Joni and Friends Blog

Fifty-Three Years on the Path of Life

On this day, 53 years ago, I made a spur-of-the-minute decision to go swimming with my sister Kathy. And that day, a foolish dive changed the entire course of my life.

At first, it seemed that the dive that broke my neck set me on a path towards death. Even if I ever make it out of the hospital, I thought, what good can my life possibly hold? After I was discharged from the hospital, I spent days stubbornly tucked away in a darkened bedroom. I felt there was no life beyond my door.

Even when I did participate in my family’s comings and goings, pressure sores or a bout of flu put me back in that spot of wondering when death would come.

Back then, some would have likened me to Ecclesiastes 7, “After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart…A wise person thinks a lot about death.” But later, when I came out of suicidal depression, I realized the meaning behind this verse. Ecclesiastes 7 is really telling us to think about eternity.

When I turned my focus that way, my path leading to death turned into my pathway of life.

Yes, it was still a hard path, but it was leading me toward a glorious eternity, just as 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

For the last 53 years, my feet have not “walked” an actual path. My walk is a spiritual one, and so I don’t focus on my visible wheelchair, arm braces, and other symbols of my earthly weaknesses. Instead, I focus on unseen things like the spirit of gratitude that God has cultivated within me, the patience I’ve honed, and my longing for heaven which has eclipsed my sorrows of earth.

Another unseen reality with eternal significance are the people who have come into God’s Kingdom as a result of what God has done in my life and through the ministry of Joni and Friends.

God has generously widened my path of life to become a path of life for others who are suffering, too.

In fact, earlier this year, I was so honored to be presented with a visible reminder of this…

As part of the effort to make the Joni and Friends International Disability Center more accessible, a beautiful ramp was carved into the side of the hill that sits between our two office buildings. And just as there have been scripture signposts in my life throughout the years, many of these same key Bible verses grace the walkway.

Oh, I am keenly aware that even this “what is seen” ramp is temporary. In another 25 years or so, the cement will probably crack to the point that it no longer is ADA compliant. But I trust that in the meanwhile, these same Bible verses will become signposts on the path others are journeying toward eternity – made easier, in part, by this ramp called Joni’s Path of Life.

I’d love for you to see this totally unique ramp. When it was finished back in January, my co-workers held a dedication ceremony and together, Ken and I cut the ribbon, officially opening it. A snippet of the celebration got caught on film, and I’ve posted it here for you to see.

And one more invitation for you while I’m at it… when things open up from all the COVID-19 shutdowns, make plans to come walk (or wheel) down this ramp in person! We look forward to, once again, hosting visitors and friends like you when that time comes.

Oh, dear friend, never did I imagine what God would do over 53 years of paralysis! Every single one of those years of quadriplegia has been lived one day at a time, sometimes so moment-by-moment that I barely thought I could endure one minute more. But God has seen me through every minute, and he wants to do the same for you.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Let God make known to you the path of life he has planned for you – and as you do, I invite you to borrow the scriptural signposts God has given me….

“Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.”

– Lamentations 3:32-33

“Jesus said… ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'”

– John 10:10

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”

– Job 13:15

“God turned into good what you meant for evil, for saving the lives of many people.”

– Genesis 50:20

“My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.”

– Psalm 119:71

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

– John 15:11

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promises give me life.”

– Psalm 119:50

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:16

“These troubles and sufferings of ours are quite small and won’t last very long. For this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessings upon us forever and ever.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:17

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing. Afterward they receive the crown of life that God’s promise to those who love him.”

– James 1:12

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

– Jeremiah 32:27

Honor Joni With a Gift to Joni and Friends

As Joni celebrates this extraordinary anniversary of God’s faithfulness, join her in providing hope and the Gospel to people living with disability around the world!

Give $53 in honor of her 53 years in a wheelchair or $150 to provide a wheelchair and the Gospel to someone in desperate need of mobility.

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