(Photo: Courtesy of Joni Eareckson Tada)
Editor's Note: This is the final part of a three-part series based on a recent interview The Christian Post conducted with Joni Eareckson Tada, and her husband, Ken. The couple reveals candid details about their 30-year marriage and their distress over the condition of Christian marriages today. Click on Part One and Part Two to read.
Here is part three of their three-part interview.
CP: In the book, you both questioned what purpose God had in mind for you as a team. This vision was soon revealed as you visited several countries including Romania. How can couples who may not work in ministry together but work regular nine-to-five jobs find their purpose as a team?
Ken Tada: Other couples finding a direction – you know you're just so unique, there is no set formula here. But for us, early on in our marriage we did try to have children and we thought that would be something, of course, that God intended for us. But that wasn't the case ... There came a night that Joni and I were talking and we realized that maybe it wasn't meant to be. Maybe God wasn't intending that for us. Joni looked at me and said, "You know something Ken, if we can't have children, can we adopt the children of the world?" That's such a grand statement and of course I said, "Sure Joni, we can." But we realized that over the years, that's basically what we've done whether it's through our trips overseas or taking wheelchairs into the two-thirds of the world nations. We've more or less adopted the world.
If we had children, and I can't say this for sure because we don't have children now, but had we had children then, a lot of that would have had to be curtailed. It might have been different, but that's one thing I see for us, that God gave us that direction.
And when you're asking about other couples as far as [finding their purpose], first, the real key in any marriage goes back to what I said in the beginning and that is couples have to have Jesus. If they're going to go ahead, try seeking out what God would have them to do as a couple ... that's the starting point.
Joni Eareckson Tada: Somebody once said something to me before Ken and I married that I thought was great advice. She said marriage should be your understanding that you can serve God better as a couple rather than apart. I really believe that. I think Ken had a wonderful ministry to his students… apart from me and I had a great ministry of writing and speaking. But together we can serve God better. We were more than a sum of the parts, so to speak and there was a synergy and an energy that was created when Ken and I started traveling together. People were curious. It wasn't just I want to know about Joni. They want to know about Joni and Ken because we're such a curiosity. Why would this man marry a quadriplegic who can't use her hands or walk or whip up an omelet or rub his back or clean the dishes or fold the laundry? Why would a man do that? So with this natural curiosity, whether it's delivering wheelchairs, whether it's through speaking at colleges and universities across the country (Ken and I just got back from a college tour last week) or whether its visiting with other couples at our family retreat, our ministry is best together. It really is a good ministry together.
CP: What words of encouragement do you have for the victims in Boston, wives and husbands who now find themselves living with a spouse with serious injuries that require daily assistance?
Joni Eareckson Tada: My best word of encouragement would be that [in regards to] the person to whom you are married: God thinks that person should be the most important person in your life. You know the most important people in my life are not the crowds at a Billy Graham crusade where I might speak or the people who read my books. It's not even the people with whom I work at this ministry. Of all the many, many people that I know and the things that I do, the most important person in my life is my husband and I think if couples could see that, if women could see that their husbands have been placed in their life by God, not only that you may be a helpmate to him, but that you might be changed. I think one of the great things that a spouse can do for her mate or his mate is to nurture, build and edify that marriage partner up. Like for instance Ken is a very gracious man and I see him deal graciously and kindly with other people, I'll commend him for that – not with sweet talk or empty flattery, but I'll say, "Ken, I really admire the way you spoke to our neighbor. You handled that problem with great grace and that wasn't easy. I really respect you for that. I admire you for that." I mean that's huge to a man. If women could only learn to affirm the little tiny Christ-like characteristics they see in their husbands, nurture those characteristics with words of encouragement and build him up, edify him, not only would their spouse change, they will change, and I think that's important for marriages; that we respect each other and that we see that the person who we married is the most important person in God's eyes.
CP: You wrote "God has used every trial, every hurt and heartache to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married." Share how your marriage is now a more full and complete one?
Ken Tada: I think I mentioned in this cancer journey (and I would not recommend cancer to other couples), but for us cancer was a good thing and it brought a sweetness to us. Everything slowed down. We took a look at our lives and saw what was important this side of eternity and one of the things that Joni and I have come to a conclusion that none of us are making it out of here alive. We're going to use this time that God has given us to try to further do whatever he wants us to do. So that was a really a big part of what we learned.
One of the things we learned when Joni was going through chemo and we were riding in the van (Joni has also said this on the platform), she said, "What is suffering? Those little glimpses of hell are those sufferings." Then, as we came home and got to the drive way we were continuing talking about this. "What are those glimpses of heaven?" and "It's seeing Jesus in your glimpses of hell." It was an epiphany in terms of just going, whoa, yes, that's exactly right. So we have seen in this journey, and it has not been an easyone, that there's been so much of a sweetness that has occurred between Joni and I.
And lastly, I found out that my wife is a true warrior. She is somebody that I would want in my fox hole if we're going to go into a spiritual battle.
Joni Eareckson Tada: Wow, you know what? For a wife to hear that is just encouraging. That's really so much better than him saying, "Oh, you're beautiful or you're so lovely, or I love your voice. No, love to hear that my husband thinks that I'd be his best warrior, that I would have his back, that's really cool.