Author, artist and disability advocate Joni Eareckson Tada is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center.
When she was 17 years old and heading off to college, joni and her sister decided to go for a swim at Chesapeake Bay. They swam out to a raft that was a little way off the shore. Right before she took the dive, Joni remembered clearly that her sister had her back turned to her.
As she dived into the water, her head hit the bottom, causing it to snap back and crushing her 4th cervical level, severing her spinal cord. She was left faced down in the water, totally unable to right herself up.
"My sister is not going to see me!" That was the thought that went through Joni's mind at that moment.
Just as her sister was about to leave the water and walk up the shore, a little crab bit her toe. It startled her and she whirled around to shout a warning to Joni. When she did that, she saw the white peroxided hair floating on the murky water.
God used a little crab and the drugstore purchased peroxide hair color to save Joni's life.
Although Joni survived the accident, she became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
As Joni laid on the hospital bed, she was outraged at God, feeling that her Father in heaven has let her down. Anger accompanied her throughout the whole rehabilitation process.
She went home a year and a half later still feeling angry and depressed.
Joni was invited to stay at her sister's farm in Maryland after leaving the rehabilitation center. All she wanted was to be left alone, with the drapes drawn, the lights off and the air-conditioning on.
After living like that for about 4 to 5 weeks, she realized that there was something in her that cannot live with such a heavy burden of despair.
There is something about us as human begins that is too significant to live with despair. We need to have hope.
Hope is the most important thing to any human being.
Joni prayed a short prayer there and then, "God, if I cannot die, please show me how to live. I cannot do quadriplegia. So You're going to show me how to live."
The next morning, Joni found the courage to ask her sister to pull back the drapes, turn on the lights, help her onto the wheelchair and stepped out of the room.
It was a huge step and a turning point for her.
Joni has come a long way since that day. Even though she sits on countless boards to as an advocate for the disabled, she is not a veteran in disability.
Every morning, she wakes up very weak and very tired of quadriplegia.
Every morning, she will then pray, "I'm so tired of quadriplegia. Show me how to live, Lord."
Somehow, that's a strange secret to contentment - to be able to recognize one's weakness and one's desperate need for God.