I want to tell you a story about a perfect vacation where everything went wrong. Maybe you can put yourself in this scene: imagine you are with your spouse, or a friend or family member, and you’ve planned this big trip. You’ve spent months pouring over every detail, researching every leg. There’s one chunk in particular that will be the pinnacle of your journey: a three day adventure in the desert; riding each evening into the sunset; sitting comfortably upon a camel as a bedouin tour guide teaches you about another time when life was simple, easy.
This was the vacation my partner and I had planned the year after we got engaged. What was supposed to be the pinnacle of our trip was an utter and complete disaster --- at least by Western romance standards. My partner had spent months pouring over every detail, researching every leg. The day we were supposed to board the camels for our three-day tour, I had one job: to buy a bottle of champagne so we could drink bubbly and watch the sun go down outside our tent. I soon discovered that being in a Muslim country, alcohol wasn’t easily found. But I searched and searched and found a gorgeous bottle. “She’ll be so impressed!” I thought.
We arrived at the entrance to the desert. We loaded up our camels and began our ride into the sunset. After about 15 minutes, the cramps set in: turns out camels aren’t really meant for people---they’re more of a luggage transport than a human transport. Three hours later any notion of camel rides being a thing a person would willingly choose was completely lost!
But here we were. At last we had arrived at our camp. We had a place to sleep, the night sky filled with stars. We plunked down outside our tent, leaning against the soft desert sand.
“I think it’s time to crack that bottle of champagne!” my partner said.
“Here it is; you’re going to be really impressed!” I replied.
“You got a screwtop, right?” she asked.
“Oh” I said.
Turns out they don’t have corkscrews in the desert.
As my partner dug a nail file (passively aggressively) into our $80 bottle of champagne---the sun setting in the distance, the camels cooing to each other in their pens---I said to myself: “You had one job, Helen!”
By some miracle we survived our failed vacation. There was this moment where we had to say, “Regardless of all these ideals not being met, I choose to risk our relationship anyway.”
I’m telling you this story because choosing to risk the relationship anyway is what God does. God risks relationship with humanity---every time. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians said it this way: “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. . . . I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Jesus puts it this way: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.
All this is to say: there is surpassing value in knowing a God who risks relationship with humanity by becoming human, a God who takes the rejected, mis-stepped parts of humanity and makes them the cornerstone.
There’s a book I’ve just started called Love after the End: An anthology of two-spirit and indigiqueer speculative fiction. It is the most remarkable book published with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council. It’s about two-spirit and queer indigenous people “(re)imagining futures where Indigenous love, liberation, and laughter flourish far beyond the settler imaginary.” There’s a line from a poem that opens the book. It’s by Natalie Diaz from her anthology Postcolonial Love Poem. In the quote she asks this question: “Am I what I love? Is this the glittering world I’ve been begging for?”
Am I what I love? Is this the glittering world I’ve been begging for? This is a question that, to be sure, is situated within a particular history spoken from the hearts of a particular people. And, it touches on a deep human desire: the desire to become what we love; a desire for a world where our deepest longings are met---and I’m not talking about the longing for a romantic trip to the desert. I’m talking about the deep longing for the rejected or mis-stepped parts of ourselves to be embraced; a longing that in the Christian tradition we speak of as the Incarnation: the part where God becomes human because God so desires for people to know that their humanity is chosen.
God chooses the things that make us most human. You will know best who it is in your life you have to work a little harder to love despite the ideals you might have held for them. You will know the very human parts of yourself you have to work a little harder to embrace. You know what it is to choose to risk the relationship with humanity anyway. So take comfort knowing that what we celebrate at this table each week is the glittering world that Natalie and so many others call us to, the world humanity begs for: where broken hearts are healed and energy renewed perhaps especially when the ideal we’d imagined for ourselves isn’t even remotely met.