Jesus was a nomad. We romanticize the term “nomadic”, but today we have a less romantic name for it: Homeless.
It’s hard to make a home in the desert. Building materials in the desert are hard to come by. There is no wood, so you must construct your buildings of mud or thatch. But you can’t stay in one place very long in the desert. There’s not enough water, and food is scarce, so you wander in order to find them, just to survive. So it makes no sense to construct a permanent building to live in. Maybe you carry a tent, or perhaps some light bedding material.
Kwai Chang Cane, the Shaolin priest from the television series “Kung Fu”, was a nomad. He traveled barefoot from town to town, looking for work, sleeping under the stars, never knowing where he was going next.
In the same way, Jesus was essentially homeless. He may have had a grand plan, but he traveled from place to place, living on the handouts of others, probably sleeping most nights under the open sky.
Clearly Jesus and Kwai Chang chose to be nomadic. But why? Why would someone choose to be a nomad in the desert, homeless for long stretches of time, often alone, risking starvation and death?
In the case of Kwai Chang, the reason was partly because it made for a better plot for the television series. Every week he was some place different, some place interesting, and he had to confront different people and different threats. He was able to have his obligatory two kung fu fight scenes with bad guys we hadn’t met before. And it fit his philosophy of life, that of following the path, the Tao. And you can’t very well follow the Tao staying at home and working in the factory week after week, year after year. So you wander.
In Jesus’s case, perhaps he chose to wander in order to reach more people with his message. I accept that he consciously had a message that he was trying to spread, though a possible atheistic position on the subject is that Jesus was just a nut, possibly even schizophrenic, not unlike a thousand other nomadic (homeless) crazies of that time period. I don’t subscribe to the view that Jesus was a nut. Or I try not to. There’s too much wisdom in words that have been attributed to him.
How common is a nomadic existence today? There are the homeless of today’s world. Many of them are nut cases, with genuine mental illness. But some have simply abandoned the conventional model for how to live life, by giving up their job, packing their bag, leaving their family, and taking a chance on the generosity of other people. You see them on the street corners. Many of them could go to shelters and be rescued, but many of them elect not to. Or so I believe.
But you don’t have to be without a house to be homeless in this world. There is something which I call “Emotional Homelessness”, a kind of nomadic existence of the heart, where you bind yourself to no one. And because you are alone in this desert of a sort, there is no one there to rescue you, or befriend you. You risk a kind of starvation and death in the absence of love and affection, without the occasional gentle touch, with no one to watch your back on a daily basis in this crazy world we live in.
Yet many people are emotionally homeless.
*I* am emotionally homeless. But I would like to find a home.