Thursday, June 13, 2013
I needed this
Every once in a while you read a book and the story sticks in your thoughts for a long time. The book may not have the same staying power with everyone but God has used it to tell you things that you didn’t even know you needed to hear. I recently read a book like that – Joni & Ken - and its message has stayed with me, affecting how I think about marriage and about suffering.
I first read Joni Eareckson’s story in the ‘70s. Did you too? I think every book in the 70's had that same font for its title. Joni broke her neck in a diving accident as a teenager and she wrote of her struggle to accept her life as a quadriplegic. Can you imagine facing that? With God’s help, she found that He was able to use something incredibly devastating to reach out to people with love and compassion. It’s an amazing story and even more amazing because of the huge ministry she has all over the world. I'm afraid if it were me, I'd never leave the house. But Joni shares honestly – no sugar-coating or hyper-spiritualizing – and I’ve been inspired by the way she has yielded to what God allowed in her life with very little if any bitterness.
When I heard about this new book, I was interested to read about the man who married her over 30 years ago. The subtitle intrigued me too: “An Untold Love Story”. What kind of a guy would knowingly enter a life of caring for a quadriplegic wife? What would that kind of marriage look like?
It was very humbling to read about the way Ken and Joni’s marriage actually reflects what Paul writes about marriage in Ephesians – love and respect. Ken’s choice to serve Joni in the daily grind of emptying her ostomy pouch, lifting her, feeding her, being woken in the night to turn her over… even when it is the last thing he feels like doing, convicted me about my own attitude in serving. Joni’s respect for her husband, for his need to have a break, have guy friends and activities, and to hear this respect expressed in words also resonated with me.
Ken has discovered a very personal calling of God to be the one who does battle spiritually for his wife. What I didn’t know was how much physical pain Joni has experienced – ongoing, relentless pain. Not only had she endured the unimaginable loss of movement and feeling from the neck down, she had breast cancer. Would I be feeling sorry for myself? Would I want to go on living? Can you even imagine the kinds of things you’d be battling against if these were your circumstances? Depression. Hopelessness. Fear. Anger.
The Enemy tries to keep this dynamic woman of God from her ministry of hope and value and love to many thousands. Ken has committed himself to cover her in prayer, using the spiritual weapons we’ve been given to be the best help-mate he can be. It changed his whole outlook on their marriage. And I think that’s a beautiful picture of what marriage is all about.
At the end of the book, Joni says “The more devastating the trials, the more He (God) 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… We do everything we can to escape suffering: 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 trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior.”
I know there is something here for every married couple.
This is a book I highly recommend.