“Probably no word better summarizes the suffering of our time than the word ‘homeless.’ It reveals one of our deepest and most painful conditions, the condition of not having a sense of belonging, of not having a place where we can feel safe, cared for, protected, and loved.” — Henri Nouwen
Where do you belong? Do you have a place where you call home, in the true, complete childlike sense? Most of us, I would venture, suffer from this kind of homelessness — we do not have a place to belong. Nietzsche said that all we wear are masks. And that there is nothing behind the mask except a shadow that moves at infinite speed to another mask. In such a condition, can we ever come home? And what is preventing us from doing that?
Jesus said that was easier for a camel to get through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. Why? In the Kingdom, we belong because of our need for it. To belong is to admit need, to admit openness and vulnerability. In a world obsessed with securities, whether financial or not, this is indeed a very difficult thing. We do not want to be seen as vulnerable, as powerless, as wounded and woundable. But this is precisely where the Kingdom begins.
One of the things that becomes clearer and clearer as I get older is the passing of all things. Entropy is more and more of a fact. This is doubly true when it comes to ideas and feelings of home. Home is a strange idea, a place that is u-topian: that is, no where. And the more secure I try to make an idea of home (whether through savings, rootedness, friendship-networks), the more fleeting it appears to be. This is, of course, unless there is transcendent feeling of belonging. Unless I look beyond the bounds of this nature, I will never find a place to call home, to come home.
What securities are we trying to build around ourselves? In our insulating efforts to avoid vulnerability, how much of our spirits have we destroyed? There is research to suggest that the richer someone is, the less compassion they have (especially for the poor). In being rich, do we lose our humanity? It is the great irony that in insulating ourselves, we expose our souls to the bitter winds of loneliness and dispossession. Without the ability to be affected, we lose our sense of belonging and being at home in the world, in God’s world. We lose touch with our own humanity and the humanity around us. We are spiritually homelessness amid our wealth, but what does that profit us; what does it matter to gain the world but lose our soul?
May the God who entered into our poverty, teach us what it means to be rich. May the example of Jesus, who was open and vulnerable, lead us into love and compassion for those around us. And may our eyes be opened by the Holy Spirit to see suffering, and to act without the highest regard for ourselves but for others.
A Final Thought: I think that in using the word “homelessness” and “homeless,” I have to briefly touch on the subject of sleeping rough. My first thought, and what we must always remember: these persons are persons, created and loved by God. Their situations are varied and complicated, but I believe that if we could regain our compassion, we could creatively solve the many issues surrounding them. But most importantly, we would not hesitate to show our solidarity with them, especially as Christians, since the Son of Man was homeless — having no where to lay his head.