For Joni Eareckson Tada's memoir to turn out to be anything less than stellar would be difficult to imagine. A long-time bestselling author with an amazing story and a highly successful ministry, Tada outdoes her remarkable record with an autobiography that may be her best book so far.
The basics of Tada's life are well-known in Christian circles. Reared in a Christian home, Joni Eareckson was planning to enter Western Maryland College in the fall of 1967. But a trip to a Chesapeake Bay beach in July of that year permanently changed her life. A "simple" dive went wrong, and Joni ended up paralyzed from the neck down, confined to a wheelchair for life. In the following decade, Christians in America would become familiar with the once-unknown young woman who had learned to draw and paint with her mouth and was steadily producing a successful line of artwork sold in Christian stores. Her story was told in print and on film, and her voice later became a mainstay on Christian radio. In the intervening years, she has become an advocate for the disabled, not only in the United States but also around the world.
In no previous book has Joni Eareckson --- now married to Ken Tada --- been quite so transparent and open about the highs and lows of her relationship with God, particularly in the years immediately following the accident but also amid the day-to-day frustrations that come with being dependent upon others for the basic necessities of life. Through it all --- through the extraordinary accomplishments of someone who at one time had every reason to give up on life --- you get the sense that many of Tada's inner struggles are very ordinary, very human, and therefore very easy for others to relate to.
Tada writes about social issues, such as her firsthand experience with oppression in former communist countries, with as much sensitivity as she writes about highly personal issues, like her disappointment and sorrow after learning that she was infertile. She seamlessly intersperses detailed accounts of her many international trips with loving stories about her close-knit family, her circle of friends, and her marriage to Ken. Especially poignant are passages relating to the deaths of her mother and father.
Throughout, of course, the focus always returns to Tada's relationship with God and the subtle irony inherent in the subtitle, "A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus." Even from her wheelchair, Tada "walks" with God. She writes, "Ah, this is the God I love. The Center, the Peacemaker, the Passport to adventure, the Joyride, and the Answer to all our deepest longings. The answer to all our fears, Man of Sorrows and Lord of Joy, always permitting what he hates, to accomplish something he loves…There are more important things in life than walking."
Fans of Joni Eareckson Tada's previous books will not be disappointed with this one. It's a beautifully written tribute to the love of God as seen through the life of one woman who found freedom and joy in Christ in the midst of what another might consider a cruel confinement.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 13, 2011