Ripples only form after something has disturbed water. Whether it’s a rock or a swimmer, ripples occur after something disrupts or irritates an otherwise serene environment.
Like ripples, every touching story begins with some type of conflict the protagonist must conquer. It’s interesting that we, the beneficiaries of the story, don’t usually celebrate the conflict, but rather, the individuals who have the courage to overcome the conflict. When we read the stories of people who admirably take on tragedy, sometimes we focus solely on the victories causing us to forget the back-breaking defeats that set the hero apart.
We experience the effects of the ripples, but we easily forget there had to be a disturbance beforehand.
When seventeen-year-old Joni Eareckson Tada’s dive broke the surface of the Chesapeake Bay, her mind swirled with many thoughts: Am I caught in a fishnet or something? I’m going to die! I can’t hold my breath any longer.
When she was rescued from the water and was rushed to the hospital, Joni held on to the hope that whatever paralyzed her body below her shoulders would only be temporary. However, the following surgeries and the agonizing physical therapy confirmed her worst fear: she would never walk or use her hands again.
But the thing about ripples is this: they spread from a single epicenter, and none of the water remains unaffected.
As time went on, Joni felt that God had a purpose in her accident, and He instilled in her a deep passion for reaching individuals affected by disability. Today, people around the globe have felt the ripple effect from Joni’s life. The ministry of Joni and Friends with all its outreaches is simply one way that God has used Joni’s diving accident to bless others.
Joni’s story of trial to triumph also drew the attention of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and in 1979, the Joni movie was produced. Joni played herself in the film, and in doing so, she relived her nightmarish dive along with the struggles and joys of her journey with quadriplegia. In August, Joni will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accident by showing a newly digitized, high-definition copy of the Joni movie. This exciting, red-carpet event in Southern California is open to the public.
While most people would grieve to spend 50 years in a wheelchair, the fact that Joni has chosen to celebrate this milestone is a testament to the fact that God can transform tragedies into victories.
One incident. That’s all it takes to create a ripple effect.
By the grace of God, may we all take courage in our tragedies. May we view defeats in light of our promised victories. We can trust that when something disturbs our peaceful lives, God will use the ripples to impact everyone around us.
Grace Shaffer is currently serving as an intern with the Joni and Friends Cause4Life internship program. She is passionate about capturing people’s stories and is completing a writing degree at Pensacola Christian College while drinking copious amounts of coffee.