Listening to the Wild Goose
I have not had the time I'd like to put into this post, but decided to write it quickly and publish it anyway, because I do love the discussion I am seeing in this month's synchroblog. So here is my little reflection on The Wild Goose / The Holy Spirit:
While I was driving from Yorba Linda to Crosslake, Minnesota last week I was sad that I would miss all the friends gathered at The Wild Goose Festival and at Big Tent as my sister and mother and I rushed to get ready for a party we had on July 2 for Josh and Julie, even though I knew I had made the right choice to be here instead of there. My family has had an exciting 6 weeks, with my son Josh getting married to Julie on May 28 in rural Illinois and with my son Mike getting married to Luisa on June 18 near California's central coast; and this season of life is one that I am soaking up. Still, I miss my friends and the opportunity to participate in all the ways they were listening together to God this week!
I read an article this week about congregations and sermons, and how the things that we are passionate about show up in our responses. The writer was bemoaning the lack of passion for sermons among most laity, compared to their response to their favorite teams or band or hobbies. And I realized that THAT is what I have in common with my friends: we are passionate about the right sermon, the right book, but especially about seeing ourselves and each other live contagious lives full of grace and mercy in joyful adoration of the GOD who inspires our passion. And as much as I love my family and enjoy time with them, I am SO grateful for all the circles of friends that shape my passion for God and for a life lived as God intended abundant life to be lived. In so many ways, all of those friends are "home" now even more than are any of my "real" homes.
I experienced a bit of dismay this week from some of the people I love about my love of people they don't think I should love. They don't understand how I could be passionate about people with whom they wouldn't leave their kids for an hour (because they don't know my friends, because they disapprove of how my friends look, because they disapprove of choices my friends make about career and marriage and politics, or just because - like me - my friends like to live too publicly in the eye of social media and to share too much too often) and they don't understand how I can align myself with their brand of Christianity. I tried to explain, but it not only fell on deaf ears, but stirred conflict that is not really useful conflict. ("Useful conflict" moves one or both of us closer to God's purposes in our relationship or in our understandings and characters; this did neither as far as I can discern.) I should have just listened!
As I listen to those outside my areas of passion and participation, I hear their values and their passions and their fears. I see what God has been up to in their lives. And I get a chance to be shaped by their experiences and conclusions and to be used by God in even more powerful ways that my words or actions can accomplish. Seeing the beauty that God is weaving in the life of another human lets me WITNESS to that beauty and to God's process . . . and it is that kind of WITNESS that I am most often called to be!
I have been learning not to deny my own passion, but to have authentic respect for the fears, values and passions that drive others. I used to think that real respect meant that I needed to adopt or affirm the fears, values, and passions of another. I used to think that not denying my own passion meant getting others to share it, or at least justifying it with all others. Now I know neither is true! Embracing and protecting my own passions flows from the same respect, love, and peace that empowers genuine respect of others and their "stuff". The Wild Goose is powerfully at work in me and in them!
A friend once told me that he was finding that getting older was bringing a greater tolerance for mystery, and as I get older I think that perhaps that is just a greater tolerance for listening and accepting the realities of life without needing to fit everything and everyone into a nice neat analytical spot. I think it is a mystery how chasing the Wild Goose becomes being inhabited by the Wild Goose. I think it is a mystery how learning to listen and contemplate reality becomes a life of passion and action and salt-filled words when needed. But maybe the greatest mystery is how a burning desire for a particular vision can become an abiding joy even in the "now but not yet" of it all!
My grandmother used to sing the words "trust and obey . . . for there's no other way . . . to be happy in Jesus . . . but to trust and obey" and even as I type them I think about the way we all must go through such a process to learn what trust means and to learn how to hear the commands we obey from Jesus filtered through so many places and people and Bible-teaching and filtered out of so many places and people and Bible-teaching. We make our choices about what rings true, and try it out, and refine or reframe our understanding, then try them out . . . and over time we learn to authentically hear the Wild Goose. But anyone who tells you that you can do that without first struggling (and last struggling too) has never really learned to recognize the voice of that ONE who calls.
We are each different, and we are each the same. God speaks to us each differently, yet to us all with the same vision as to the whole drama being directed from above. I am called to play my part, and to watch with joy as each other player does the same. I am to listen to the right director, and listen and watch my fellow actors with joy and respect.
Learning to listen to the Wild Goose (learning to trust and obey) is not a skill that can be taught and practiced and mastered. Oh, there are techniques that you can learn, of course . . . but life-making that is focused on proper technique and practiced skill can't hold a candle to life-making that is burning with real awe at the beauty of the Beloved and the amazement at being in the presence of the Beloved. Learning to listen to the Wild Goose comes from running away when you must and chasing when you must and being the "respectable man" when you must and being the "failure" when you must. Learning to listen to the Wild Goose comes from paying attention to all that God uses to instruct you about God and life and your call and your day today . . . and learning and failing and learning and failing. We are not called to triumphantly bring about heaven on earth. We are called to recognize heaven on earth in the mustard seed, and worship in amazement as it grows to a Kingdom.
I get just a few more days to live at my parent's house in the beauty of remote nature, and then I begin my trek with Noah and Brooks to our home in SoCal. I saw a wild heron spring up from the shore near my brother's cabin on Monday as we celebrated the 4th together there, and I rejoiced in the power of those wings and the unexpected intrusion in our space.
I am learning how to recognize beauty and power in the intrusion of all those things that don't fit my view of a safe, comfortable, livable world . . . the things that stir negative emotion before my heart can settle back into a rhythm of peace and joy and purposeful action or inaction.
I am learning how to let the Wild Goose teach me to live in the real world, even as I learn that I can't master an understanding of it all.
I am learning how to worship the real triune God with all my life, even as I come to terms with never really understanding even a corner of that majesty or wisdom or danger.
I am learning to listen to the Wild Goose!
Syncroblog posts on the Wild Goose: