A Choice in the Wilderness

The Spirit must have flinched to lead him there,
still glowing from the river, and the dove
alighting on him, and the embrace of air,
from which God’s voice affirmed a Father’s love.
The Comforter turned guide as it took flight:
the Spirit urged him onwards, like a flame
enticing him to reach the brink of sight.
Wild spaces in the distance breathed his name.
The journey took him to the edge of night.
The Spirit, like a breeze, caressed his hair
and then was gone, departing with the light –
no shelter from the dark in land so bare.
Alone, he knelt exhausted, cast away
it seemed, on this bare rock and sand,
exposed to what the darkest voice could say
to twist him from the purpose of God’s hand.
The wilderness invades his heart with dread,
and hunger soon becomes an urgent ache
that joins in tempting him: “Turn stones to bread.”
What harm in using power for his own sake?
“Such alchemy could feed this world,” he cried.
“Such power and marvels I could surely use
to bring the hungry rushing to my side!”
An answer comes: “Whose power then would you choose?”
“Use stones, use bread, use people in their need,
and any power you choose makes use of you.
Offer your life, and you can be the bread
needed to draw the many, or the few.
He made the choice that he was born to make:
his life, God’s gift, his only power, God’s word.
At that, the tempter leaves, and angels take
good care of him whose sacrifice is heard.

Barbara Messner 2011