"Same Lake, Different Boat" by Stephanie O. Hubach. A Review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We're not very good in the ways we interact and relate with people who have different types of disabilities. I have seen people leave a church because they found out the newly called and installed minister had a child who had neurological and visual malformities and was completely wheelchair bound. In all my years I have only met one minister in one small church who had a clear disability (he had contracted polio as an infant and was unable to use his legs, requiring two forearm crutches). At times I myself have pulled away from people with handicaps, or treated them in a patronizing way. But if these people are men, women, girls or boys made in God's image, and if loving others is evidence that God abides in us (1 John 4.7-12), then having a better concept of disability is essential. That's where Stephanie O. Hubach, mother of a son with Down Syndrome, who served as founding director of Mission to North America’s Special Needs Ministries, is presently a research fellow in disability ministries and visiting instructor for educational ministries at Covenant Theological Seminary, can give us a hand-up. In 2006 Hubach wrote a 240 page paperback, "Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability," on this very subject. She drew richly from Scripture, Theology and her own and others experience to give readers a healthier perception and a better theology of disability. I was very touched by the book, and was brought to rethink what I do as a pastor and what we do as a church.
After a Forward by Joni Eareckson Tada the author takes the reader through thirteen well thought-out chapters that are geared toward classes and individual study. Each chapter ends with "Personal Application" questions. Hubach moves from foundational questions (chapters 1-5), to families (chapters 6-9) and ends with the church (chapters 10-13). Throughout the volume she shows how disability "is essentially a more noticeable form of brokenness that is common to the human experience - a normal part of life in an abnormal world" (29). That's the key to unlock the hard places in our hearts: disability is a normal part of life in an abnormal world! In fact, that is the subtle point behind the book's title. We're all on the same lake (life, made in the image of God, and so forth), just in different boats (personal limitations, brokenness and experiences of the fall). Once we get captured by this analogy, it helps keep us from falling into the pit of patronizing others: "Keeping the manifestations of mercy personal helps prevent us from operating from a position of power" (161). It's a potent and persuasive book.
Beyond the subject of disability, I found Hubach helpfully addressing other areas that fit into, but reach beyond, the book's purpose. Perceptive readers will easily pick up how what she wrote in 2006 is germane to the ways we engage our society, racial tensions, and worldviews today. For example, the author observes that in the work "of access and advocacy for people with disabilities this means we will always seek grace-based justice for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbor, not demand-based justice that seeks power and control for a select few" (143). Take a moment to allow this remark to sink in. How often in our conflicts, church tensions, pro-life work, racial strife, campaigns, etc. do we charge forward with demand-based justice? Hubach develops this juxtaposition further when she unpacks the deep difference between revolution and reformation (chapter 13). It's a little book with a big wallop!
"Same Lake, Different Boat" is a must read for ministers, Christians of all stripes, and those families who have someone in their home who has disability - whether from birth, illness, or aging. The stories, which are often humorous but not glamorous, will make you laugh and cringe. And the theological and biblical nature of the book will hearten you. I happily and highly recommend the book.
My thanks to Ashley Belknap, Director of Engaging Disability with the Gospel (http://engagingdisability.org/), and Cheryl Erb, ministry assitant, who freely gave me a copy of this book used for this review when we were at our denomination's General Assembly in June 2018. The comments and reflections are my own, and are freely given.
Here is the link to purchase the book: "Same Lake, Different Boat"
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