By Step Hubach
Over the years, our family has established a funny pattern of associating different people we know with characters in movies that we watch. This all started with my youngest son Tim, who has Down syndrome. When he was little, as a movie progressed, we’d all wait for him to identity the “who’s who” of that particular film. For example, if the movie was Sleeping Beauty (and it had been a tough parenting week) I pretty much cringed, expecting to be assigned the role of “Maleficent, the wicked fairy.” A better week might earn me a slot as “Princess Aurora, gifted with grace and beauty.” No one was exempt from a potential role. Family members, friends, and even church elders received assignments from time to time. (A balding elder at our church was once named “Yoda” from Star Wars. Sadly for him the name has stuck!) When the movie Finding Nemo came out a number of years ago, both my boys decided that I was definitely “Dory, the friendly but forgetful regal blue tang fish.” As a character that is both optimistic and somewhat easily distracted, I have to admit…oh, I forgot, what was I going to say? Anyway, Dory has a hard time staying focused.
In our Christian life, we all have struggle with focus. And it often stems from focusing on the wrong things. You’ve probably seen the image before. It is a black and white optical illusion that reveals two totally different pictures depending on where you focus. If your eyes focus one way, you will see a vase. If they focus another way, you will see the silhouettes of two faces pointed towards each other. It all depends on your perspective. Both images are real-but only one can be the focus of the viewer.
In a similar way, our perspective on others in the body of Christ will impact what we see in them. When you focus on another individual, do you tend to see their deficits or do you tend to focus on their competencies? More often than not, we tend to view people-especially people with disabilities-from the orientation of what they cannot do. This view comes, in part, from an unbiblical worldview of disability-and therefore an inaccurate view of not only others, but also of us. The Bible teaches us that disability is a normal part of life in an abnormal world. Brokenness occurs across a spectrum-in differences of degree for each of us-in every area of life. None of us exists in a state of complete and utter brokenness on every level. None of us exists in a state of complete and utter blessing or “wholeness” on any level. Disability is a normal part of living in a world where there is a complicated mix of the blessedness of creation and the brokenness of the fall. All of us need encouragement and supports to deal with our limitations and to build on our strengths.
Now, think about the grace of God for a moment. When the Father looks at us, does he focus on our inadequacies, or does His gaze focus only on the ultimate, beautiful competency of Christ alone on our behalf? God knows what our deficits are more fully than we do-but instead of condemning us for our inabilities He supplied the supports we needed to be successful in a relationship with Him-the perfect sacrifice of His Son, and His perfect life lived on our behalf. Can we do any less? How can we be any less than intentional about sacrificially making the Gospel-the good news of the coming of the Kingdom-accessible to all, in word and deed?
In addition, not only do we all struggle with perspective when we look at the disabilities and abilities of ourselves and of others-we also all struggle, at times, with having a sense of perspective on God’s purposes in our lives too. That struggle can manifest itself in a variety of ways for different people. Parents who have children with special needs often have difficulty letting go of the life they anticipated and embracing the life that God has called them to, in His Providence. This can be a normal part of the grieving process. But if a family gets “stuck” in that place, it is easy for frustration to set in. By fixating on “what might have been” the optical illusion can become stuck in the mind of the viewer, making it very difficult to switch focus and see “the great opportunities that God has provided.” When we interviewed families for the 2010 WIC Love Gift DVD, we heard countless stories of God at work changing the focus of lives from their agenda to His. Recently, I received an email from a mother of an adult child with disabilities. Here is an excerpt of it…
Henry Blackaby once wrote that “God is always at work and He invites you to join Him.” Great is Thy Faithfulness is my favorite hymn and I’ve asked my family to make sure that it’s sung at my funeral. But more than a hymn, it’s been a “sacred echo” or theme in my life the last 3 years as God brought Briarwood’s Special Needs Ministry, Missions and Multiplication, Flower Guild and ESL ministries together in my life.
My name is Donna Evans. My husband Bruce and I have been married for 35 years. We have four adult children ages 22-31. Our 26 year old son, James Bruce, is autistic and mentally challenged. Bruce and I have been members at Briarwood for almost 23 years. I work as a pharmacist at UAB Hospital, teach women’s Sunday School classes and weekly Bible studies, and speak at women’s conferences/retreats across the Southeast.I say all of that only to give you a little background for the story below which I hope will encourage you.
About 3 years ago, I really started praying about taking a short term mission trip anywhere. We have participated in Faith Promise at Briarwood for over 20 years, but I’ve never been able to go to another part of the world due to child care arrangements for James Bruce. Still I prayed. God, however, didn’t answer my prayer as I planned. (He seldom does!) What He did was send three internationals to me: one a Hungarian, special needs mom who “happened” to be a pharmacist; a Japanese non-believer who joined our flower guild as a way to “pay back” the church for ESL lessons; and a Vietnamese atheist co-worker, also a special needs mom who is willing to come to our parent support groups. Each has a different story but God has given me a different perspective on “segregating” ministries. And the one thing that I thought was “holding me back” (ie: James Bruce and special needs) really became the vehicle for ministry.
Perspective. Godly focus. We all need it. We all lack it. That’s what this year’s 2010 WIC Love Gift for MNA Special Needs Ministries is all about.
- Learning to see people with disabilities through a biblical lens, and thereby seeing ourselves more accurately as a result.
- Learning to view our life’s circumstances through God’s eyes, and thereby fully embracing the life that was always in His plan for us-even if it was never in ours.
- Learning to make the Gospel-the good news of the coming of the Kingdom-accessible to all of us-in word and deed.
Won’t you help your church focus on these things this year? And give generously?
Oh, look…there goes a bird! Gotta go… :>)
Steph “Dory” Hubach
MNA Special Needs Ministries Director
For more information on the 2010 WIC Love Gift: