A Lifetime of Wisdom: Filled with God's Priceless Rubies
by Joni Tada
A Lifetime of Wisdom
by Joni Eareckson Tada
The fact is, you acquire wisdom at the cost of long years. You gain wisdom at the price of obedience and perseverance. You buy wisdom with the currency of suffering in Christ.
If all these things are true — and I believe they are — then what I have endured in my wheelchair for over forty years was time well spent. And (I’m taking a deep breath here) all of the indignities, heartbreaking limitations, crushed hopes, days of sorrow, excruciating pain, and loss of so many simple joys of life rising out of my injury and paralysis have been worthwhile. I can say to God, “Thank You for this chair.”
Do I say that glibly? Do I make light of the suffering? Do I brush past the months of depression, frustration, disappointment, and sadness? If you take my word for anything, you must believe me that I do not. The apostle Paul could look back on his extreme hardships and call them “light and momentary troubles,” and maybe one day I will look back and say the same thing. But not yet. (More about that later.)
To this day my condition is difficult to bear — and perhaps even more so as my body bends and breaks down under the weight of four decades of paralysis. But along the way, there have been rubies:
A sudden flash of insight, like a shaft of light piercing an overcast sky and illuminating — if only for a moment —a circle of darkened landscape.
Unheard-of opportunities to declare the name of Jesus in places where it has never been heard. The inexpressible delight of bringing help and hope — and even a smile — to severely disabled people around the world who often feel forgotten by everyone, including God. If there was ever such a thing as a time machine, I wish I could go back to that scared, angry, bitterly unhappy teenage girl named Joni Eareckson, hold a ruby to the light, and show her a little of what could come of her sorrow . . . and her baby steps of faith. But time moves on, and there is no going back. So I share these few rubies with you.
Angry With God
NOVEMBER 1967: University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore, MD
The surgery, they tell me, was a success. Something about bone chips, scraped from my hip, pressed like mortar in between the broken cervical vertebrae. They say the graft — the patch job — is working well, and to celebrate, the doctor unscrewed the bolts in my head. I’m out of ICU, free from the grip of the tongs, in a private room. Just like I wanted.
But what’s changed? Nothing. My fingers . . . where are they? My legs? My feet? Nothing moves from my neck down. If death has a taste — maybe something like dust, maybe something like ashes — it’s on my tongue right now.
So here I am in my new room, staring at a high ceiling, listening to the drone of hospital sounds and nurses and orderlies padding softly down the corridor. The radiator under the high window makes a popping sound when the heat comes on. And somewhere there is a clock, endlessly ticking.
Today I counted the ceiling tiles. A hundred and forty, including partials. TV? It’s too much work to watch from an angle like this. Isn’t even worth the effort. I always heard people talk about time dragging. Busy and caught up with life as I was, I hardly knew what they meant. I do now.