I want you to think of someone who told you a truth about yourself that was difficult, uncomfortable, or painful to hear. Maybe it made you angry or defensive. Maybe it hurt your feelings. Maybe you wondered how she or he could be your friend and say that kind of thing. But later you began to recognize the truth of what was said and it made you love and respect that person even more. Who has done that for you?
Think about a time when you could not stand for yourself. Maybe you didn’t have the strength, courage, or confidence. Maybe grief and loss had broken your heart. Maybe your were so tired and fatigued you didn’t know which end was up. Who was the one that came and stood next to you, held you up, and loaned you his or her strength and faith?
Who are the wisdom figures in your life, your go-to people, when you’re lost and confused, when you need to regain your center and balance? Who are the ones from whom you hide nothing and to whom you entrust everything?
Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.
I remember a particular day when I was a senior in high school and my mom said to me, “You’ve become prejudiced and I don’t like who you’ve become.” I remember a professor who made me rewrite a paper, not because it was wrong but because she thought I could do better. Time and again Sr. Marie encouraged me to trust my own spirituality and stop trying to get someone else’s. And I can’t count the number of times David, my spiritual director, has said to me, “Mike, pull your head out.” He’s the one I go to when I need something. He celebrates and sees my life in ways I’m not able to.
I will never forget Jane showing up at the funeral home the evening of the viewing of our son. She found me in the crowd, took me outside, and physically held me up as I lost it. For years Marga has known the secrets of my life – the ones I’ve told her and the ones I’m afraid to tell myself – and she has helped me discover my truer self and disentangle it from my false self. I’ll always be grateful for John, a best friend. He laughed with me (and sometimes at me). He cried with me. He always stood with me. He loved me enough to kick me in the backside when I needed it, to pick me up when I was down, and make a joke about both. Every Friday my Dad video calls me on WhatsApp just to check in and see how I am. Every call ends the same way, “I love you son.”
And then there’s Cyndy, my wife. For better and worse she’s seen and heard a thing or two from me. And she has pointed out to me a thing or two. She is always there, standing beside me with love, hope, and truth.
Those and a thousand others just like them are the kind of people I’m asking about. Who are those people for you? In what ways did they show up? What did they say that you will never forget? What did they do that made a difference? What are the things about them for which you will be forever grateful?
Those stories I told you about my life and the ones I am asking you to recall in your life are stories of Pentecost. Listen and you’ll hear in them the “native language” (Acts 2:8) of God being spoken. You’ll hear the rattling of dry bones coming together, “bone to its bone” (Ezekiel 37:7). You can feel a fresh wind blowing and taste the “new wine” (Acts 2:13). But I think there’s more to those stories and people.
In today’s gospel (John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15) Jesus talks about the coming of the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. What if each of those stories you and I have just told is a story about advocacy, truth telling? What if those people are our Advocates? What if the Advocate, in whatever ways she or he shows up, comes not to advocate to another on our behalf but to advocate to us on our own behalf?
They are truth tellers for us. They call us more deeply into our authentic selves. They are the ones who transform and change our lives. Sometimes that means they create conflict, disequilibrium, or speak uncomfortable truths. Other times they comfort, encourage, or console. Either way they are guiding and accompanying us into life and more life.
They seek no gain for themselves, Rather, they invest themselves in us for us. They are the wind of change that blows through our valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). They rehydrate the dry and desiccated marrow of our lives.
They keep us accountable to ourselves not only for what we have done and left undone but also for all the possibilities that lay before us. They remind us that we are not a dead end. They open us to our future by helping us to “see visions” and “dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
We are always in process, always becoming our truer selves. And we need others to do that. We need advocates, truth tellers, and marrow rehydrators, to stand with and beside us. No one does this life alone. Regardless of what you’ve been told or come to believe there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Someone has stood with them. And someone has stood with you and me.
Who are those people for you? Picture their faces. Call out their names. Offer your thanksgiving. And then open yourself to the next ones who are coming to you.
Pentecost is the promise that today someone is standing with you whispering in your ear, knocking at the door of your heart, and taking you by the hand, to “bring you back to the land of” yourself (Ezekiel 37:12).
She or he is here today. They’ll come again tomorrow and the next day and the day after.