I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.John 16:12-13
A Man from Phrygia, on Pentecost | Madeline L’Engle
Lord, I did not choose to be comforted.
I am not ready to bear the many things
you have yet to say: you said it yourself.
But you have sent me (against my will) your comforter
And what is comfort but an iron command?
I don't want to obey. I won't. Yes: I will.
Why must I interrupt my self-indulgent weakness
to respond to the austerity of your demand?
I must set my face sternly towards truth
as you turn toward Jerusalem, that all
obedience should be shown us and accomplished.
Your way to truth is hard, is dark, is pain.
You have shown me the way, O Lord, but I
am not prepared to bear your comfort.
And yet, unwilling, unready, recalcitrant,
I received the flaming thrust that you have sent,
and voices speaking as in my own tongue,
and nothing will ever be the same again.
This is a very thought-provoking poem about the strange and surprising “comfort” offered us by the Holy Spirit. We might think of comfort as being like a warm blanket, but what if it’s like a violent wind? The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as the parakletos, a Greek word that is translated in many ways, including comforter, but also advocate, helper, and counselor.
Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “It is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). But when the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus says, the Spirit of truth “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12). Can we handle that truth?
And when the Holy Spirit actually does come on the day of Pentecost, it did not come gently, but “like the rush of a violent wind” and with “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2-3). The Spirit’s presence in our life often demands a change, as this poem reminds us, just as Jesus demanded a change (“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” – Mark 1:15). Are we ready to repent, to change the way we are thinking and living? Are we ready to receive that kind of comfort? This poem, looking at the great miracle that took place on the day of Pentecost, compels us to ask if we are ready to bear that comfort. But then again, having received the flaming thrust of the Holy Spirit, how can our life ever be the same again?
This is, indeed, a very thought-provoking poem. May you have a blessed Pentecost, and may you be encouraged and challenged by the Spirit’s life-changing presence in your life.
This poem and many other wonderful poems of L’Engle’s can be found in this collection of her poetry: The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle