Monday, December 29, 2008

The God I Love: A Memoir, by Joni Eareckson Tada

When I was a teenager, I read the book Joni, detailing events surrounding this young lady's diving accident which left her paralyzed from the neck down. When I was in my early 20's, I read the sequel to Joni, , A Step Further. Later on I read her devotional book, Diamonds in the Dust. Now I have just completed reading Joni's memoir, The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking With Jesus.

I felt like this book explained more of the whole of who Joni Eareckson Tada is. One disappointing thing to me in the past has been in never really hearing very much about her marriage to Ken Tada. Yes it has been mentioned almost as a "passing comment" in several of her writings. I couldn't find out very much about her marriage even by hunting online, which I did a time or two. (That might seem a bit awkward but I've always considered Joni to be one of my personal heroes of the faith. I like hearing about her life and I love the way she exercises practical application of scripture on a daily basis.) I found The God I Love satisfying when it came to discussing her marriage relationship, and various struggles that they have had at one time or another. However, her marriage to Ken Tada is just a small part of a big life which I think is interesting.

The reason she has always been a personal spiritual hero to me is because of her ability to move past a dramatic incident which changed everything about her life situation and who she was as a person. She spiraled down to the depths of depression in the aftermath of her diving accident. As Anne would say, Joni was in "the depths of despair." (She was was in such depths as to fit Marilla's description of those depths also, btw.) As a young girl, Joni liked to run, ride horses, take dares and rise to meet physical challenges. In an instant all of that was transformed and she no longer had the ability to sit up on her own, let alone race a horse. Although at times it seems that she wanted to "curse God and die" she eventually came to see her wheelchair as a "passport to adventure". That is what The God I Love talks about. This book details God's faithfulness to her, even as a young girl.

Joni grew up in a close-knit family and had a father she adored. He was an Olympic wrestler who thrived on adventures of his own. He raised four beautiful daughters to be bright, respectful and responsible. To Joni, her father was perfection and somehow his person was wrapped up in God's person to the point where she had a hard time distinguishing between the two. As she aged, her earthly father's flaws became more evident (flaws always seem to be highlighted to teenagers, wouldn't you say?). Joni dearly loved her father though and that love is on display throughout this book.

A fact I found interesting is that Joni's mother seem to take a more prominent role in the book after the accident. The sweet mothering abilities took over as she cared for her paralyzed daughter. Joni's sisters also became more pivotal during the time when Joni was healing. This is a great story of family who stuck together, encouraged one another and built each other up. If you were ever to see a good model for family togetherness, I'd say the Earecksons make a pretty good example.

As Joni grows up and becomes a woman we see her faith growing. That's as it should be with any maturing Christian. Faith grows steadily with age and experience. Joni experiences no less of this. Sure she has set-backs and failures and physical difficulties some of us would never want to dream of. Yet as God is faithful to her, she is faithful to Him and her life paints a beautiful picture.

This book was meaningful to me in many ways and impacting in one way that I'm not really sure how to describe. I feel like this book marks a turning point for me in trying to figure out who I am and what I'm doing here on earth. Learning to be faithful and obedient is hard work and sometimes you'd just like to sit down and take a break from life. (Do any of you know what I'm talking about, or am I on my own in this?) This book grabbed me from a sitting position and repositioned me on my feet again. Something in me started to sing and eventually that song will come out but not in this blog post - ha! It was good though. Very good.

I appreciated this book very much because it spans decades of someone's life. Joni Eareckson Tada is still alive and still has lots more to offer so this book isn't quite finished - yet. All the same, I'm glad she took the time to write it now. She's a living testimony and one that I greatly admire.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a very encouraging book. I'm planning to read her book about heaven (entitled Heaven perhaps?) in January for the Biblically Literate Book Club hosted by Semicolon.

I'm really enjoying reading your reviews. I think you and I might be "kindred spirits"!

Lisa Spence said...

I read this book last year and LOVED it; not only it is a compelling (and amazing) story of God's amazing grace and Joni's amazing faith I thought it was beautifully written.

Unknown said...

I too remember reading Joni as a young teen.

Interesting that you mention her marriage, because Joni and Ken were on FamilyLife with Dennis Rainey, and they did discuss it. It was a while ago (more than 6 months probably), but I was fascinated.

You might try searching their site, and you might be able to download it. If I find it, I'll send you a link.

Anonymous said...

I read this a while back and loved it. I had read Joni when I was in college, and it was so neat to read how the Lord's been working in her life through the years.

Melissa said...

Sounds like a great book. I'll have to add it to my ever-growing list.

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