Joni Eareckson Tada: When My Quadriplegia Ends

What makes me long for Heaven

Joni Eareckson Tada: When My Quadriplegia Ends

What makes me long for Heaven

On the morning of my wedding, my helpers laid me on a couch in the church’s bridal salon to dress me in my gown. They heaved and shifted my paralyzed body this way and that, trying to fit me into it, but when I sat back in my wheelchair, I groaned. In the mirror, I looked like a float in the Rose Parade.

Right before I wheeled up the aisle, my bouquet slid off my lap. That’s when I spotted a greasy tire mark on my hem. My chair was spiffed up, but it was still a big, clunky thing with belts and ball bearings. I was not the picture-perfect bride.

Then I caught a glimpse of Ken at the front. He was craning his neck, looking for me. My face grew hot, and my heart began to pound. Suddenly, my wheelchair and clumpy dress with its smudges faded away. I had seen my beloved, and how I looked no longer mattered. I couldn’t wait to get to the front to be with him. 

I may have felt unlovely, but the love in Ken’s face washed it all away. I was the pure and perfect bride. That’s what he saw, and that’s what changed me.

One Glimpse of Him

Our first glimpse of our Savior may well be like this moment. Just one look from Jesus will completely transform us (1 John 3:2). And it’s why everything in me cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I long to be free of the stain of sin. And why wouldn’t I? Jesus gave Himself up for me “that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

He has given me a head start. For although my suffering has often felt overwhelming—as when I saw myself in that mirror—it’s been God’s choicest tool in making me holy. My affliction keeps purging sin and selfishness out of my heart, honing me into the picture-perfect bride. Heaven is the holy habitation where I’ll be presented to Jesus spotless and blameless. And my suffering is helping with that.

Some don’t quite believe me. They think I want Jesus to come back so I can jump out of my wheelchair and walk again. Although at one time that was true, decades of leaning on Jesus in my suffering have driven my longings for Heaven deeper. A glorified body will be nice, but I want a pure heart. I want to be holy.

And so, as with any hopeful bride-in-waiting, I’m getting ready, trusting that “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). How can I cling to the very sins that crushed my Lover against His cross? Why would I allow the serpent to coil himself around my heart when Jesus gave everything to crush his head?

My Savior is the fairest of ten thousand, and his love is sweeter than wine, so I strive to live a “self-controlled, upright, and godly [life] in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself … to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:12-14).

Chorus of Sighs

I am not the only one who is aching for Christ’s return. John, in Revelation 22:17, tells us that “the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’” I can see why. As “the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), the Spirit grieves when Christ’s betrothed shames the name of her Lord with doctrinal distortions and moral failure. Even the world mocks and scoffs when,

with a scornful wonder, 

men see her sore oppressed, 

by schisms rent asunder, 

by heresies distressed.

And while the bride cries to be pure, so does the earth. Think of the horror and holocausts that sin has brought upon the world. I have shared the Spirit’s pain when I see children with disabilities in impoverished countries being sold into slavery or further maimed to become pitiful beggars. Or when elderly people are abused. Or when children are aborted because of a chromosomal irregularity. I cry along with the Spirit for Jesus to come and “rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

Our bruised and broken planet, and all that dwells in it; all of creation, from starving animals to denuded forests; even the entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning for Christ to make all right at the unveiling of God’s glory in His sons and daughters (Romans 8:19). Oh, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Yes, I ache for my Savior to speed His return, but I am keenly aware that “the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient … not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If in all my afflictions I have tasted the goodness of God, how can I not share that same goodness with my neighbors? My Bridegroom would want that, and so I hurry His return, as it were, by giving the Good News to as many as possible.

That Grand Moment

If we are blessed to be living at the time of Christ’s return, we will literally hear Him respond to our cry. Soon—perhaps sooner than we think—“the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The Bridegroom comes!

We are now getting to the heart of why we long for Jesus’ return: It will be the end of the ages. Christ’s Kingdom will be complete. His matchless Name vindicated. Sin, death, the devil and his hordes—all of them—judged and destroyed. The glory of Jesus Christ filling the universe as He is crowned King of kings. Earth and Heaven restored.

At this, our faces may grow hot and our hearts may pound, for, in a flash, we shall be glorified (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). We will finally grasp that the whole plan of redemption was the Father’s way of securing for His Son a wonderful gift: His spotless bride, His inheritance and joy.

Grace That Brings Us Home

So we cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!” For we belong to Him, and we will spend all of eternity praising the glory of His grace. Grace that rescued us from sin, and sustained us in our weakness. Grace that brought us safely home (Ephesians 1:6).

Now, picture with me great multitudes of the redeemed, pulsing with joy and infused with light. Surrounded by the angelic host, we shall press in line with the great procession of the saved, streaming through gates of pearl; an infinite cavalcade from earth’s wide bounds and the oceans’ farthest coasts, all in one joyous parade; countless generations, all lifting our diadems before God.

“Hallelujah!” we will shout. “For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-7).

I am making myself ready. So, Maranatha, Lord Jesus! Come soon to carry Your bride across Your threshold, making all things—even us—new. ©2021 Joni Eareckson Tada

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.

This article is adapted from an article first published at DesiringGod.org.

Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, is an advocate for people with disabilities. Her bestselling autobiography, “Joni,” and the feature film of the same name, produced by BGEA’s World Wide Pictures, introduced her story around the world.

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