Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's NOT that time again, but...

(from Christianity Today)
I recently heard about Joni Eareckson Tada for the first time when her picture made it on a magazine at our one-and-only local wazungu-type cafĂ©. True, I’m probably the only person in the greater Christian community that hasn’t heard of her, but I’ll attribute that to my not growing up reading biographies as a kid. For some reason, I was way more interested in epic stories of kids in far-off lands!

Back to the point. I heard a brief synopsis of Joni’s story – how she was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident, and how she has been used in powerful ways over the years by God. With her name in hand, I set off to find her biography on Kindle… and sat down to read in-between letting bread dough rise for dinner.

And then, I kept reading. And reading. Through the second-try of rising bread dough (the first one was disgusting, thanks to a bad batch of flour!), and more reading in bed that night. Yes, it was really good – but in some ways, I kept reading because I wanted to get past the uncomfortable, difficult bits of what happened and on to what God is doing now. While Joni’s experiences were nothing like mine, her story all-too-clearly whispered back memories of a story of my own.

A story of facing death, wondering if I would wake up unable to use part or all of my body for awhile or forever. A story of a teenager who lived life through movement and saw the possibility of this all being taken away. A fear of what we can’t control, a reminder that life is short, that what we have we take for granted, and that God is in control even when it seems all is wrong.

As I read, I could clearly imagine the feeling of lying in bed staring at a ceiling, unable to move a muscle. The possibility was once all too real. It’s not out of the scope of my imagination to know the dread of hoping and praying and having no idea what the outcome might be. And yes, for some reason my ending was not in a Stryker bed and wheelchair, but in a recovery room playing with the oxygen monitor on my finger, years more of dance and competitions and eventually living on another continent teaching kids.

It’s funny, how these feelings sometimes creep in unexpectedly, sliding under the door unannounced but all too real. I used to worry about “what might happen if” and dreaded checkups. These days, my biggest thought concerning this time of my life is the reminder to save up funds towards my next MRI. While once fears were real, now I consider my check-ups a great (though loud) nap time and am not surprised when I get a clean (though expensive) bill of health at the end. But then there are moments like reading Joni’s book, moments that bring me back to that time and make me realize just how very different the result could have been.

And while I try not to wonder “why” anymore, “Why did my story turn out so differently from so many others…?,” I do count my life and breath and being and ability to move and love on kids and teach with song and dance a privilege, just a little bit more, when I’m reminded of the gifts I’ve been given, while fully knowing God would have provided exactly what I needed even if the results had been different.

In any case, whether you’ve heard of Joni (or not), I definitely recommend her first book. The story of her healing and understanding of God is incredible. However, just a word of caution to anyone with a history of head trauma or brain/spinal issues… if that describes you, I’d recommend possibly skipping the biography and reading her more recent writings instead!

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