Tenting among Us
by: Steven Bouma-Prediger
Many years ago I led wilderness backpacking and canoeing trips professionally. I still teach a college course in the Adirondacks of upstate New York during which for eight days ten college students and three other instructors and I camp in the wilderness. Some of us sleep in hammocks and others sleep in tents. The tents are lightweight backpacking tents and just large enough for two or four people. Needless to say, you get to know your tentmates quite well: who snores, who goes to sleep easily, who likes to talk. In those quiet conversations, you learn of each others’ hopes and fears, dreams and anxieties. Tenting breeds familiarity.
This famous text in John’s Gospel is all about tenting. In Greek verse 14 says that the Word (logos) became flesh (sarx) and tented (eskenosin) among us. God in Christ pitched his tent among us and lived with us on our terms, fully human except for sin as the ancient creeds put it. For a time God lived among us, and so God knows what it means to be human from the inside. As some early Christian writers state, there is nothing that we experience that God in Christ has not experienced. God knows us and the human condition because he tented among us.