In this section of the book, I want to round out our discussion with a rich analysis of home and offer a little more personal experience as a way to enhance our prophetic imagination.
Coming Home (Discerning the Point of Your Prophecy)
In lesson #1, we talked about homelessness and broadened the definition significantly. In the process of doing that, we barely touched on the concept of home as a sounding board upon which to bounce ideas regarding homelessness. At that point, we merely said home is a place where God is celebrated and where he dwells. Let’s now expand our image of home to a size in which the loving, Creator God of the universe might want to live.
Perhaps this is especially important since these pages are dedicated to an assembly of mostly homeless people. I hope I have made a sufficient case for suggesting that American society is manifested in a homeless culture. This, in large part, is why, or at the root of how, I sense that God is calling you in particular to bring his image to bear on our world at this place and time.
The word “home” is actually rather tricky to define. Go look it up in a dictionary and see all the different slants and/or directions a definition takes. And yet we use the word prolifically, casually, and specifically all the time. Rarely do we analyze it or split hairs over its meaning as I have done here.
And yet I claim our culture is homeless, including the President of the United States. By virtue of saying that, I am also saying that those of us in this culture basically don’t know home. We are lost – which is something you cannot be… AT HOME!
Look at the phrases and ways we use the term in our culture. The “American Dream” is all about “owning a home” where a man (or woman) is master of their own domain. We “grow up and leave home”. We get divorced and have a “broken home”. We call a girl that entices a married man a “home-wrecker”. In the market place we use phrases like “new and used homes”. Sometimes we “buy a home” or “sell a home”.
Surely all of these expressions (and more) marginalize the concept of home. I mean, if you want “down home cookin’”, you aren’t suggesting some trivial sense of the meal you want to eat. You are suggesting that there is a sense of rich blessing and care that goes into it. That is not a home you could buy or sell. Hey, we don’t ever get a hankerin’ for “new house cookin’!” That doesn’t even compute, and there is a reason for that. A new house does not yet have the history of rich blessing, care, and family upon which you CAN’T put a price tag!
And yet we have to dance around the concept of “home” basically because the term has been hijacked by the marketing culture. Without that blessed sense of the word “home”, we have to explain what we mean, and still it seems elusive.
As we go about leading lives of prophetic witness to The House of God and to The Carpenter, whose church we are, we will do well to find deep connection between our spirits and home. We will do well to develop words, concepts, and thinking regarding what home is all about.
I say this because I have personally watched people living in the shame and hardship of the streets work their way into indoor living only to fail at it. Obtaining a bed within four walls and a roof does not mean you are no longer homeless. And it’s not merely a state of mind – though your imagination is definitely involved.
If you are merely escaping the cruel elements of bad weather, hard concrete, public scorn or ridicule, and/or crime, then you are still homeless. If you obtain an apartment with a locked door and pay rent on time, but there is little or no furniture and you sit in it drinking (whether alone or with friends), you are still homeless. If you only “show off” to other street people that you now have a place of your own – you are still homeless. And some of you at [The Premier Homeless Pseudo Church] know what I mean.
Oh, you can lock yourself inside, get on your knees, and pray and still be homeless in there! Who are we kidding? This is why I say our whole culture is homeless, and that there are varying expressions of it – some of which are actually quite wealthy and powerful.
Home is not simply where your heart is (though that could be a fair depiction of it in any given case). Rather, home – any real home that could exist within God’s creation – is a place where God is Master and where both you and he are celebrated. Money cannot buy this home, nor can you sell it. It can only be broken if you (or some other key players) cease to celebrate God and each other. And as I see it, there are at least three ways celebration is manifested in a home specifically. Home is a place to eat, sleep, and have sex – each of these finding a proper way of being expressed.
I want to say a word about each of these ways of celebration and demonstrate the culture’s attack on them which renders us homeless. I believe that we need to expand this line of thinking within our community and expose the culture around us to it as well.
Home and Eating
If we could step back in time, even thirty or forty years ago, but especially 100 years or more, we would find a culture that either was specifically agrarian or at least honored agrarian ways. Men had certain kinds of roles to play and women had others. I will not dispute that there were elements within that which short-changed some people – usually women (as well as minorities, which I will not take time to discuss specifically). But gender roles are almost gone and forgotten now, and we are a lost society – not better for it.
Typically your mother did the cooking. Typically your father either physically built the structure in which your mother “made a home” or he worked and paid to have it done by professionals. Typically you had a hearth in that house – a focal point from which heat and food and light emanated. When you thought of “home”, the picture of that scene would likely fill your imagination.
If you were out and about town and became hungry at dinner time, you would go home to eat. The food would be prepared – largely “from scratch” by your mother (or wife or sister – a significant woman who loves you). She did not charge you $5 to eat some dish called by a number and mass produced like in a factory. And never in your wildest dreams would you imagine eating her meal wrapped up in waste paper and “on the go”. No. The mere thought of it would be deeply insulting!
No. You would return to the hearth and patiently and gratefully receive a full-blown meal that was lovingly and sacrificially prepared at no cost to you. And yet, you would sacrifice and contribute to that experience yourself in both big and small ways. This is your home. You will work for it, and if need be you will fight and die for it. This is the core of your life, and without it, you are lost.
Compare that to the experience nearly all of us (rich or poor) go through on a daily basis and you quickly see that by that measure we are all utterly homeless. In fact we cannot really even imagine home at all. The picture I paint here by going back in time is overly rosy actually. After all, as I stated above, the women (and minorities) were frequently (if not normally) treated as second-class or worse. But even that is idyllic contrasted against where we are as a culture now.
