When she was 17 years old, Joni Eareckson dove into some water after misjudging its depth. The miscalculation left her paralyzed from the shoulders down and in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She knew this handicap might cause her to miss out on some things in life.
She didn’t know that it might cause her to miss out in church, as well.
Before the accident, Joni had enjoyed a vigorous lifestyle; she played various sports, hiked, and rode horses. The accident would negatively impact those pastimes, of course, but fortunately, she also had a strong faith in God. Joni’s faith didn’t mean she didn’t suffer, however. Throughout her ongoing rehabilitation, she had bouts of depression, suicidal inclinations, and doubts about her faith.
In coming to terms with her new disability, Joni would attend church. In her wheelchair. The same wheelchair that limited her in the world. The same wheelchair that limited her in church, as she would soon discover.
In her book Heaven: Your Real Home, she recounts an episode she experienced at a faith convention.
The speaker closed his message by asking everyone in the large room to push their chairs away from the table and, if they were able, to kneel on the carpeted floor for prayer. I watched as everyone in the room – maybe five or six hundred people – hiked up their cuffs and got down on their knees. I couldn’t stop the tears.
I wasn’t crying out of pity or because I felt awkward or different. Tears were streaming because I was struck with the beauty of seeing so many people on bended knees before the Lord. It was a picture of heaven.
What’s my point about kneeling? It’s just that I wish I could do it. It’s impossible for me to bow in worship.
Sitting there, I was reminded that in heaven I will be free to jump up, dance, kick, and do aerobics. If possible, somewhere, sometime before the party gets going, sometime before the guests are called to the banquet table at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the first thing I plan to do on resurrected legs is to drop on grateful, glorified knees. I will quietly kneel at the feet of Jesus.
The day is drawing near when I’ll be able to kneel again.
Joni can’t wait to kneel before God. It’s something we can do now. Let’s do it often.
Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan, 1996, Page 64-65.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)