“The God who is Home”
A Review of Beyond Homelessness,
by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh.
By Laretta Benjamin.
Wow! Never have I been more surprised by a book. Expecting a fairly typical essay on the many causes and struggles of homelessness in our culture, I was blown away by the very insightful – and most importantly, Scriptural – treatment of the subject. My definition and view of homelessness has been shattered as a result of reading this book. It feels like someone has flung open all the doors and windows in my understanding of “home”. So many times when we tackle a difficult subject in conversation or writing, there’s the feeling that “there’s just something we’re missing”. I think this book offers the “something we’re missing” when it comes to discussing homelessness.
Home . . . belonging, recognition, acceptance, safety, refuge, security, shared memory and story, connectedness, lasting relationship, identity, order, direction, rootedness, permanence, hospitality (there are windows and doors, right?). These are just a few of the mental images used by the authors to draw us into a view and perspective on “home” that few of us hold and even fewer actually experience. For many people, home has meant disrespect, estrangement, disorientation, transience, fear, forgetfulness, violence, alienation, and meaninglessness. The “street-people” brand of homelessness we experience in every large city in our nation is easy to see. The homelessness experienced by so many others in our culture, despite their being surrounded by four walls, a roof over their heads, and every physical comfort known to man, is a little harder to identify until we take the time to look deeply into Scripture and God’s purposes in creation and redemption. Homelessness takes many forms: socioeconomic, cultural and ecological. In a culture such as ours, where displacement – disconnectedness and rootlessness – are the order of the day, homelessness abounds in many ways.
The authors lead us to the incredible “home-making” God we serve, taking us through the story of Scripture and God’s working throughout history. We are faced with the basic truth that we are all homeless and there is only one true “home”. We are all invited to the “homecoming” – to enter the Shalom of God. “At the heart of the Christian gospel is the message that we all are homeless, but that there is a home in which our yearning hearts can and will find rest. That home is creation redeemed and transfigured, a place of grace that is inhabited by an indwelling God of unfathomable love. The Christian gospel, in other words, is a grand story of redemptive homecoming that is at the same time grateful homemaking.” (p. 320)
Thank you to Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh for thinking and caring deeply enough about this issue to search the Scriptures and to seek out the mind and heart of God in the midst of it. They have truly taken us “beyond homelessness” to the bigger picture and to the God who is HOME.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com