might throw at them.
It’s a beautiful picture, but we know it isn’t true for everyone. It’s especially difficult for couples dealing with a serious disability. So many of these marriages just don’t survive the test. The fact is, we live in a society that doesn’t know what to do with suffering. We do everything we can think of to escape it: we medicate it, mask it, surgically remove it, entertain or drug it, institutionalize it, divorce it, or even euthanize it—anything but live with it. Suffering, however, isn’t about to go away. And marriage only magnifies it.
It’s why we hope our new book, “Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story,” will inspire you. A visceral inspiration. Because nowhere else—and with no one else—will you have quite the chance to experience union with Christ than through a hard-fought-for, hard-won union with your spouse. And although Ken and I don’t pretend to be experts, we’ve learned enough to feel confident about passing on a couple of encouragements.
Life will not always be this hard, or marriage so difficult. There is coming a Day when something so grand and glorious will appear that it will supersede even marriage. Heaven is on the horizon for us all, and what we do down here on earth—every little drastic obedience—all of it will one day have a direct bearing on our capacity for joy and for worship and service in heaven. If you stick close to Jesus and honor Him through the toughest of times, you have a better chance of casting more crowns at His feet. And one day, when you touch His nail-scarred hands to say thank you, you’ll have every confidence He’ll know you mean it. He will recognize you as the one who persevered, who took up your cross daily to redeem the hard places in your marriage, just as he once took up His cross to redeem you.
The Day is soon coming when you will see the stunningly glorified version of your spouse. No, you won’t be joined in marriage in heaven, but God will have used your earthly life together to prepare you to be friends, yes, to be sisters and brothers—special and unique—for all of eternity. So get a jump start on eternity with that friend now.
Take a deep breath, and let it—whatever that irksome it is in your marriage—let it go. Make a covenant, Renew the vows. Get out the candles and china. Order the roses. Dim the lights. Walk under the stars. Quit resisting and start affirming. After all, loving that one to whom you said yes, well . . . it’s just another way, maybe the best way, of loving and serving God.
Joni AND Ken
About Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story
It begins in the traditional way, with a handsome young man and a lovely young woman falling in love with each other. There is a courtship, a wedding, a honeymoon, world travels, and the promise of a bright future.
Other than that, the story is anything but normal. Joni, who has become known all over the world for her writing, speaking, singing, and painting accomplished with a brush held in her teeth, was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident in 1967 when she was just seventeen years old. At age thirty-two, she had pretty much given up the idea that any man would or could look beyond her wheelchair and her disability to see her as a prospective lover and wife.
But she hadn’t reckoned on Ken Tada.
A high school history teacher and football coach, Ken saw in Joni a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful personality and spirit. Most important of all, he saw a woman with a great passion for the One they both called Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ.
This was the girl of his dreams.
But life is more than a dream, and Ken, with proverbial stars in his eyes, had no concept of the difficult path that lay ahead of them. Joni had a much clearer picture of it all. Women usually do.
So they married. . . .
This book is essentially about two people who had every reason on earth not to fall in love and marry each other in the first place . . . whose marriage faced obstacles beyond what most of us could imagine and innumerable justifications for giving up . . . who stayed together when their impossible obstacles unexpectedly became impossibly more difficult . . . and who found a way, through it all, to attain a new level of love rather than simply surviving or grimly hanging on.
By Larry Libby. From Joni & Ken: an Untold Love Story by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada. (Zondervan, Inc.) ©2013.
Joni & Ken, Chapter One: The Gift
God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain. —C.S. Lewis
December 6, 2011
Out of the corner of his eye, Giuseppe Bellisario saw the gleaming white Toyota van roll up into the handicap spot in front of his modest storefront restaurant tucked in the far right corner of the Agoura Hills Town Center. And smiled.
The bold-white, edged-in-scarlet letters over the entrance shone out in the California twilight: GRISSINI RISTORANTE.
Italian for “breadsticks.”
But not just any generic, garden-variety breadsticks. His restaurants had always been known for their signature long, thin, artistically shaped grissini. And for warm greetings and assiduous service. He had always seen to that. . . .
A sturdy Japanese man in his early sixties, clad in a brown jacket and a tan “Wild Adventures” baseball cap, emerged from the driver’s side, stepped around to the back passenger-side door, pushed a button, and watched as the door slid open and a ramp descended.
Giuseppe waited for a moment as the man backed the power wheelchair down the ramp onto the pavement. Then, with consummate timing, Giuseppe stepped through the door into an abnormally chilly Southern California evening. Greeting the man with a handshake, and then a hug, he bend down to kiss the cheek of the pretty blonde woman in the power chair. Then, with a flourish that seemed second nature, he swung the glass door of his restaurant wide open to his friends.
A gust of warm air, scented with oregano, fresh bread, and Christmas candles, enveloped them.
“Merry Christmas, Giuseppe,” the woman said.
“And Merry Christmas to you, caro. Your table is waiting. Always.”
Inside, Giuseppe’s little “retirement project restaurant” was a vision of white tablecloths, linen napkins, spotless silverware, glittering Christmas lights, and candles glowing in red glass containers. The voice of Dean Martin crooning in the speakers wrapped around them like an old favorite bathrobe.
Volare, oh oh,
E cantare, oh oh oh oh
No wonder my happy heart sings.
Your love has given me wings . . .
With no hesitation, the woman in the wheelchair, wrapped in winter coat and scarf, powered up to a table along the wall. Her table. A small brass marker on thew all read “Joni Eareckson Tada.”
Ken Tada, taking his seat, was already thinking of the menu.
“Giuseppe, do you have the veal tonight—on the bone—the one with the mushroom sauce?”
“I think so.”
Joni just smiled, drinking it all in.
We can sing in the glow of a star that I know of,
Where lovers enjoy peace of mind.
Let us leave the confusion and all disillusion behind . . .
Dear old Dean Martin. She truly did feel the glow tonight. In some strange, inexplicable providence of God, she felt happier than she had for years.
Cancer, she told herself, not without a note of wonder, as a gift.
Excerpted from Joni & Ken: an Untold Love Story by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada. (Zondervan, Inc.) ©2013.