taking the words of Jesus seriously

“So you sort of know what it’s like to be homeless?”

This is what I’ve been hearing this week from very kind folks who’ve offered my family meals, beds, cars.

And it is indeed true that most of the little idols I carry around in my purse, that have until now consistently brought me such comfort, have proved utterly useless this week.

  • The house keys are no good because we moved out three weeks ago and now we’re sort of couch-surfing until the home into which we’re moving is ready.
  • The car keys are no good because my minivan died seven days after we moved out of our home.
  • And to sort of round out the helpless picture, my phone no longer receives emails and my husband suddenly lost his phone when his company changed providers.

So when people suggest that we might know what it’s like to be homeless, I understand that their hearts are in the right place.

It has been a little chaotic, so to feel less stressed today, I dropped two of my kids off with my mom. On the way home, I accidentally heard a song off of Justin Bieber’s new album. It’s called “As Long As You Love Me.” Normally I don’t get all fired up about whatever it is that Justin is doing, but today I really did. The gist of the song is that the protagonist can face any obstacles as long as the he is loved by the beloved. The singer croons,

As long as you love me
We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke
As long as you love me
I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold
As long as you love, love, love, love me
As long as you love, love, love, love me”

Since I’m a creative sort, and because I like to give pop stars the benefit of the doubt, I try to imagine that the protagonist of the song is not the actual multi-bazillionaire teenager himself.  Maybe the character in the song is someone with less resources than Justin Bieber. (Which is…almost everyone else.)  I do this because I find it a little horrifying that a bazillionaire would say the words, “We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke.”  So I try to be generous.

With all my creativity, however, I don’t think anyone either should or would sing those words. No one I know who lives without shelter would say that it’s all good if there’s someone who loves you. And though I don’t know anyone who’s starving or who’s actually broke, I can’t stretch my imagination far enough to conceive of one who’d be willing to sing the catchy words.

When I tried to rile up an adult friend whom I’ve pegged as a Bieb-ophile with this nonsense, she reminded me that he is just eighteen. So possibly he’s not yet seeing the larger picture of a world in need—one in which people who are and are not in love actually do live without shelter, who truly are undernourished and dying from starvation, and who have absolutely no financial or social resources upon which to draw.

This week that I’ve been inconvenienced—by having to move from a temporary luxury house at the beach to a luxury house located inland, by having to borrow a friend’s BMW so my husband and I can still drive two cars, by being treated to food which others have cooked, by not having to check emails but once or twice a day—it’s become more clear than ever that I have NO IDEA what it is to be homeless.

So although my family’s life is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, please don’t think I know what it is to be without resources.

I don’t.

And I suspect anyone who does would not sing those nutty words.


Margot Starbuck is a speaker, volunteer and author of The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail and Small Things With Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor. Her next book, Permission Granted: And Other Thoughts on Living Graciously Among Sinners and Saints releases in March 2013.

About The Author

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Margot Starbuck—author, collaborator and speaker—earned an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Bachelor’s from Westmont College. She’s convinced that because God, in Jesus Christ, is with us and for us, we’ve been made to be with and for others. So she’s passionate about equipping folks to love our (sometimes unlikely) neighbors and is the author of seven books and collaborator on others. She enjoys speaking to audiences around the country that include: Messiah College, MOPs International, Young Life Women’s Weekend, Urban Promise Ministry Summit and Wheaton College Center for the Application of Christian Ethics. Margot lives downtown Durham, North Carolina, with her three teens.

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