Thursday, December 29, 2011


I was walking the dog the other day and saw some geese flying over my neighborhood. This is a common occurrence, as we have a pond nearby and Canada Geese are wont to make it their semi-permanent home. I find this interesting because there are much more interesting places to spend your time than Oliver Hardy Lake in Milledgeville, Georgia. Notice that the name is Oliver Hardy Lake and not Oliver Hardy Pond even though it’s about the size of the average the cattle watering hole on area farms. People do enjoy making things sound grand, especially when they’re not.

Having a background in both ministry and leadership, I have heard my share of goose stories over the years. Usually it’s the same stuff about why geese fly in a ‘V’ formation and why they continuously give off that honking sound while flying in said ‘V’ formation. The prevailing wisdom that comes from people who are not really in a position to know these things is that geese use the flying ‘V’ because it creates less drag and makes flying easier. Therefore the geese can fly much farther. It’s an example of working together, cooperation and, I suspect, knowing your place in the overall structure. The moral of the story is that we should all cooperate and know our place. The high paid gurus of leadership and evangelism will say it differently, of course. It’s their job to make it sound that acting like a flock of geese is something to which we should all aspire.

Then there is the idea that geese continuously honk at one another as a method of encouragement as they fly. I find this interesting, because I’ve never heard of anyone who spoke fluent goose. Who knows what they are really saying or if they are saying anything at all. Maybe they just enjoy making noise.

On the day that Maya and I spied the geese flying above us, I noticed that there were at first only two of them, honking their black-and-white heads off as they flew. Then a moment later a third goose appeared, honking and doing his best to catch up with the other two. I was fascinated to see that the first two geese did not slow down nor did they appear to even notice their cousin who had, apparently, gotten a bit of a late start. As the flying leadership lesson passed above, I saw the third goose trying to head in the same general direction as the other two, but he was never included in the formation and so was on a bit of a different path. He had to make his way on his own.

A third thing we in the leadership biz sometimes hear about geese is that each goose in the formation gets a shot at being the leader as they rotate in and out of the point position in the flying ‘V.’ So far as I can tell, there is no real evidence to confirm that. Still, it’s a good story and helps keep people happy. "Don’t worry," we’re told. "You geese in back will get your turn eventually, just be patient. Be supportive. Conform."

I have nothing against geese. They are a great part of nature and I love to watch them fly. The wild goose is an ancient image for the Holy Spirit, being untamed and free. Still, I have to wonder if a flock of Canada Geese is the example we should follow in leadership and in faith. Well paid people use this idea to “goose” us toward working in cooperation with the establishment. Is that where we need to be? Do we need to be in a group in which we are simply interchangeable parts? What if we take off late? Will there be no place in the formation for us if we don’t meet someone else’s schedule?

I’m not sure where I “should” be. There are a lot of people who are glad to tell me where I should be, if I ask and sometimes even when I don’t. I have decided that there is a big difference in where people say I should be and where I think I am.

Let the flock move on. My heart is with the wild goose that flew alone.

I wonder where he ended up.