It is difficult to think about that winter without remembering the faces of the women and children that called the emergency shelter home. Each unique, scarred from their life experiences, carrying their individual burdens like well-worn backpacks slung over their shoulders.
I had a chance to spend time with these women. I heard their stories, listened to their dreams, and for a brief minute was given a glimpse into their pain.
I was touched by each story, each life.
Jamie—she had three little girls clinging to her coat as they all squeezed through the front door. Recently separated, she found herself on the street. They lived in her car but needed a warm place to sleep and some space for the little ones to run and play.
Sandra came to the shelter escorted by the local police. She had been raped, beaten, and left in a ditch. Her face was badly bruised, eyes swollen shut, her neck striped purple and red, bruising from being choked by her attacker.
Megan was referred to the shelter by our local mental health agency—no openings in their facilities. She suffered from Schizophrenia and delusions. Her days spent high on meth, calming the many voices in her head. Her violent outbursts kept her isolated from other guests. Her screaming heard throughout the night.
Dee found the shelter in February. She was in her late 60s, wheelchair-bound. All she possessed affixed to her wheelchair, tucked between the chair cushions and hanging from the armrests. She was alone.
Joann worked full-time. If you saw her on the street, you would never know she was homeless. She was well dressed and carried herself with such strength and dignity. She lost her home, no longer able to afford the rent. Even with a full-time job, she couldn’t make ends meet.
These women were no longer nameless faces on the street. They were no longer women that should be doing more to change their circumstances—stop drinking, stop abusing drugs, get a job…
The Face of Strength
I no longer saw them as an object of my sympathy or an injustice that needed to be addressed.
They were women that showed me the face of strength. They demonstrated the courage of forgiveness and were a constant reminder of God’s restorative power.
Homeless does not mean human-less. Destitute does not mean a lack of intelligence, determination, or dreams. Being displaced is not just the lack of a permanent living structure. It is more than just living on the street.
Homelessness can represent the condition of our hearts. A life that has become detached from its Creator. A life searching for meaning and purpose. A state of hopelessness.
Homelessness and hopelessness trap us in our circumstances, we shove our backpacks full of distortions of who we are, sling it on our backs, and walk through life picking up more and more lies along the way.
Homelessness of the Heart
If we are honest with ourselves, we’ve all experienced it. We search for security in our routines: faithful quiet time, routine Bible study, Sunday service, or in the possessions we acquire. Yet, our confidence falters, fear crowds our minds. We long for intimacy and settle for casual, unfulfilling relationships. We look for meaning and accept busyness, an over-crowded, over-extended life.
Our vagrancy causes us to cling to our pride, envy, and obsessions. Unwilling to lay them down, packing them around as if they are our sole possessions.
Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).
Our condition of homelessness can find security, intimacy, and purpose in the person of Jesus. And when we trust Him, He transforms our lives giving us peace, allowing us to stand with confidence, sharing in God’s glory: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (2) Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory,” (Romans 5:1-2).
A group of women that had no permanent address helped me to understand that our wandering hearts can find rest in Jesus, our eternal home.
Our homeless, hopeless condition, our searching and their searching, all made new in Jesus.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Thank you to all the women who touched my life that cold winter. You helped me see that true homelessness was a condition of the heart not the lack of a permanent address. You will never be forgotten.
For more articles on homelessness and life’s struggles, start here:
This Is Why Women Are Great Defenders of the Helpless
Overcoming Shame in the Grit and Grace Life
This Is My Story of Domestic Abuse
Bombas: A Successful Business That Is Helping the Homeless
Why Does God Allow Your Hard Times?
How a Simple Straw Helped a Homeless Man, and Impacted Me
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