by Laurie Gudim
A dear friend who had dinner with us last night talked about the insidious lowering of self esteem he has been experiencing as the result of being homeless and without an occupation. A few years ago he put everything into storage, built a lovely tiny house in the bed of an old truck, and went on an extensive road trip. He is back now, but he has no job and nowhere to live. And even though he is not destitute, he feels his belief in himself eroding slowly away.
The fear of being “nobody” is huge. It can keep those of us who are feeling secure from stepping out of constricting jobs and unsatisfying living arrangements. It can limit our ability to talk frankly with friends and family about social justice issues. It can silence us when our truth is challenging to those who have power in our lives. It can even, through an unconscious dread that their plight will somehow rub off on us, limit how we associate with those who are oppressed and marginalized.
Jesus chose voluntarily to be homeless. He stepped out of the context in which he had been known – beloved son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary – and began living into a new identity. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” he said. And, “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” He claimed God as the Father who sent him, thereby establishing a new lineage. And he acknowledged the fact that some would recognize this heritage and some wouldn’t. “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.”
As those people who today recognize his lineage, we Christians ourselves must acknowledge and affirm our identities. We must remember that we, too, come from God. We belong to God, and we are beloved. This makes us somebody, always, no matter what.
God’s dream for us and for all our neighbors takes precedence over any other claim on our lives. Therefore we must stand beside those who are being threatened, and we must lend our support to those whose opportunities to live are being destroyed.
Self-esteem is established on a deeper and more firm foundation when we experience ourselves foremost as beloved children of God, part of the Body of Christ, diligently trying to live into the purpose for which we were created. This sort of worth cannot be yanked away from us. It is part of our very being.
I don’t know what being raised up on the last day really means, but I know that this Jesus whom I follow holds me close in sickness, destitution, suffering and even death. I am never lost to God; I am never “nobody”. Neither is any other created being. We owe it to each other to leave our too-small homes for the wide realm in which we are all related and all precious beyond measure. For it is only from there that we can speak truth and live with unshakable integrity, in service to one another and to our beloved Creator.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: Post Bridge over River Dart by Ann Fontaine