One of the most delightful things I experience every year during our St. Patrick’s day revelry is a taste of Celtic Christianity. The Celtic Christians, led by St. Patrick, stood in stark contrast to their Roman Catholic counterparts (although Celtic Christianity was a part of Roman Catholicism, their ways were significantly different. For one, the Celtic Christians were more a “Do as I do” tribe rather than a “Do as I teach” group. This meant that those outside of the Christian faith saw the Celtic Christians living the Christian life and were both amazed and interested in becoming a part of the faith. Conversely, when you think of Christians you know, which of their lives is so attractive that you just can’t stand to not be like them?
Where is that kind of life?
Which brings me to the wild goose. The Celts looked at nature and saw God revealed in all His glory and they understood God best when they took symbols from what they experienced. The Holy Spirit was symbolized by the wild goose. Doves were docile and delicate, but the wild goose was untamable, free, and unpredictable. Instead of a soft coo, the wild goose was noisy and raucous. And it seemed always to be on the move—on a pilgrimage ordained by the Lord Himself.
Jesus said that those Christians who were led by the Spirit were like the wind—you don’t know where it comes from and you don’t know where it’s going. A Christian who follows the wild goose is wild and free themselves. They have lives that are less than predictable. They live life to an abundant fullness (John 10:10). They are wild and free, untamable either by society that would bind them with lies or by religion that would chain them with duty and obligation.
A life following in the tailwind of the wild goose. That’s the kind of life that calls to our innermost being and awakens the lethargic longings within. The problem is, we know few—if any—Christians who have discovered the flight path.
I wish I could tell you that there were seven simple steps to achieving that life, but the truth is, that isn’t so. Learning to fly with the Holy Spirit is to learn a different kind of life. It’s learning faith and trust and how to let go. It’s letting God explore the nooks and crannies of your heart—not with a candle, but with a miner’s light so He can crawl down into those hidden caverns beneath our shame to excavate and alleviate the wounds. It’s healing those hidden wounds and realizing they’re not shameful, but that they’re scars worthy of a Purple Heart, because we got those wounds doing battle for our soul. They’re only shameful in the dark. In the light of day they are what make us strong.
There is much to learn and much to experience before we can fly with the wild goose. However, doing nothing is the guarantee that we’ll never even leave the ground—like so many Christians we know. To get a running start, here are a few things I’ve learned that may help.
- Learn to pray. Most of us don’t know how, so it becomes either something we avoid and try not to think about, or else something we do from a sense of duty and obligation. Prayer creates the fronts that drive the wind, but the wind won’t fill our sails or lift our wings if we don’t take the time on our knees.
- Learn to listen in prayer. Even fewer of us know how to do this. Mostly we’re taught to pray some litany of requests and a few thank-yous, and then we’re finished. But how can we follow the wild goose if we don’t listen to where the Spirit is going? How can we learn Jesus’ will and wishes for our lives if we can’t hear? I think it’s incredibly sad that so many Christians admit they’ve never heard Jesus speak to them. He does speak and, if you’ve tuned in your heart to the Spirit’s frequency, you too can hear.
- Commit to obey what you hear. Here’s the rub. We don’t fly with the wild goose because all too often we refuse to flap our heart’s wings and go where He’s going. Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who are my disciples.” He didn’t say they would precede us—the signs don’t show up until after we do. That means taking a risk, opening our mouths, turning our footsteps, and following in faith.
- Discover the desires of your heart. When I was young I struggled with the notion of being a Christian minister because I was sure God would tell me I had to go to Africa. Now I look back and wonder why I had such a terrible impression about my God? The Lord has yet to ask me to invest my life in anything that hasn’t brought me unspeakable joy. The Scriptures say that the Lord wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but we so often find ourselves desiring false-wants. Instead of wanting the true desires, we find ourselves “settling” for something less or something counterfeit. It may take some praying (see #1 and #2) to discern what your heart really wants, but when you find that…there is nothing more freeing and more invigorating than chasing that desire.
I could go on, but that’s a start. If you really want to live life to its fullest—to live a life that follows the wild goose, I’d invite you to begin talking about this very thing in your House Churches. Share your desires. Learn to pray and to listen together. And commit to following wherever the wild goose flies.