It was about midnight when a car alarm went off under my hotel window. The alarm would stop, then repeat itself every few seconds, and I found myself tossing and turning. I was to spend the next two days - and that was all the time I had - finding housing in Chicago. But how could I sleep, I moaned, with that horn disturbing me every few seconds?
I thought back to the time my husband and I had come to this city as newlyweds shortly after World War II. Because of little construction during the war years and the influx of returning servicemen, housing was scarce. A relative had used his business connections to get us a three-day reservation in a hotel that was far more luxurious than what we were used to.
We moved from there into our first "home," which was inadequate and dirty. We got busy scrubbing, and stayed there for the next few weeks until something better opened up. During the following 35 years, we made five more moves in the area, mostly to accommodate a growing family. Now I was returning to this city a widow, and for the first time, looking for a place where I would be living alone.
I took refuge from my restlessness in that song that was first sung to a desert people who found shadows a welcome relief from the scorching sun: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1). The promise of God's protection from the elements extended right to me. This wonderful psalm identifies the many protections this safe place with God affords - freedom from fear, diseases, enemies of all kinds, accidents, anything that would be destructive.
I don't know when the horn stopped blowing, but I woke the next morning refreshed, looking forward to my adventure.
When you actively contemplate God's promises, presence, and power, it's natural to expect good places to live. Such expectation may be difficult to maintain, and may even appear foolish, when income level limits one's choice of housing. Not to mention the world's massive problems - when genocide and wars drive inhabitants from their homes, when disasters destroy hundreds of houses.
Yet trust in God does make a difference. The recognition and acknowledgment that everyone's real, spiritual home is in God is effective in changing expectations - and surroundings as well. Trust in a higher power that enforces justice and security for everyone inspires the persistence needed to provide and improve public housing, refugee camps, and emergency housing for victims of earthquakes and other disasters.
The news calls for prayers for those who lost their homes during the earthquakes in El Salvador and India, or because of the political situation in Central Africa. My challenge of finding an apartment in Chicago seems small indeed compared to what other people face. Yet, the peace I gained from that psalm, and the fact that I found a place in Chicago 10 years ago that continues to bless me, inspires my prayers for the homeless today.
The Bible continues to be a rich resource for my prayers. Also, Mary Baker Eddy's work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," unlocks, for me, many of the Bible's truths. For example, her naming the Shepherd "divine Love" in the 23rd Psalm: "[Divine love] is my shepherd; I shall not want. [Love] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [love] leadeth me beside the still waters." And this idea is summed up at the end of the psalm: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever" (pg. 578).
Those who live in inadequate housing, as well as those who have little joy despite living in a mansion, can find home. The consciousness of divine Love will begin at once to improve our lives, and the places where we live them.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society