Joni Eareckson was only a teenager when her life was totally changed after a shallow diving accident left her completely paralyzed from the neck down. In her thirties with a growing international ministry to the disabled, she never imagined that she would ever find a man who would love her and accept everything that came with being a quadriplegic never mind that she would be married. But enter Ken Tada, also in his thirties. They met at church and within a couple of years were married. This book is their love and marriage story.
Ken was a gentle high school teacher and coach. He fully thought he was prepared to handle the day to day and struggles of living with quadriplegia. Joni worried that Ken held her on a pedestal. Neither were expecting what was to come in their marriage journey. Not only the day to day grind of everything that comes with living with her disability but sudden onset of chronic, devastating pain and then cancer for Joni and depression for Ken. But what they found was that God's immeasurable grace was enough. Once they let themselves go and totally gave themselves to Him and allowed His grace to carry them and give them strength they discovered a bond that has seen them through the worst and bought them closer than ever. They share their story so that other's may be inspired to draw on God's grace through the worst of times for their marriages.
I remember when I first became a Christian in the '80's and attending Joni's movie. It deeply afffected and inspired me. She and Ken were married around the same time my husband and I so I was excited to read their love story because let's face it, 30 years married to the same person is becoming more and more rare these days for an average couple such as my husband and I never mind a couple with such obstacles from the get go. The story is written in the third person through another author, one Joni has worked with before. It starts with the day she finds the lump in her breast and the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer and then it backs itself up to when they first met in church. With bits and pieces of their growing up years thrown in and then tragic accident of Joni's retold, we are given a glimpse into what formed them into their 30ish year old selves when they came together.
It was a privilege to be let into their private lives as they shared the joy of finding each other and deciding that yes, they could make a marriage work and the very private feelings of frustrations that both experienced with different aspects of married life, disability, and a major international ministry. One of the most profound sections of the book for me was when Joni was offended with Ken after she had just excitedly shared something she read that day and Ken was "polite" but not engaged. She retreated into silence, which to her not being able to storm out of the room, was the way to handle her offense. As Ken coaxed her into telling what was wrong she admitted how disappointed she was that her expectations of his also being excited were not met. It led to a discussion between the two on expectations and Ken finally looked at her and said,
"Joni, If I met all your expectations, you wouldn't need God" pg. 103
And I think that this is the message the couple are trying to get through to the reader of their story. That we are all just human, no matter who the couple is that is in the marriage. It is God that will see each couple through the hard, seemingly impossible times.
There is on comment written through the author on Joni's thoughts that I was not sure about. They were at a speaking engagement and Joni was telling her story of her
"black heart", her need of a Savior, and how Jesus Christ won the right to be her substitute on the cross." pg 172
I'm not sure what was trying to be conveyed by that thought as it was not a competition to see who would "win" going to the cross for my sins. The bible is clear that Jesus the Son of God came to earth as a man to do the will of His Father and that He chose to do the will of the Father even unto death and taking upon Himself the sins of every individual that ever was and ever will be on the face of the earth. And there is absolutely No one else who could do that. I'm not sure what she means by "winning the right". Anyhow, that might be my totally missing the understanding.
I loved the story but must admit almost exactly in the center of the book, right after the photo album that is in the middle, the writing started to jump around timelines a little too much for my liking. I think if the beginning half of the book had started that way it wouldn't have been such a jarring change to me in the story telling. But when the book started with the cancer and then went back in time and built year upon year working back towards the cancer that is the pattern I expected to continue through the rest of the book. That was not the case and it took a bit to get my mindset into going back and forth. Towards the last pages there were entries that seemed sort of disjointed and didn't flow with anything. They seemed to be just put in there to get them in. All in all, I really loved this peek into their world and I'm glad I was able to read this encouraging and beautiful story of what true love is, a love relying on the grace of God in the most difficult of circumstances, in a world of mixed messages and hollywoodized versions of milked down, lust logged, so called love.
Thanks to Booksneeze for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.