Learning what geese know…

Before three-weeks-ago’s post got hijacked, I was planning on sharing something the Lord has been stirring in me recently.

I think everyone in our country is familiar with the sight of Canadian geese flying in formation. We know what it’s like in the fall to look up and see huge Vs moving south. We welcome the sight of those Vs moving north again in the spring because know it means spring is arriving.

Most of us also know the reason for the V shape formation…the lead goose breaks the wind, and the rest of them ride the draft. And many, if not all of them, take turns leading, because no one goose could do it for long. But together, the geese gain the ability to reach the destinations that they could not reach alone. In fact, I just read of studies showing that this formation allows the geese’s strength to take them 71% further than they’d be able to go on their own.

And some think God isn’t a master physicist!

But the thing that God is specifically impressing upon me is how geese demonstrate His idea of leadership.

First…leadership is necessary. I’m often tempted to think I don’t need someone over me…someone leading me and teaching me. Yet these geese demonstrate how much farther I’ll go if I am willing to fall into the place that God has for me and receive the guidance they are giving. Is it possible that, without that leadership, I’ll never arrive? Perhaps my life isn’t long enough to learn everything God has for me by myself…and the only way I’ll discover it all is to ride the drafts of others.

But more eye-opening to me than that is the concept of what the relationship is supposed to be like between leader and led.

Humans have always been power-hungry. I suppose it’s natural that a position of leadership has frequently become considered a position of power. Employees often begrudge their boss the power he has to decide that things be done his way, and bosses too often think of secretaries as little more than servants. Political leaders all-too-often think their position is a means to force their ways on the greater population. Kings and dictators seek to expand whatever control they already have. Many aim for positions of leadership simply so they’ll be on the giving end, rather than the receiving end of orders.

Yet, if you look at geese, the leader is bearing an extremely difficult burden on behalf of the entire flock. What burden is the rest of the flock bearing? They have given up the freedom to choose their own direction, and in return, they’re having the majority of their own burden carried by those ahead of them.

If you continue to watch those geese, you’ll notice how easily and un-grudgingly they switch leaders. When the time comes for the current leader to step down, it does so without fighting to keep its place…without searching for ways to make a lasting impression on the flock…without feeling that it has failed those behind it because it cannot continue on. I’ve yet to see a fight break out between geese over who gets to lead next.

Perhaps geese understand Jesus’s words more than humans do, when He said, “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Perhaps this understanding is why geese don’t fight over leadership…they understand what it really is. Those behind have taken their turn at the front, so rather than begrudge the one who gets to choose the way, they are grateful for the load that one is bearing. And that one is grateful for the chance to go back to being led.

Furthermore, these formations of geese are living, breathing entities. They merge and split and reshape themselves as the winds change and as their directions need to be adjusted.

And they do so without fighting, without hard feelings, and without judging each other.

Imagine if the body of Christ functioned in this way!

How much more effective would we all be if we truly realized that leading is serving, and serving is something we are all called to do? What if we all truly understood that those in authority over us are God’s ministers to us? And what if those in authority recognized that as well?

What would it actually look like if we all responded to the direction and move of the Spirit without judging those whom the Spirit is suddenly moving in another direction?

I feel blessed to be in a church that more closely resembles this than any other I’ve ever been in…and yet God is challenging me with this in my personal life as a mother. He asked me this once, last year: Do you realize that, because you are in authority over your children, you are their servant? I’ll confess, it took me awhile to wrap my mind around that concept. I’m still learning what it looks like, but it helped to think of myself as a tutor, hired to teach three children of the King. Such a tutor does, indeed, have authority over those three children. Yet I am also serving them by teaching them what they need to know…by remembering that they have only been given to me for a season…and by teaching as though there is One over both of us whom I’ll have to answer to if I begin to treat them as my servants.

Lord, teach me to lead as You did. Prepare me and give me strength to bear the burden of whatever leadership You have in my future. And when the time comes, teach me to step into position according to Your timing and graciously release my authority when You lead me to step down. And remind me to always be grateful for those You have placed ahead of me in the flock.

2 thoughts on “Learning what geese know…”

  1. Good stuff, Katie. Great analogy, too.

    In my own life personally, I have seen two things: 1) that I have a gift/calling for teaching, and 2) the incredible burden of responsibility that falls on a teacher. And I have to tell you, I see the weight of that responsibility, and it actually makes me hesitant to step into the position. Or … I suppose maybe it makes me a healthy hesitation to step into that kind of position too cocksure about it. "Where angels fear to tread," that kind of thing.

    Great thoughts for pondering here.

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