We are old friends, wandering a country lane, communing together without the use of words. Up above a monotone of gray paves the skyways. In contrast, bright showers of autumn leavings scatter as we walk, while others crunch beneath our shoes. The faint odor of wood smoke from distant neighbors’ chimneys adds to the authentic feel of autumn.
At a distant sound, alluring, foreign, yet equally familiar, we slow our steps and crane our necks. High above, a dark checkmark against a field of slate quickens our heartbeat and gladdens our spirit. Yes, at last, it is that which we both have been hankering after: the distinctive V-pattern and wild honking call of a Canada flock proclaiming its flight toward warmer climes.
My friend up above is real, but the scenario is dream-based fiction. In reality I have never laid eyes on a live Canada goose up close and personal, nor even a flock overhead winging its way south away from the coming hardness of winter, or on its way back home to melting snow and renewing life.
Until that happens I must content myself to page through books about birds, or drink in photos my Ohio friend sends via email (taken at a neighborhood pond the geese frequent when they are in her vicinity); or sometimes I watch movies or special features on television. I think and dream and hope and look. I plot. Sometimes, like today, I feel inspired to write.
When God created the Canada goose, He must have intended a didactic creature, as well as an interesting and handsome one.
In the secular world, it is popular for corporation heads to bring in inspirational speakers who use Canada geese habits to train employees in teamwork. While Canada teamwork makes for an interesting study, there is something, I have discovered, even greater the Canada goose has to model for us.
Any team requires a person in charge and our Creator built into the Canada goose features of true and noble leadership. The V-formation flight pattern and its lead bird serve as an illustration as to how Jesus leads His followers in their own earthly ‘flight’ toward our home in glory.
A good place to begin is the most obvious, and most important. Just one bird takes the lead position in the V; the rest line up behind it. So we also have only one leader: Jesus is unique in all the world.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
“... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
Another basic, almost too simplistic fact is akin to this one: the lead bird leads and the others follow. This is so evident that a deeper meaning could escape us. The Lord has built into these birds a wisdom they must not go out on their own. If a bird drops out of formation it soon realizes it cannot keep up with the others and quickly moves back into position.
So too are we safest when following Jesus’ leadership by staying with the flock.
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5
Jesus fosters in His followers an ability to recognize His voice. One way He does this is by demonstrating for us what real leadership looks like. The Canada does this also.
In true leadership fashion, the bird at the front, takes the brunt. The lead bird suffers the greater part of wind attack, its initial shock, and each succeeding bird takes advantage of the turbulence, or back-draft created by its flight.
Because it is at the forward point of the ‘V’ formation the lead bird is working hardest by being first to break through resisting air currents.
“For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” Hebrews 2:10
This is a great visual of our Savior who crashed through the wind-barrier of sin for all us other birds who fly in His wake.
We Christians are certain to experience high winds and turbulance as we fly along. But just like a boat produces a V-shaped wake of slightly smoother water behind it, Jesus and the Canada provide similar benefits.
Any trial that comes to us must first pass through His feathers: He shields us from the worst the wind has to offer. And though we must paddle our wings also, lest we grow weak and lazy, He has created an opening that we may fly in His gentler wake.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29
“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. I Peter 5:7-10
This point leads us naturally to the next quality of good Jesus-style leadership: the leader leaves something for the follower to do. Just as the lead-bird of a flock of migrating geese does not wholly remove all wind-resistance for those behind, so Jesus in His wisdom knows our best interest is not always served by plucking up the trouble or us out of it. There are times we must go right on through. But He promises to make us strong enough to endure it.
“When thou pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when thou walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:2
From childhood fables about things like tortoises and hares we learned that steady and determined wins the race. With the Canada goose the lead-bird remains calm, steady, and determined for his goal. He never veers off the path or becomes sidetracked.
There came a time when one of Jesus’ disciples, using human reasoning, wanted to shield the Master from what he felt should never happen to his hero. But Jesus refused to be turned aside saying to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!”
“And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem…” Luke 9:51
What Jesus purposes to do, He WILL DO! But wrapped inside this purpose there is a clause. Jesus is never too headlong to stop and help one who has fallen by the wayside.
An interesting account of Canada geese behavior appeared in a National Geographic magazine:
“Adult birds show a remarkable concern for the young, even for those of other parents. One gosling left its family to follow the rubber raft of naturalists John and Frank Craighead down the fast moving Snake River of Wyoming. The little bird bobbed along for several miles until a pair of nesting Canadas spotted it. The gander raced across the current, feigning a broken wing to draw us off. The female called urgently, the gosling responded, and as we drifted past the goose slipped between the raft and the orphan to head the young gosling ashore. It was a clear-cut case of kidnapping for protective custody.”
Jesus will stop to hear a pleading voice and provide intervention, but He never quits. Though in nature the bird at the apex of the V trades off with another when fatigue sets in, our Savior never falters – never faints. He is always there to lead and to guide.
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” Isaiah 40:28
Our leader may take us down to feed or rest intermittently, but when He goes back up, He will soar high. The Canada’s are high-flyers and may rise to altitudes of 8,000 feet. Like the Canada expect to fly high when you go with Jesus. No, I am not talking about wealth or fame, but rather the dimensions of our calling. We are called to a high calling indeed.
“And He has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6
Our leader, Jesus, doesn’t take us away up there though, and then abandon us. He has endurance that we may emulate. The Canada travels extremely long distances, from sub-arctic nesting regions all the way as far south as Mexico. Ours too may be a long, long journey, but we are called upon to persevere.
You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” II Timothy 2:3
Finally, a great leader accomplishes His purpose: He takes His followers all the way. The most amazing fact about the Canada is the overall success rate of their migrations. Mishaps sometimes occur, but most will reach their destination.
Jesus too will see we make our destination. For He assures us in His Word He will never leave nor forsake us; He is the Alpha and Omega; Author and Finisher of our salvation.
Yes, the steady beat of His wings, the strong even thrum of His heartbeat, will lead us safely home!
Janice Cartwright Copywright, 2011, All Rights Reserved
A Christian woman saved by grace. I've been writing seriously for about 5 years. Recently I have focused mostly on bible studies though I have in the past written spontaneous humor peices about my pets. Nature themes that correspond to spiritual lessons are among my favorite things to write about.