“The human drama of homelessness takes many forms, wears many faces; psychological disturbances in which we are no longer at home in the intimacy of our own lived experience; a troubled marriage in which no dwelling can be found in a relationship we assumed would always prevail; a crisis of faith in which our religious tradition since childhood ceases to be what we deep down have come to believe, or at least its truths are no longer true for us in the way they used to be…; a series of illnesses in which our body is no longer the home we have known it to be; the final, inevitable homelessness of death. It is a homelessness so boundless that the never questioned assurance of tomorrow’s sunrise no longer shelters us.”
You may not be reading these words at home, but it’s a pretty safe bet that you have one. Unlike a growing number of people, most of us have the comfort and security of a place to live – to eat, to sleep, to relax, to interact with family and friends, to be sheltered from the cold or heat, etc. But what psychologist James Finley is pointing out in the above quote is that homelessness has to do with more than the absence of a physical place to which and from which we come and go. Our minds and marriages, our beliefs and bodies, and ultimately life itself can all be “places” that offer the warmth of home – until they don’t.
Everything we have and are is impermanent. Everyone we know and love is in our life temporarily, as we are in theirs. We grow accustomed to each other, to the life we have created for ourselves, and to the “assurance of tomorrow’s sunrise,” but homelessness in its many forms is never far away. This realization need not be somber, but it is sober. The awareness that we will lose all we have can shake us up and wake us up from the semi-sleep that is taking life and relationships for granted, and redirect our minds and hearts to the home that is our soul.
In the deepest, spiritual sense, home is not where we reside, but where we choose to abide; it is not a dwelling place, but the sacred, inner-space where we are in union with the divine. When we “hang out” there, when we stop to rest and refresh ourselves in the home that is our soul, the comings and goings that comprise our life in the world become more reverent and real, more passionate and compassionate.
Although we may not presently experience any of the faces that homelessness wears, we will surely encounter that reality at some point(s) on life’s journey. But if we discover and take shelter in the peaceful stillness of our soul, even the homelessness of death may not feel so ominous.