Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability By Stephanie Hubach. P & R Publishing (2006).
Book review by Christine Guth
In Same Lake, Different Boat, Stephanie Hubach uses her experiences of living with a child's disability as a springboard for reflection about faithful Christian living in a broken world. Hubach combines lively anecdotes from her family life with scriptural interpretation to share spiritual insights she has gained from the hard work of holding fast to faith through the ups and downs of raising two sons, one of whom has Down Syndrome.
Grounding her reflections in a broad range of scripture, Hubach shares insights that she and her family have gained from the active struggle of living with disability. She starts by frankly acknowledging that we live in a world where bodies and minds do not always work as we think they ought to, where brokenness and disability are frequently encountered parts of life. She helps her readers to consider a biblical perspective on disability and to better understand the challenges that disability imposes on families. She then invites readers to apply these understandings toward shaping an active role for the church in the lives of individuals and families affected by disabilities.
Same Lake, Different Boat draws on simple language and illustrations from everyday life to talk about fundamental questions of Christian faith. I appreciated its emphasis on such important themes as discipleship, the church as community of faith and life, justice and mercy, and the reign of God already begun but not yet complete. The book would be a helpful tool for opening or continuing congregational conversations about how to offer the presence of Christ to those touched by disability. The book's thirteen chapters, each accompanied by discussion questions, provide a helpful format for a quarter-long group study.
Yet this book is not narrowly about disabilities. Because she recognizes disability as "a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience,'' Hubach's reflections offer valuable insight and challenge for all who struggle to maintain faith and hope in God from within human limitation, regardless of the particulars of the struggle.
The author's assertion that disability is a normal part of life in an abnormal world grows out of the biblical conviction that God's good creation is thoroughly marred by sin. The experience of God's grace and the awareness of the image of God in others provide the foundation for respect of others whose life experiences and circumstances are different than our own. ``Grace gives us the freedom to be truth tellers about life as it really is, declare hope for the future, and testify to the character of God. At the same time, mercy is the vehicle by which we enter in and share in the sorrow, increasing our own perspective as well'' (p. 129).
Hubach describes the difficulties of coming to terms with a new disability in a family, including grief, unwanted change, medical and financial worries, and testing of faith. Such families need the church's understanding and expressions of mercy especially during the initial adjustment period. Occasionally in this section I found her statements about disability inadequate to describe the experience of disability in my own family, but such generalization is hard to avoid when the range of disabling conditions is so broad. In any case, she is right to suggest that churches need wisdom to know when and how to help families with the heavy burdens they bear without taking over the smaller load each family is capable of carrying for itself.
Hospitality extended to those who are different is a matter of justice, mercy, and faithfulness, asserts Hubach. "May the day come,'' she writes, "when people with disabilities are not strangers to the church, but are welcomed into a community that offers justice in the form of access for all; mercy that is voluntary, engaged, and personal; and faithfulness that lovingly demonstrates unwavering commitment for the duration'' (p.166). May it be so.
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