Weathering the Wild Goose
Last week I found myself co-leading the children’s programming at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. Yes, it’s oddly named. The festival takes its name from a Celtic image for the Holy Spirit. If inclined to think of the Spirit of God in bird-like terms (not a given, I realize), our bird of choice tends to be the dove. Doves are thought to be gentle and peaceful. They even make a few well-timed biblical appearances – at the tail end of the flood, for instance, or at Jesus’ baptism.
A wild goose is a less obvious choice. Wild geese are unpredictable. They are quite capable of biting those who try to contain them. Their call can be unsettling and disruptive. On some level, this fits what we know (or suspect) about God and God’s call. As C.S. Lewis points out about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
"One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
Such was my experience of the Spirit of God last week. I was forced to set aside most of my typically successful Type A coping mechanisms and let the time be what it would be. Any illusions of control vanished when a torrent of rain flooded the Kids Tent Wednesday night. Only half of our scheduled volunteers showed up by Thursday night. We had 100 kids coming the next day and, equipped with what felt like sadly inadequate resources, we plunged ahead anyway.
And the Spirit came through. The ground soaked up the rain, more volunteers came, crafts were made, stories were told, and children and adults got to wonder together about the nature of God. On Friday, we wondered about the gifts of creation as they’re laid out for us in Genesis 1. Where exactly does music fall, for instance? One child and I explored this question together after the story. Is there music in light? Are the sounds of water and rushing leaves music? Do stars make sounds when they explode, and if so, can we call that music? The child finally decided that music must be in every day of creation – because he couldn’t imagine a God-given world without it. Neither can I, to be honest.
Speaking of music, on Saturday night, I got to hear the Indigo Girls live. They sang one of my favorites – “The Wood Song.” Included in the lyrics are the following lines:
Sometimes I ask to sneak a closer look
Skip to the final chapter of the book
And then maybe steer us clear from some of the pain it took
To get us where we are this far, this far
But the question drowns in its futility
Even I have got to laugh at me
No one gets to miss the storm of what will be
Just holding on for the ride
But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we'll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we'll have missed the point
That's where I need to go
We don’t get to miss the storms. We can’t plan our way out of them. Storms happen whether we’re ready for them or not. Sometimes the Spirit leads us right into them, in fact. That’s what happens when we follow a wild God. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the lessons we learn as we’re weathering the storms together that makes the journey worthwhile. May it be so – in this and every storm.