(Photo: Courtesy Joni Eareckson Tada)
Editor's Note: This is the second 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, their distress over the condition of Christian marriages today, and their encouragement to the victims of the Boston bombing. Part One can be read by clicking here.
Ken Tada shares that upon meeting his wife, Joni Eareckson Tada, for the first time, he found her to be "unlike anyone" he had ever met and that was part of what made her "very, very attractive for him." In Part Two of The Christian Post's interview with the couple, the couple also explains what it was like to deal with the realities of Joni's quadriplegia, and share what they believe makes their marriage strong. Their hope is that sharing their experience can help others.
Below is Part Two of their three-part interview.
CP: After the chapter on cancer in your book you get into your courtship and engagement. We read about Joni's attraction to Ken. Ken, what drove you to pursue Joni?
Ken Tada: I have to say I had dated some women in the past, I mean prior to meeting Joni. Joni was different. She was definitely, in terms of Joni – as we were talking about 1 Samuel 16:7 – there was a deepness to our conversations that I can't explain. It just was there and I fell in love with her: her outward appearance, but her interior beauty was well. You know, the persona. It was interesting in the beginning Joni having just completed the movie and having written the book. You know she was a known figure, but the person that you'd see away from public is the same person that you see in the public as far as her genuineness, her heart. She is just as beautiful inside and outside. So, when you ask about what attracted me to her, I just think that she was unlike anyone I had ever met before and it was very, very attractive [and] all those things I had just mentioned before.
Joni Eareckson Tada: Really? Wow, I love hearing that.
Ken Tada: There you go.
CP: As you drew closer to your wedding day, the book states that there where many questions, such as how will this marriage work, did marriage make sense, would Ken get burnt out? Where did these questions come from and how did you overcome those questions?
Ken Tada: Early on, when Joni and I became serious about looking at a lifetime together, of course, we talked about this. It's the elephant in the room or the gorilla in the room. We knew there is a disability involved, but I didn't see a problem with the disability at the time. In the book, we do share the fact that it wasn't until a year into the marriage that I realized that I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was. Now, that came with the routines that go with the disability: the 24/7, the turning at night, and other areas in terms of routines that we kind of have to go through. I don't want to paint a picture that I had it all together. There was that point in our marriage that we call "the tired middle years." Not that I stopped loving my wife – I still loved Joni, but one night I sat down on the bed and just said, "Joni, I'm feeling trapped. I'm feeling like all of this is just coming down on my shoulders here." Joni has an interesting side to her response at the time.
Joni Eareckson Tada: Right, I remember when Ken said that. My first response was, "Well, what's the matter? Didn't you understand it was going to be this hard? Where was your head on our wedding day?" I mean I almost scolded him. But after we worked through these issues, and as Ken said earlier, got deeper into God's word, and leaned harder on Jesus through prayer, some years later, when Ken said the same thing, this time my response was, "I don't blame you one bit for feeling trapped. If I were you, I'd feel the exact same way. But I'm going to be here next to you. I'm going to assist you, help you, cheer you on. We're going to make it through this." That was a wonderful turning point in our marriage. When Ken understood that, we both understood that my disability was not the enemy. Certainly each other were not the enemy. It's the devil who is the enemy. We have an adversary who hates Christian marriage, who would love nothing more than to destroy Christian marriage. So the enemy is not disability, the enemy is not Ken, I'm not the enemy, the enemy is an adversary who really hates us. That brings us together. That gave us the big pictures as we often say, right Ken?
Ken Tada: Right, the big picture and often times when you have your arguments, they're always over little things. We're not experts, but generally speaking, the disagreements that Joni and I have had have been so minor. As we have gotten older, and especially through this cancer journey, we started looking at what's the bigger picture. That helped us to kind of regain some focus.
CP: Ken, how does your experience relate to other men who feel tired in their marriage?
Ken Tada: I think in all marriages you go into the marriage usually floating on a cloud and then when your feet finally hit the ground, and you realize that this is forever, sometimes that's a jarring thought for some guys.
But, I have to say that the key in marriages staying together is Jesus because there are times when your spouse is not going to meet your needs and there are times when you need to seek a higher source and know that the stability is in the fact that Jesus is in our lives and Jesus is going to see us through these things and He does. Sometimes we just have to let him take complete control so that we realize that he is an omnipotent God, but He's also sovereign and if He's sovereign, He's sovereign in blessings as well as in adversities and if that's the case, [during] those highs and the lows that marriages will go through sometimes, you're going to have to seek Jesus, at least in those low points.
CP: Joni, how did you feel when Ken said he was feeling trapped and how does a woman cope with her husband feeling tired in their relationship?
Joni Eareckson Tada: I knew when Ken said that he wasn't saying that he didn't like me, that he no longer found me appealing or it was that he didn't want to be with me. It's just the circumstances connected with my disability were so overwhelming. I lived in this wheelchair for 46 years and I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by this disability. I know what it feels like to just want to disappear, to feel trapped. Oh my goodness, there has been some many times I have felt trapped by this disability. So when Ken opened up his heart and shared that, I couldn't fault him because I have felt the same and I know what would liberate him and what would help him was simply to share that I understand. Not fault him, not scold him, not chide him, not [berate] him but just understand him. And I think husbands just want their wives to do the same. You know, just understand that we're different; men are different. They're wired different and they take pressure differently, they handle problems differently, and we need to understand that as women.
Disability is really what helped me understand Ken's trapped feelings. I think that's what really helped me get through the hump.
Ken Tada: One last thing. Because there are times when you are in an argument, sometimes, one of the two of us just says, "You know what, we need to stop and pray." But I don't feel like praying! But one of us will say inevitably we just need to stop now and just pray and that's a very powerful tool. If both people, both husband and wife, are in agreement and love Christ, there will come a point when you can just stop and pray. That's been very helpful for us.
The above transcript was edited.