Author: Joni Eareckson Tada
Major Themes: Accidents, Faith, Quadriplegia
Synopsis: Joni Eareckson’s life has been altered forever due to a diving accident, and she must learn to have faith in God all over again.
There are some biographies that you read, and then set aside saying “that was good; I enjoyed learning about that person, but I doubt I’ll read it again.” Others, however, grip your fascination, and you come away feeling incredibly blessed by the lessons you learned from one person’s life. Such is the case with Joni, the memoir of the very famous Joni Eareckson Tada. I borrowed it several months back from a friend, and recently pulled it off the shelf. Even though the story itself is gripping, one thing that I really appreciated the most was Joni’s absolute honesty. She didn’t try to smooth over the rough bits—she said them as they are, and even though at times it could almost be too much, seeing things realistically was a huge blessing to me.
From the moment of her diving accident on, Joni knew her life could be changed forever. As a seventeen-year-old staying in the ICU (intensive care unit), she was terrified of death—several other people around her with similar cases died while she was in there. Somehow, she survived, and after quite a while she was moved to a home for therapy. However, she was paralyzed from the neck down, and little could be done to help her. Struggling with thoughts of suicide, and feeling helplessly unable to do it herself, she sought for meaning to the suffering she was forced to endure day after day. Some told her Jesus still had a good and perfect plan in this; others were more skeptical and wondered if the teachings of atheists wouldn’t make more sense in the face of utter ruin. Can she ever find true purpose and happiness in life again—even if she’ll be forced to rely on someone else for her every need?
Tracing her struggles from faith to deepest darkness and back again was powerfully moving for me. Even though I really can’t even begin to relate to what it must be like to be a quadriplegic, Joni does her best to share what it’s like to “wear” her shoes. And in her doing so, being completely honest with her struggles and triumphs, helps me to see that even in the trouble I may have at times, God is still in control—whether it’s believing that He will reveal the next step in His time, or simply trusting that He has done His best for my life in the past. Joni’s story is faith-enriching, and that’s only because she’s been through the purifying fires herself. I came away feeling blessed to have been able to get a glimpse of her life, an example of courage and trust that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this book:
“We aren’t always responsible for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. However, we are responsible for the way we respond to them. We can give up in depression and suicidal despair. Or, we can look to a sovereign God who has everything under control, who can use the experiences for our ultimate good by transforming us to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).”
“I believed that if God took something away from me, He would always replace it with something better. My experience had taught me this as I relied on the sovereignty of God. ‘Delight thyself in God,’ the psalmist said, ‘trust in His way.’ As I did so, it became easier to express true gratitude for what He had brought into my life—good as well as suffering.”
WARNING: Chapter 2, pages 37 and 38, mention Joni and her boyfriend sinning (NOT described). Chapter 3, page 55, has a girl taking God’s name in vain when she visits Joni the first time after the accident. Page 56 tells of Joni begging a friend to help her commit suicide, and pages 61-63 tell of her and her boyfriend kissing as she begs him to tell her he loves her. Chapter 4 mentions someone cursing (although no words are actually used). Chapter 5, page 85, tells of an operation they did on her, and has a few details. The end of chapter 5 mentions a nurse with a filthy mouth who was very uncaring, and suicide is talked of briefly again. The end of chapter 8, pages 143-145, describes how Joni figured out how to “escape” by daydreaming—it was her way of rebelling against God. As time went on, however, she realized that these often-sensual fantasies were just a different way for her to sin, and she repented. Chapter 13, page 187, mentions the three-letter-word several times as Joni discusses marriage with her boyfriend. Pages 183 and 188 each mention a kiss.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults