Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What I learned from 30 seconds with Joni

I was in the Atlanta airport Monday afternoon, waiting to catch a flight back to Michigan. I'd only been in Atlanta for 36 hours; my sister and I spent a whirlwind day with our parent being a second set of eyes and ears as they checked out a few houses they’re considering. As I got off the escalator and rounded the corner to head down Concourse A, I saw a woman in a wheelchair slightly ahead of me. When she turned the chair around, I realized I was staring at Joni Eareckson Tada.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell for you, here's a quick bio: at 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. In her autobiography, she detailed her struggle to come to terms with her new life, including the belief that God was in control of all things, even her accident. 
Now, Joni was a hero to pre-teen Christy. I vividly remember seeing the movie, Joni, at the Stonemont Theater on Memorial Drive. I read her book over and over. My mom bought and framed some of Joni’s drawings… Joni was a big deal in our home.

So to see her there, with her husband, Ken, right in front of me, well, I couldn’t help myself. I asked her female companion if I could say hello and she said yes, so I introduced myself and shook her hand.

She looked me right in my eyes and asked, “Are you a Christian?”

I was not prepared for that.

I got my wits about me quickly and answered, “Yes.” I told her about the drawings of hers that my mom has and about how much I loved her movie and book. She introduced me to her husband and thanked me for saying hello. The entire interaction lasted all of 30 seconds and we went our separate ways.

But now, days later, I can’t stop thinking about her question: “Are you a Christian?”

She wouldn’t have asked that without wanting a real answer. No one asks that in the middle of the world’s busiest airport as a way to make small talk. I have no doubt that if I’d said no, she would have told me the Gospel right then and there. No way would she let it slide, not with the way she looked at me. The woman got down to business.

Which made me think about the people I want to talk to about Jesus. Do they have any idea that’s what I’m doing? Am I ever bold enough to point-blank ask if they know Jesus? Does my neighbor know I love Jesus and want her to know Him, too? Is my relationship evangelism all relationship and no evangelism?

I’m probably not going to knock on my neighbor’s door and blurt out, “Are you a Christian?” But Joni’s question made me think I need to be more intentional about asking real questions and being comfortable with the real answers. And that I need to be ready to respond with the hope of the Gospel.

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Joni and Friends was established in 1979 by Joni Eareckson Tada, who at 17 was injured in a diving accident, leaving her a quadriplegic. Since its inception, Joni and Friends has been dedicated to extending the love and message of Christ to people who are affected by disability whether it is the disabled person, a family member, or friend. Our objective is to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of this group of people in practical ways.

Joni and Friends is committed to recruiting, training, and motivating new generations of people with disabilities to become leaders in their churches and communities.