Our daughter began eighth grade in a new school, and one day I asked if she had made any friends. I worried because she wasn’t bringing anyone home. “Well….,” she said, “would you mind if I brought some other people home? My friends all have somewhere to go. But these girls—well, these girls don’t like to go home. And they don’t know what a family is. Maybe if they could hang out with us for a while….”
Her voice trailed off, her question left hanging in the air. My heart went out to these children who have homes, some of them very nice homes, but who don’t feel “at home.” Children who are vulnerable in the very place where they should feel safe and covered.
There are so many ways to be naked and lack shelter. It’s the oldest need we have, the first result of the Fall.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they immediately “knew that they were naked.” It was such a big deal, they grabbed fig leaves to cover themselves up. It was such a big deal that the first thing God did, after talking to them, was to clothe them in animal skins: it was such a big deal, it required a death.
“Naked” means much more than “having no clothes.” Its synonyms are words like helpless, weak, powerless, defenseless, and exposed. A person who is naked is vulnerable and open to harm. Even in their new clothes, Adam and Eve were exposed as they were cast out of the garden of Eden, without shelter. Sin leaves all of us naked and vulnerable and ashamed.
Ultimately, another death would deal with the spiritual vulnerability left by sin. But it’s significant, I think, that God started out by tending to his children’s nakedness. We must do the same.
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)
It is always good to give clothes and help provide physical shelter to the homeless as we can. But let’s not forget the exposed and vulnerable among us who wear clothes and live in houses. The “latchkey kids”; the 20-something renting nearby or the elderly person alone at home; those whose shame exposes them to ridicule; those without a church home who are strangers in our pews.
God of mercy, open our eyes to those who are naked and homeless around us: those who lack clothes and shelter and those who remain exposed and vulnerable in spite of those things. Show us how we can provide out of what we have been given.
- Lord, where do I see you naked or a stranger in others around me? Are there ways people are exposed or vulnerable, that I have ignored?
- What clothing or shelter (material or spiritual) do I have to offer? Am I hoarding what should be given to others?
- What does it mean to have a home? Am I called to make a home for or give shelter to someone in particular?
©2016 Sarah Christmyer