Eden had the great opportunity of finding out from the lady herself, Joni Eareckson Tada, why her and her husband Ken decided to write their marital memoir Joni and Ken, how it came into being and what the challenges were on writing about such a personal subject.
What made you decide to write this book, did you have a specific audience in mind?
After Ken and I reached our 30th wedding anniversary last year, we decided to open our hearts and share the good times, as well as the very difficult times that have forged our marriage into a strong and lasting union.
The most important part of our story is, what we call, the "tired, middle years." That's when Ken became overwhelmed with the non-stop, 24/7 daily routines of my disability – we found our marriage hanging on by a thread. But through it all, we learned to lean harder on Jesus. And now, we see that the best relationships never come easy; they are earned – and Ken and I believe the success of our marriage is due to a tough, earnest, rigorous reliance on Jesus Christ.
How did Larry Libby get involved in the project?
Larry Libby and I have been friends for years. In the late 80s, he helped me write several of my devotional books. So when the opportunity came to write Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story, I asked Larry to write it from the third person perspective. For Ken to have written part of it, or for me to have written it, would not have made it "our" story.
What were the biggest challenges when writing this book?
The biggest challenge was deciding how and to what extent we should share the details about our deepest struggles. Every marriage should protect its privacy, and we did not want to 'cheapen' our story by divulging too much.
Ken and I believe, however, that we have shared exactly the right stories and principles that will help other couples dealing with limitations, depression, or chronic disability in their marriage.
How long did it take you to write the book?
It took nearly a year for us to complete the manuscript. Ken and I spent three solid days with Larry Libby, detailing the ups and downs of our life together. Larry would often send me stories that he rough-drafted and I would have the responsibility of fleshing the story out. It was a wonderful way I was able to put my "fingerprints" on each chapter of Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story.
Can you tell us about any Christian books that have really helped you in your faith?
When I was a young Christian, I devoured the books written by Elisabeth Elliot. Having suffered a life-altering accident, I deeply identified with her incredible story of grief, pain and loss. I love the approach Elisabeth takes on scripture: it's a no-nonsense, 'take God at His Word' way of apprehending the Bible. And for me, that's the only way I've been able to survive in my wheelchair for 46 years: take a deep breath, push aside my emotions, and move forward into the future with faith in God's promises.
What are your favourite passages in Scripture?
1 Peter 4:12-14 was one of the first Bible verses that came to mind when the doctors told me, "You have cancer."
It reads, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” We should never be surprised at the trials – or the amount of trials – God sends our way. For as hard as they are, and as many as pile on, our trials only 'pale' in comparison to what our Savior endured on our behalf. And, of course, the servant is never above His Master. I'm not glorying in suffering; I'm just glorying in the God who can be found in suffering and the faith that can be refined.
So what's next for Joni and Ken?
Ken and I continue to work on behalf of our Joni and Friends International Disability Center. We so enjoy travelling to various Christian colleges and seminaries across the country and around the world, speaking to young people about the importance of reaching people with disabilities with the love of Jesus. There are over one billion people with disabilities, 80% of whom live in developing nations.
Ken and I want to expend our energies on behalf of this needy population – we want to open the eyes of young students – tomorrow's Christian leaders – reminding them not to forget the mandate of Jesus Christ in Luke 14 to "go out, find the disabled, the lame and the blind... and bring them in.
Joni and Ken Eareckson Tada have made a huge difference in countless people's lives and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
If you've been inspired by their story and the ministry of Joni then take a look at our Joni Eareckson Tada Department for more books that will encourage you in your daily walk with God, whatever struggles and situations you may face.
May 19th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Anna Hockley