Loosing the Goose

This month’s Synchroblog is titled, “Stories of the Wild Goose.”  Sadly, I was not able to attend the “Wild Goose Festival” which was held in late June on North Carolina.  This month’s theme will be capturing stories from the festival as well as “stories of how the Wild Goose (Holy Spirit) has made herself known in your life.”

Most of my Christian experience comes from more mainline traditions where the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as a member of the trinity as long as that crazy goose stays in her cage.  I have worshiped in a number of more “spirit” filled churches but I will confess many take me too far from my comfort zone.  When Christians start speaking in tongues, falling out in the spirit or engaging in spiritual warfare, I feel like I have entered the twilight zone.  I am not being critical of my Pentecostal sisters and brothers, I honestly envy their ability to let go of their inhibitions and flow with a spiritual force which I do believe is leading them into these experiences.  I just know that their way of experiencing the wild goose is not mine.

For me, the wild goose finds me in times of deep contemplation, in stillness when I allow the cares of this world to vanish and I feel a peace that passes understanding.  It is in these times of rest, meditation and contemplation that I find strength and direction.  It is during these times that I find healing and renewal.  It is also during these times when I can see more clearly how to follow the goose more faithfully.  As I have shared in previous posts, one of the most significant spiritual practices for me is spending time in the wilderness, alone and in silence for extended periods of time.

Through those times of silence, that crazy goose often leads me into places I never thought I would go; into neighborhoods I did not even know existed; into friendships with people whose journey has been very different than mine.  It is in these unexpected places in the midst of the tremendous darkness of violence, substance abuse, and despair that I see the goose most clearly.  It is in the faces of people who from the world’s perspective are judged as having so little that I see the spirit shining the brightest.  Midst all this darkness, God has maintained a remnant of saints – saints who are filled with joy, hope and faith.  They have taught me never to doubt that a spiritual force is at work in them, sustaining them.  That force defies my human understanding.  I work among the poorest of the poor in our city, yet I experience more love, more joy, more peace, more acceptance and greater healing being among these saints than have in all the churches I have ever been a part of.  The wild goose works in mysterious ways.

All three of these paths to the goose require the same thing-  surrender.  Jesus said in Matthew 16:25,

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Sadly many of us have been taught to cage that wild goose through practices that define for us how the goose is to be found, followed and worshiped.  By trying to define the work of this wild spirit, we have often bound it and restricted its flow.

My dear friend Sammy Williams gave me Abbe de Tourville’s book, “Letters of Direction” to use in my personal devotional time.  Abbe de Tourville’s life spanned from 1842 to 1903.  Yet, as I read his words I feel as though he is writing in our own time.  Tourville writes:

“It is not right to groan over the state of the world as if it were lost.  What is actually happening is a clash between the old spirit and the new, a clash which is specially noticeable because the old spirit is realizing how old it is and how nothing is looked at any longer from its point of view. It is a great struggle of which the issue is never in doubt, a struggle in which that which is coming triumphs over that which has been.

Most people are like sheep and follow, without much satisfaction to themselves, the lines of the past tradition.  A very small minority emerges, with great hesitation and amidst endless discussion to be faced by troublesome and pressing contradictions.

Take nature, for instance.  Has it changed?  And yet you see in your chemistry and physics how the manner of knowing it has changed.  Methods have improved and the same things are seen more clearly.  That is precisely what is needed in matters of faith.

The absorbing interest of the present day is that the world is growing itself a new skin.  We realize that the heavy mantle of the past, of all those things which no longer have any meaning for our minds, is slipping irrevocably away and leaving our souls free.  The horizon broadens and lights up instead of closing down upon itself and becoming more and more obscure.

Come!  Come! We must wake up and try to be that which we are reasonably meant to be and not that which other people have been.  One does not become holy by copying others but by making good use of what is truly part of oneself. In a word, follow your bent, your need of quiet or of doing nothing according to what seems most natural to you at the time.”

When I was in seminary we studied the shifting that is occurring in our own time, the shift from modernity to post-modernity – from an age of reason to an age of contradictions. My professor shared that many see this era as the age of the Holy Spirit – that often neglected member of the trinity.

I love the metaphor of the wild goose because it cannot be tamed or explained in a reasonable logical fashion.  The Spirit is moving in and around us in ways that none of us ever realized.  More and more people are awakening to new ways of flowing with that spirit and new wine skins are taking shape as people let go of what they thought it meant to be the church and have decided instead to simply follow Jesus and chase after that wild goose.   The Holy Spirit moves in ways that we cannot predict and often laughs in the face of our well laid plans.  To follow the goose we must hold on loosely to all we possess and learn to travel light.   We must be willing to embrace the mystery of it all.

In our time as in Tourville’s, there are many who are unpacking the Christian tradition and seeking to move forward clutching only the bare essentials.  Many who are seeking understanding from the great masters of the faith but who recognize that we live in a different time.  Many who are studying the lives of the saints but who celebrate their own unique design.  The Holy Spirit is as active and alive in our time as she was in the time of the apostles.  She is continually shaping the Christian story and bringing us closer and closer to seeing God’s Kingdom here on earth.

What a glorious privilege it is when we catch just a glimpse of that crazy wild goose!

Check out these other post’s on this months synchroblog.