If your life is not directly touched by disability, either in yourself or in the life of a loved one, then you probably need to begin thinking about disability. The longer you live, the more likely it is that disability will soon knock at your door. And it is profoundly important that we think biblically about the nature of disability, and all the precious people who are disabled in the myriad of ways brokenness manifests itself in this world. Because we will inevitably respond to the existence of disability, and thus to particular persons with a disability, from the basis of our worldview.
Many hold to the view that disability is an abnormal occurrence in a normal world. This view often leads to seeing people with disabilities as weird, strange, or “not one of us.” And so it is perfectly understandable to distance ourselves from the world of the disabled, leaving their care to the professionals, and expecting disabled folks stay in their neck of the woods and not to cross into the normal world.
Others hold to the view that disability is a normal occurrence in a normal world. This view can lead to seeing those with disabilities as just like everyone else, neither victims nor privileged. “Disability exists. That’s just the way it is. Deal with it.”
The biblical view is that disability is a normal occurrence in an abnormal world. Since this world was created wonderfully good by a loving God, disability has the appearance of abnormality. But this world is also fallen because Adam and Eve brought sin into the creation, disobeying God and plunging humanity into spiritual and physical death, and dragging the whole of creation with them. The fall from goodness brought sin into the world, which entailed suffering, sickness, sorrow, brokenness, and death. So the appearance of abnormality in this world is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole world is now “abnormal”. And because of the presence of sin that infects all people, it is now “normal” to be “abnormal”. But this is not the way things are supposed to be. Nor is this the way things will always be. Because the Savior and Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ the Son of God, is restoring the world by recreating it the way it is supposed to be. According to the Bible, on the last day when Jesus returns to consummate his kingdom here on earth, he will finally and forever do away with sin and death. Every tear will be wiped away, and his people will be in his presence for eternity. Until then, God’s people are to recognize that we are all “disabled” to some degree because of the presence of sin in the world that brings personal, social, systemic, biological, and cosmic brokenness into God’s world. Yet until the last day, we are called to bring healing, wholeness, mercy, and grace to all those afflicted with disability.
It is this worldview taught in the Bible that informs Stephanie Hubach’s book and DVD presentation Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability. Hubach is the mother of an adult son named Tim with Down syndrome, and since 2007 has served as Mission to North America (MNA) Special Needs Ministries Director. MNA is an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Since her book and DVD were released in 2006-07, SLDB “has been acclaimed as a classic work on disability, the gospel, and the Church.” The DVD is a conference lecture presentation of each chapter in the book. Chapters/lectures include:
Part 1: About the Foundations
- On Truth: The Four Missing Words
- On Identification: Same Lake, Different Boat
- On Respect: Common Grace, Special Needs
- On Relentlessness: Dante’s Circles of Disability
- On Restoration: Thy Kingdom Come
Part 2: About the Families
- On Coming to Terms with a New Reality
- On Negotiating a Path to Acceptance
- On Living a New Normal Life
- On Grappling with the Great Opportunity
Part 3: About Facilitation in the Church
- On Hospitality: No Room at the Inn
- On Belonging: Same Body, Different Parts
- On Wisdom: Questions Every Church Needs to Answer
- On Change: Revolution or Reformation?
DVD Bonus Material: Q&A with Tim Hubach
It took me several months to make it through the DVDs because I watched one per week and thought about the message during the week. It proved to be a valuable and eye-opening experience to begin to see the world from the perspective of folks who are served or serving in disability ministry. I also found the tone of Hubach and her guest interviewees so refreshing. Everyone spoke about how their lives have been profoundly humbled but enriched by contact with disability. Humbled in the sense that they grew in their realization that disability affects us all, because we are all in some sense limited and “disabled” as members of the broken human family. Enriched in the sense that they grew in their love for others as they were loved by others with often a greater capacity of compassion, joy, and zest for life.
If you have been (or will be soon) touched by disability, please take the time to read and/or view Same Lake, Different Boat. It will stretch you, open your eyes, enlarge your heart, and mobilize you to loving action to serve God by loving others.
Recommended Resources for Disability and the Church
Same Lake, Different Boat (book), Stephanie Hubach
Same Lake, Different Boat (DVD), Stephanie Hubach
When God Weeps (book), Joni Eareckson Tada
Disability and the Gospel (book), Michael Beates
The Problem of Pain (book), C.S. Lewis
Disability, Suffering, and the Church (links), Justin Taylor