This is the time of year they are flying. We were standing on a tee box last Sunday afternoon, and could hear them honking, high in the sky, their erratic V-formation painted on a blue autumn sky. When you contemplate their magnificence, you wonder why anyone ever came up with the phrase “as silly as a goose.”
For one, the V formation is critical to their migration. Instinctively they fly this way. Like some inner voice lines them up. They cannot know that flying in such a way enables them to fly 71% farther and longer than if they flew solo. Each bird creates an uplift that buoys the birds behind. I wonder how many of us recognize the value of belonging to a church? I wonder how many people have hung on a little longer, flown a little further than they might have, simply because they were buoyed on by the faith, love, and strength of those friends at their church?
Secondly, there is that honking. Do you know why they honk? We may never know for sure, since we can’t talk to the geese, but the best experts seem to believe that it is simply a means of letting the ones in front know that they are still back there. It’s like they’re encouraging them on. Think about it. The front goose could fly a hundred miles alone, no one behind him. But when he hears the honking, he knows he’s not alone. And in some way, he may be encouraged to fly on. A well-placed “Amen!” means a lot to a preacher. And a well-placed “Attaboy!” means a lot to anyone! We get that at church, don’t we? “Hang in there!” “Keep the faith.” “We love you.” “We’re praying.”
Thirdly, the leader is not the only leader. Remember, the point goose doesn’t have the benefit of the uplift from another. He’s in the front. So he tires much sooner than others. And when he does, he simply slides out and relocates back down the line, and another slides up to the lead. There are no “big I’s” and “little you’s” in church. Look around at how many “leaders” simply step up and do what needs to be done. No one leader is so critical to the direction of the flock that when he is tired, another cannot step up and lead for a while. This constant support and encouragement is what makes the Christian church unique.
And finally, when one goose falls out of the flock because he is sick or wounded, he never goes down alone. Two other geese will peel out of the flock and go down with him. And they’ll stay with him until he is well enough to fly on, or until he dies. And then they’ll either join another flock until they can break off and reach their own migratory route, or they’ll be a flock of three until they arrive at their destination. I think it was Madeleine Murray O’Hair who said the Christian army is the only army in the world which kills off its wounded. What did she know? The Christian “army” doesn’t kill its wounded. Much like the geese, it surrounds its wounded with love, forgiveness, and hope. Oh, there are those on the fringe who are hateful or spiteful, as in any group. But by and large, Christians stay beside those who are suffering and hurting in life. Like our Lord who promised He would never leave us or forsake us. We restore. We heal. Because we are surrounded by His love revealed through the love of others.
I love being part of the Christian community. And the next time someone accuses me of being as silly as a goose, I’m going to take it as a compliment.