September 2, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
74°F

Fully-alive Living: Appropriate Homelessness

I’ve watched flowers grow through city sidewalks.

It’s quite the phenomenon. I’ve seen people bloom in similar circumstances.

Once it happened during a mission trip on the streets of Toronto. My group came across an older homeless woman whose face and body were as exhausted as the clothes she was wearing. She had a notable speech impediment that made it difficult for us to understand her, but we eventually learned her name was Eleanor.

We listened as she shared how she’d gotten sick and lost her home years earlier, forcing her to live on the streets. She’d gutted through it and was now making (in her words) an “honest living” by performing small tasks for compassionate restaurant owners who would “pay” her through food. This explained the various half-filled beverage cups around her.

Eleanor seemed to have every reason by anyone’s standards to throw in the towel.  She was homeless, penniless, her health was slowly degrading and she was alone.

Or was she?

Throughout Eleanor’s discourse on her life, she repeated a phrase that caught my attention. “I just know that everyday my God shall supply all my needs,” she offered.

Heard that one before?  I had… or something similar, about a hundred times that day. I’d learned that if a homeless person thought you might be a Christian they would play up the “God” angle to gain additional empathy and support.

It reminded me of something Jesus said: “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16b)

Still, there was something different about Eleanor. Many people know how to talk about God, but few live dependently on the Lord. The more she shared, the more I realized that she somehow knew God personally.

Perhaps that’s why she exploded when the students shared that they were Christians. She stood up and shouted, “Oh, great!  Let’s sing!” In the most off-key voice imaginable, she began belting out a classic hymn at a volume level that probably woke up six city blocks.

It was beautiful.

Eleanor was an out-of-tune instrument who was completely in tune with the Master. The woman who had no home, actually had a Home.

I’m not sure what you take away from that, but I’d been feeling rather stressed that night. Sometimes the best of intentions can create the worst kind of fatigue, especially if we feel the need to fix our lives or the lives of people around us.

Meanwhile, someone like Eleanor offers, “My God shall supply all my needs.” A women who has every right to be stressed about where her next meal is coming knows the issue isn’t IF we’ll face trouble but HOW we’ll face it.

It kind of puts things into their proper perspective.

By the world’s standards, a homeless woman like Eleanor gets our pity for how hard her life is and the hail storms she faces. By God’s standards, a woman who has a Home like Eleanor gets our envy for how she lives in the peace of His promises and the shelter they provide in any storm.

“I just know that everyday my God shall supply all my needs,” she offered.

Try saying that out loud. Go ahead. Do it right now.

Eleanor embodied an appropriate kind of homelessness that we should embrace. It’s the idea that there’s a reason you’re taking up space where you’re at, but even if you have to move on into tough circumstances you can bloom there, too. It’s as if we keep wanting to deepen our roots into our man-made stuff, and God wants to give us wheels to journey with Him all over creation.

Maybe that’s why Jesus Christ was intentionally a homeless man during His ministry on earth. The late Rich Mullins described it well when he sang, “And the world can’t stand what it can’t own, and it can’t own You ’cause You did not have a home.”

We may be tempted to take a moment and pray for someone like Eleanor. Perhaps you might instead be thankful that someone like Eleanor just might be praying for you right now.

Until then, see you next week… if not around town.

 

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

“Fully-Alive Living” offers weekly insights to serve you in taking another step forward in matters of the heart, soul, mind, body, and relationships. With over 20 years of experience and advanced education in working with people of all ages, Tony Myles and his family live in Medina where he serves as the Lead Pastor of Connection Church.

Blog: tonymyles.blogspot.com

Twitter: @tonymyles

Contact email: tony@connectionchurch.org