Earlier today, I ran into someone on Facebook that I had not heard from in ages, Joni Eareckson Tada. Now it turns out that it is really more of a fan-page as she does not actively participate from the look of it.
When I was a kid, I ran across the book “Joni” which touched me in a way that few books ever have. It is the story of a young woman, Joni Eareckson, with everything ahead of her that has a diving accident one summer and ends up a quadriplegic and her coming to grips with that and the skills she found after-wards. I was so impressed with her artwork that I used to own a piece many years ago.
I had the pleasure of meeting her in 1981 during my great Southern California adventure that I have written about in the past.
One of the things that surprised me was the near immediate response that I received from several friends that were shocked that I would “Like” her since she is a signer on the Manhattan Declaration, a call for assorted Christian members to not comply with laws against their religious beliefs in areas like abortion and same-sex marriage. I believe that I had heard about it on the news, but I did not pay it any heed, why should I?
One of the areas that the Christian Right has never understood is that a law saying such things may happen do not require you to partake in them. I have always found it somewhat laughable to listen to people who act as if legalizing same-sex marriage means straight men are going to be required to do so or that Roe v. Wade is going to force women to have abortions.
We seem to have developed a culture in this country where if someone disagrees on any one subject, especially a hot button topic, that we are supposed to shun them and disavow any knowledge, friendship or support. I will not do it.
I have found Joni to be a shining star in my life who made me rethink many things in my life over the years and a pillar of strength when I have had tough times, no matter how bad, I still have functional arms and legs.
One of the pieces of the book I have always remembered was a place where Joni’s power-wheelchair tipped over in a parking lot and she scraped her face quite badly. Her reply was something like; “why my face, the only place I can feel?” I have had days like that where it was like why this one thing when it was so important, at least in that moment.
I may not agree with everything she thinks and may even be diametrically opposed in some, but that will never take away from the respect I have for her in so many other areas of her life.
Many of the friends that responded badly felt that I had betrayed them, I would say that I have proven my worthiness as a friend in that I will stand by them when they do something I disagree with, it will take more than one thing to get rid of me.
I would say that it is more Christian to show love and compassion for someone against you on some issue than many self-proclaimed Christians offer to those who differ from them. It is easy to love someone who is always with you, but it takes a bit of work to get beyond some disagreement and still be there for them. I believe Jesus commented on this when he talked about loving ones enemies.
My heartfelt appreciation for your story, your beautiful artwork and for making a young man feel welcome when the opportunity presented itself nearly 30 years ago.
My prayers and hopes, along with Reiki healing energy, to help you get through this troubling time with your recent diagnosis.