Home for the homeless

A Christian Science perspective.

One of the most poignant moments in the 2006 movie "Pursuit of Happyness" is when Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, has been reduced to taking shelter in a public men's room while caring for his young son. He feels desperate, ashamed, and in anguish over it. Then his son looks up at him and says, "You're a good daddy."

Based on a true story, this is an example of the challenges people around the US and other countries are facing when they lose their jobs and their homes. Clearly, compassion and kindness are a good response when someone we know has this trouble. But our prayer, enriching our hearts with spiritual answers, can do even more for them. It can provide a spiritual perspective that's useful to us, too.

Describing his own experience, Jesus once said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Luke 9:58). Yet there's no record that Jesus ever lacked a place to stay when he needed it.

One reason for this could be that Jesus understood home as a spiritual reality. This is possible for us also. One way to begin is with the recognition that home is wherever our Father-Mother God is caring for us – and that is everywhere. The loss of a house can seem a bleak and terrifying prospect. But right there and then, divine Love's tender sheltering care is present to meet the need for a place to live.

The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy , was no stranger to hardship, and when she was gaining her first glimpses of this Science, she was often homeless. From 1860, when she was evicted from a house in North Groton, N.H., because of foreclosure, until she established a home for herself and a few students of Christian Science in May 1870, she moved over 20 times. The day of her eviction she wrote,

Father didst not thou the dark wave treading,
Lift from despair the struggler with the sea?
And seest thou not the scalding tears I'm shedding,
And knowest Thou not my pain and agony?"

(quoted in Robert Peel, "Mary Baker Eddy – The Years of Discovery," page 140).

She had little money or income, and sometimes friends or students took her in. She also lived in boarding houses, teaching Christian Science and helping out in exchange for room and board. As biographer Robert Peel wrote, "All her life a home of her own was a matter of deepest importance to Mrs. Eddy, and one of her greatest hardships was the fact that so much of her existence had to be lived in other people's houses. In Science and Health [with Key to the Scriptures] she would write, 'Home is the dearest spot on earth, and it should be the centre, though not the boundary, of the affections' [p. 58]" ("Years of Discovery," page 140).

Yet later she would say of those days, "God had been graciously preparing me during many years for the reception of this final revelation of the absolute divine Principle of scientific mental healing" (Science and Health, page 107).

Gaining a spiritual sense of home as the center of one's affections, rather than a material location, can do much to help someone who has lost or fears losing a home. Rather than clinging to the material characteristics of the home one has been living in, it's helpful to identify it in terms of spiritual qualities such as safety, beauty, peace. Home is more than a house, a condo, or an apartment. It's a spiritual state of consciousness that includes love for others, because one is able to feel loved and safe in God.

Christian Science explains that finding home begins with turning trustingly to one's divine Father-Mother. The desire to have a place of shelter that clearly expresses lovely qualities is natural. But even if circumstances place someone in a chaotic and unfriendly environment, the spiritual sense of home enables that person to be conscious of the loving presence of God. Children often feel this sense of home first and know it best because of their innocence and simple trust in God. They can look past the disarray and respond to the love of those around them.

We can all gain such awareness by recalling the sheltering care we've received in the past, realizing God was with us in those times and will be with us in every time to come. Love can provide what is needed – as we listen for that divine voice that is quietly and patiently speaking to consciousness, and follow its direction.

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