We drive past the railroad tracks, scars cut thick through the dirt at the end of some road that I’ve driven past a hundred times, but never seen. The shelter is behind a chain link fence, just a low warehouse like any other and who ever thinks about what those buildings contain? Only in this case, the rundown building houses people. Hundreds of souls, all under one tattered roof and the word shelter just about covers it, it’s not much more than shelter from the cold outside.
I walk past a sea of army cots, some single and many pushed together, covered with blankets. There are children, families huddled here on these small square islands. As I walk the length of the shelter, I can’t help but wonder: What if everything you had, everything you loved fit here, on one of these little squares? There are people all around, wall to wall people and yet I get the feeling that it’s lonely stranded here on a cot island, floating in a sea of uncertainty.
We have food, and it’s grace that’s brought it all together because the prospect of a few people from a church small group feeding this many people overwhelmed me and just about stalled me out. But Grace feeds the multitude with five barley loaves and a couple of fish, and Grace brought hands together and turned not enough into food put away for tomorrow, too. Why does it take so very many lessons for me to rely on the fact that when you step out in faith, God provides?
I see the faces, and I want to know each of them. I want a hundred years worth of time to just sit and listen, to understand. I want to tell them that the only difference between me behind this counter spooning out casserole and them on the other side is a few paychecks, some opportunities that for whatever unknown reason I had and they didn’t. That the price of their soul, the ransom paid for it, is just the same as my own and there’s a home in heaven, a real one, one that’s better than anything we can imagine.
After dinner, we do a craft with the kids. It’s all glue and feathers, google eyes and pom-poms and these little hands, upturned faces. I kneel on worn cement and help with glue, and out of all the things that broke into my heart this night the one that breaks it most is his voice, this little boy with the deep brown eyes and earnest smile. My husband is leaning over, peeling the backs off stickers and helping him with this silly little way to pass the time and the little boy looks up and asks him, “Are you homeless, too?”
And he answers, tells him. “No, by the grace of God we’re not homeless…” and before he can finish the boy asks him,
“Who is God?”
He leans in close, the man I love. Leans in close and he tells him, as best anyone can tell with only the feeble tool of words. In this sea of voices and faces and people, in this place of uncertainty and suffering, where all around is chaos there is this little island of Grace, this shelter over a single moment in time.
It’s God that’s the shelter, this is what I’m reminded of as we drive home. God that provides, God that loves, God who is the island in our sea of uncertainly. A house can burn down, blow over or fold in foreclosure. A home found in Christ is the only solid ground on which anything…anything at all…can be built. What if we really understood that this means more than a home, more than a paycheck, more than a bank account? What if we really lived in the confidence that everything we are, everything we love fits here…under the shelter of God? (Click here to tweet)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Little boy with the deep brown eyes, He understands. None of us, none of us are homeless in Him. This broken world, it’s nobody’s home and child, I pray that you’ll find a place to rest your head, in body and in spirit. I pray true Shelter for you.
Linking up with Imperfect Prose at Emily’s beautiful blog