Listen To Article
With thanks to my co-pastor, Tom Bomhof, whose excellent devotions for a congregational meeting a couple weeks ago prompted the thinking for this blog.
I was driving down a coastal highway in Florida a few days ago when I spotted a Wawa gas station, a flying goose logo above the name on the sign.
“The Wawa Goose!” I exclaimed. “How is the Wawa goose all the way down here?!”
The Wawa Goose is in Wawa, Ontario, as you drive north along the east coast of Lake Superior. There are actually a couple geese in Wawa, but the main goose, standing tall and proud at twenty-two feet, guards the visitor center (usually accompanied by her smaller and rather more real compatriots.)
So I was perplexed and amazed when I saw the Wawa Goose on a gas station sign some 1,715 miles away.
Until I googled it. And discovered, with an, “Oh. That makes sense,” that “Wawa” comes from the Ojibway word for “wild goose.”
Turns out “Wawa Goose” is rather redundant.
Speaking of geese, I made some geese friends last month.
Okay, “friends” might not be 100% accurate. Even though to me they were “Mama Goose/Madame and Mr. Gander Sir/Bae” and to them I was perfectly ignorable, which to my mind meant we’d established some level of rapport, if not a close kinship.
The geese came as they come every year, to make a nest in some low bushes between the church parking lot and front doors. Perfectly situated to be in everyone’s way. Or rather, perfectly situated so everyone else was in their way.
The first couple weeks they were busy making up their nest, waddling off on breaks to nibble at grass on the outskirts of the parking lot, one eye always on their chosen haven. Someone would come within thirty feet of the bushes and Mr. Gander Sir (I think) would start strutting over, neck outstretched, emitting just one loud HOOOONK, setting the unfortunate soul off at a run towards the doors, not looking back until they were safely on the other side of the glass.
Our staff sits in the atrium for lunch, where we were perfectly positioned to watch the goings-on of the geese. “What are they up to today?” someone would ask as they sat down with their soup. We looked up their mating habits and nesting rituals, wondered at how long they would be with us, and spoke in some alarm and concern when we couldn’t see either of them.
If we couldn’t see them, there was a good chance at least one of them was up on the roof, surveying their kingdom. Visitors would think the way clear, until they too stepped just a little too close for comfort and down swooped a goose, wings flapping at the poor straggler as they hurried inside.*
Eventually we put up pylons around their little plot of bush and grass, and rolled out a whiteboard instructing people to park on the other side of the lot and use the far doors.
The geese were a nuisance.
But they were also fascinating.
And we knew they were only being a nuisance because new life was being made.
I learned a few weeks ago that the ancient Celts used a wild goose to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
I love that.
The imagery of the dove is nice and all. But it feels rather…domestic. Peaceful. This is the Holy Spirit as abider, comforter, pat-you-on-the-shoulder-er.
But the Holy Spirit as a goose is…loud. Surprising. Unpredictable. In your face. Not to be trifled with. You go where the goose tells you. You pay attention when a goose is honking in your face.
It can be a little alarming, the Holy Spirit as goose.
Perhaps even a nuisance.
But there’s something lively and exciting about this wild Holy Spirit. Something that draws you to the windows of your life to ask, “What is it up to today?”
In John 3:8, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Spirit appears unexpectedly (whether in Northern Ontario or Florida), making new life happen. I don’t know whether its because spring is springing (sort of) or because I’m in a season of life where I’m waiting to see what new path and place God is leading me to, but there’s something resonant about this image of Spirit as goose (and perhaps the wind that carries the goose, to mix metaphors). Something deeply compelling about the Spirit that pushes and pulls, nests and protects, honks and hollers, disrupts and enlivens.
I only hope I have the courage to take the pylons down and walk towards that wild Spirit.
*I’m pleased to report no one was injured in this goose-nesting season.