And the marketplace is only too happy to numb the pain – the loss of home. It will manipulate you with its cornucopia of distractions and caricatures of sustenance. For instance, Olive Garden advertises, “When you’re here, you’re family,” as if they would feed you from Mamma’s kitchen. Never mind that she is not your Mamma – or even Italian. Never mind whether she is an unwed, teenaged, pregnant mamma of someone else.
Sadly, you won’t notice when your Olive Garden waitress takes your credit card, runs it through the card reader, and gives it back to you with the receipt that has the line for the tip…. That line on the ticket says, “You are here, but you’re NOT family!” No. You will not notice that. And sadly, this is the caricature of family you are stuck with: people who smile and wait on you for the money in your pocket.
We have ordered the world around the exchange of money. We were supposed to bear God’s image and thereby order it for him. His world order puts the powers of chaos on notice that the Creator God who made this world is master of this home. Thereby we usher in his utopia. But instead, we think we can charge the Olive Garden meal to the MasterCard at 3.4% interest and get a better deal than using the Visa at 3.8%! What does that have to do with anything?
And somehow the idea has infected church-going ministers across this land that our goal in “helping” homeless people is to make them learn to manage this kind of living in some form of independence. Rather, we need to call the bluff on the pride that thinking promotes and join The Carpenter who is building The House of God in which we find our true home.
Home is where a celebration of God happens – a party where there is plenty of food for all. Home is a place where you are celebrated for coming home – like the prodigal son. A feast is in order, and the “number 6 with large fries” at the drive through is an insult to all of that. The people of this God which that story celebrates must imagine and present an image of world-order that counters the mess we find ourselves in rather than try to equip people to accommodate it.
Home and Rest
Home is also a place to rest – to even sleep. You can “let your hair down” at home. You can “prop your feet up” at home. You end and start your day at home.
I do not mean to suggest that there is no work to be done at home; there is. But there is work to be done in lots of places, but rest is holy. You don’t rest just anywhere, and you don’t rest anywhere like you do at home. Rest is a key element of home. It is also key to celebrating. This is largely because rest is a major manifestation of trust – of faith. You don’t lay your head down in a time or place of mistrust – only in trust. And home is the premiere locale of trust. And trust is something you celebrate, and celebrate with rest.
You can’t rest in McDonalds, not really. You can’t rest in the street. And, sadly, that “ADT” sign you have in your flower bed is an admission and witness against you before God and creation that you do not trust your neighbors. That broken trust is like a crack in the image, and the way to fix it is not by building suspicion between neighbors (and strangers) but by building faith between God and all of God’s creatures. (ADT, though, makes its “living” off selling suspicion and fear. That is a cancer growing in our culture.) It is your vocation as a prophet of home to imagine how God would address that kind of fundamental disorder in his creation.
I hope your image of home is expanding dramatically as you read this. You are a homeless prophet sent by God to testify to his carpentry and to the home he makes for you and me to share. You need to have a bigger imagination if you expect God to dwell in it.
Home and Sex
So let me say a word on sex. Sex is designed by God to be a central feature of home. Godly sex happens at home. Sex is the labor in which the building of home with sons (instead of bricks) happens. And sex between The Man and The Woman is the original bearing of God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27).
Think about it. Mountains bow down, valleys stand at attention, and crooked places straighten out at the sight of God’s image (Isa. 40:3-5, which also has bearing on Rom. 8:19). And this means that truly good sex, in God’s economy, moves mountains! You don’t want to miss out on that. But that is sex at home, not on the streets or internet.
Sex was always meant to be a celebration of God, but it is not the same kind of party as a feast or sleep. No. This is a party for two in which your naked vulnerability is celebrated and in which you celebrate the naked vulnerability of your spouse. When God’s image bearers celebrate each other’s naked vulnerability, it expresses a deep and rich trust and love that we all crave in our hearts. Thus God builds a home out of sons. Thus the creation responds by becoming the home we long for in our hearts.
Our culture makes more a circus, though, out of this celebration than the other two combined. We are a culture of people engaged in homeless sex at every turn. You can’t stand in the checkout line at Market Street without seeing sexy models on magazines calling you to feel unsatisfied at home. No. The manipulative marketplace would rather you find a cheap thrill than suggest you move a mountain. And let’s face it; we are sexual creatures. There are powerful urges within us that we do not control. Sex is too big for that.
In ancient times and in other societies, the young maidens are kept separated from the young men by the village fathers and tribal elders. This is not because they are prudish in some post-Victorian sense but because if left alone by yourself against the urges, YOU DON’T STAND A CHANCE! And let’s face it; in this culture you are not actually left alone with the urges. No. The demons of the sex-industrial-complex are actively hunting you down day and night seeking to snare you at every turn!
It takes a village to manage the raging flow of sexual urges that runs through nearly all of us. But our culture prides our freedom to do whatever we want. It is amazing all the misery that unleashes on innocent, young people, but still we persist in our pride and freedom despite the folly.
And the homeless sex ruins many homes. Pornography, infidelity, disease, mistrust – none of these move mountains, but they leave broken homes in their wake every day. Generations of betrayal have now reached epic proportions where more marriages end in divorce than ever, and the rates of poverty and homelessness increase right alongside.
The love of God is the thing betrayed, and trust and celebration get lost. As prophets we must come to imagine love, trust, and celebration in the richest terms possible. I believe God wants to spread the word about good sex in The House of God. This means you have a job to do regarding that message.