By Joni Eareckson Tada
Ken opened wide the front door so I could wheel out to the van. For a long moment I sat squarely in the door frame, staring and taking it all in: the tree along our brick path was sprouting new, green leaves and little flowers were poking their heads through the soil. It was the freshest of spring mornings. Oh God, I breathed, If only I could feel as fresh.
After more than four decades of quadriplegia, I’m tired. Please don’t think I’m a veteran or a professional when it comes to living in a wheelchair. I’m not an expert. My bones are weary and thin from battling everything from pressure sores and pneumonia to stage III cancer. My question these days is never “Why, God?” it’s most often “How?” How do I keep on going? How do I care about others when I’m consumed with my own physical challenges? How can I be kind and civil when pain wracks me? How can I find the strength to face this day?
That morning, Ken had the answer. “Why aren’t you out by the van?” he asked when he came from the kitchen with my lunch bag. Staring at the splendorous morning beyond the door, I answered him with a deep sigh.
“Wait here,” he said, “I know exactly what you need.” Soon he was back with a yellow post-it note. With a thick felt-tipped pen, he had simply penned on it the letter ‘C.’ I gave him an odd look. “It stands for Courage,” he said, “The courage of Christ. I can see it in your eyes, Joni, and you can do this. I know you can!” With that, he pressed the post-it on my shirt, right above my heart.
I glanced at it, and then up at him. I can’t explain what happened next, but grace flooded my heart. His note was a means of grace, like a holy sacrament through which God creates faith inside us. And it felt so liberating.
A breeze wafted in and my eyes became wet. “Thank you,” I whispered to Ken and lifted my arm to give him a hug. “Thank you for that.” He wiped my nose, kissed my cheek, and said softly, “Let’s get this day going.” I then wheeled out into the morning feeling a fresh wave of strength from my Savior.
Proverbs 18:21 sums it up: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Ken only said a few words, and probably without giving them much thought. But those words were brimming with power and life. His was a pronouncement, a declaration of the good he saw in me… or, at least the good he wanted to see. And God gave me His amazing grace to rise to the occasion.
It’s a hard world. Even the best of Christians are feeling the weight of weariness. It’s why the Bible tells us to “Encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). Think of the people you’ll see today… friends recovering from surgery, neighbors dealing with grief, coworkers coping with pain. Whether you say it in an email, over the phone, or in person, your words have the capacity to change their countenance and strengthen their character. And the best word of all to share? The Word made flesh, Jesus, who always has courageous words of life.