Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homelessness

It's a drizzly day here in Bellingham, the kind of day that makes me want to hole in my house by the fire with a good book and enough tea to last through the day. Even Maica had to be coaxed to retrieve her tennis ball with dog treats, or they'll be left scattered all over the yard like neon green pine-cones (since the big Lug died, she's been like a squirrel hoarding her balls all over this house--in both kennels, under couches, beds, in bathrooms). So I was a bit surprised to see Everett show up a few minutes ago to put in six hours on our front garden.
"I'm not afraid of a little rain," he told me, the gigantic hoop earring in his left ear nodding in agreement.
"Okay," I said. "I don't have any money on me." And before I could finish my sentence he took a step backwards, the fear showing on his face. I hurried to say, "So I'll go down to the bank before your day is finished.  The relief was palpable.  Twenty bucks means more to someone like Everett. I have to keep that in mind--not scare him.

So while I sit by the fire, I'm thinking of homeless people. People wandering through life with nowhere to call their own. Most of us take our homes for granted. Whether those homes are large and luxurious or small and compact, if we have enough money that we also have access to computers in our homes, we usually have enough. Yes, I realize there are those who have chosen electronic devices over food for their families but I'm talking about most of us.  We have addresses. Phone numbers. A host of different numbers that make up our identities, when you thing about it. My mother refused to memorize her social security number because she didn't want to be reduced to a number. I, on the other hand, know not only my own, but Beve's, my kids, and even Grampie's number these days. Somebody has to remember such things for him.

But the truth is, we're descendants of homeless people. Everyone who lives on this continent came from nomadic people. Even most of the native tribes moved their villages depending on the season. There were no addresses here. No fixed place (an exception would be the cliff-dwellers of the Southwest).  And if our fore-parents arrived here from somewhere else, our families left another homeland, a specific village or town or city, to take their lives in their hands, put their trust in God (if they were believers) and become nomadic--at least for a while--before finding their own promised land.

And that leads me to our spiritual heritage--no matter where we now dwell in this world. If we are Christians (or even Jews or Muslims, for that matter) we are descendants of Abraham. Called Abram at the time, God told him to leave Ur, take his wife and go (see Genesis 12). To wander to the land that God would show him, the land that would become one of promise. So he left, became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah. And nomadic for a while, they got themselves into a bit of trouble in their wandering before settling in that land of promise--the land blessed by God, though less lovely than the one chosen by Lot.

Later there was another long, long period of homelessness. 40 years of living in tents, of packing up and walking and having to trust God for sustenance and shelter and everything else. Homelessness wasn't easy. It revealed what a soft and unfaithful people those people of God really were. A whole generation lived and died without ever putting down roots. Their own unfaithfulness kept them wandering from the moment they left the comfort of "when I used to have a life" to when they died. And...honestly, this is a hard story for me to read. I feel for them. As stiff-necked and unfaithful as they were, I'm glad (as usual) I'm not God, because I know exactly how I'd feel if I'd been living that life among them.

You see, homelessness never is for the faint of heart, because we're soft. We all are. We want our creature comforts; we worry and fret when those comforts begin to slip from our grasps. And we don't trust that God is ahead of us. No matter what. Maybe for a moment we do, but it's hard to sustain. It's a rare and mighty thing to see someone who really gets that God is always, always ahead of us. Always leading. We should watch such people, stand in their shadow and allow their bright trust to shine on us as well.

I'm no different than anyone else. Homelessness scares the living daylights out of me. I admit that. I think I'd crumble to the ground and die before I'd been on the streets a week. And without a place to put my head, I would I trust God? Would I believe that He was in it? I think it might be a stretch beyond my powers to endure.

But I know this, "Foxes has holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to place His head." (Luke 9: 58)  Jesus spent His earthly ministry without a home. He went from place to place, trusting God for the next step. Our Lord Himself was homeless. And perhaps, we see Christ most when we gaze into the eyes of those who also have no place to lay their heads.

But there's another, more practical daily point for us. It isn't essentially about not having an address, but trusting that the next step, the next place we go is directed by God. This is what we learn from the wanderings in the Word. God led and He was followed. No matter what. In the desert, as we go from place to place, wherever our lives take us. It's an attitude of homelessness--trusting Him for sustenance and shelter  of every kind.

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