When home is tent city

A Christian Science perspective.

Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but one respected estimate puts the number of those made homeless in the United States by the current recession at 1.5 million. That's on top of the 3.5 million that were already homeless. One of the "solutions" to this phenomenon is the mushrooming of tent cities – campsites, usually springing up at the edge of town, where the campers are permanent residents. For now. They join the ranks of the homeless around the world – in Brazil, India, Africa, and so many other places.

Heartening stories abound of individuals and families rallying to find some positives about their altered circumstances. But let's be honest. Almost no one really prefers this life. Especially as colder and wetter weather approaches and tent floors turn muddy.

What to do? Anyone, whether they currently live in a townhouse or a tent, can make a meaningful contribution to the quest for real solutions.

A first step might be to rethink what home truly is. Instead of automatically accepting it as strictly a physical location to which we return each night, and for which each month we write a rent check or make a sizable mortgage payment, what if we perceived home as – at its deepest and most genuine – a spiritual idea? Right away that would make home less susceptible to the vagaries of an uncertain economy. Right away, home would cease to be a too-expensive-to-maintain burden. Right away, the fact of home would grow more reliable.

To perceive home as a spiritual idea, and to glimpse that secure housing is grounded on the rock of spiritual understanding – embodying God-derived qualities such as safety, warmth, constancy, order, security and so on – is to make a meaningful contribution. No, the physical senses don't help us perceive a spiritual idea. But the one and only God who is Soul equips us to see and to experience what is divinely prepared. Every glimpse of home as a spiritual idea is a prayer. And every prayer, by its very nature, is a problem solver. Prayer, reaching out to immortal Soul, draws real solutions a bit closer.

Jesus' teachings, and even his daily life, shed light on the true nature of home. Do they also point toward home as something other than just a material phenomenon? He was protected from the elements by the Father's power, sheltered from harm by the Father's presence, and provided a needed retreat from crowds threatening to swamp him, by the Father's care. It's impossible, at least for us, to think of Jesus as lacking a home, even if he perhaps didn't always have a permanent address to give out.

So, why did Jesus say, "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)? Those words were part of his response to a would-be follower who may not have fully measured the cost of true discipleship. The man may have been a bit too eager to drop his responsibilities and go chasing after the Master. The divine promise doesn't guarantee material comforts. It does imply the fact of spiritual comfort, provision, shelter, and care. As a spiritual idea, home gets appropriately expressed on the human scene, as does every other spiritual idea. Not in some scarcely discernible way, but magnificently.

Jesus gave voice to the magnificence of the divine promise when he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). Think of that. To accept the fact of many mansions, and to realize that the Christ prepares a place for each and every child of God, is to engage in powerfully healing prayer.

Mary Baker Eddy, a consecrated follower of Jesus, discerned his teachings to be so consistent and reliable as to be scientific. This "Science of Soul," as she came to sometimes call it, takes the limits off our perception of all good. It's not too much to pray to God as immortal Soul for a good expression of home for every individual. A student of Mrs. Eddy's teaching recalled her as once saying: "Home is not a place but a power. We find home when we arrive at the full understanding of God. Home! Think of it! Where sense has no claims and Soul satisfies" (Irving C. Tomlinson, "Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy," Amplified Edition, p. 211).

Those living in a tent city, and those caring about all who do live there, can expect to hear the Christ-message reminding them of their Soul-provided and Soul-maintained home. As this understanding grows in our hearts, no circumstance will ever be able to eliminate the practical expression of home in our lives.

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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