Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How God is Like a Wild Goose

  • Andy McQuitty Author of The Way to Brave
  • 2018 25 May
How God is Like a Wild Goose

Perhaps Irish DNA accounts for my love of the ancient Celtic Christian’s description of God’s Holy Spirit as “The Wild Goose” (Ah Geadh-Glas in Gaelic). That moniker should not surprise us, coming as it does from ancient Christians like Patrick (c. 390–460) and Columba (c. 521–597) whose faith is famed for its vitality and nurturing through flame and gale.

These early believers saw how consistently Scripture paints the third member of the Trinity as completely untamable—a dynamic person represented by a dove but also by blazing fire and shredding wind, glorious and joyful and penetrating and just, well, uncontrollable.

So they adopted a symbol for the Spirit that amped up the dove metaphor to what they considered its proper level of benign menace—“The Wild Goose”!

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The Holy Spirit (aka The Wild Goose)

The Holy Spirit (aka The Wild Goose)

I’m beholding right now a woven Celtic banner in my study (which I purchased at that Celtic treasure house, Trinity College, Dublin) covered by a gaggle of beautiful, colorful, and by the look of them, wild geese. This is a modern piece representative of the work of ancient Celtic artists who regularly inscribed images of wild geese in their paintings and carvings on stone crosses and writings.

They used the wild goose as a constant reminder that this static world of the material everywhere intersects the dynamic world of the Spirit in an almost magical way.

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Why Is it Important?

Why Is it Important?

Why that’s important, Frederick Buechner explains:

Here and there and not just in books we catch glimpses of a world of once upon a time and they lived happily ever after, of a world where there is a wizard to give courage and a heart, an angel with a white stone that has written on it our true and secret name, and it is so easy to dismiss it all. . . . But if the world of the fairy tale and our glimpses of it here and there are only a dream, they are one of the most haunting and powerful dreams that the world has ever dreamed.

The Wild Goose is just that, a symbol used to inhabit a powerful dream that is not only a dream but also a true reality that produces what you and I desperately need: a David faith in a Goliath world.

Great Spirit, Wild Goose of the Almighty
Be my eye in the dark places;
Be my flight in the trapped places;
Be my host in the wild places;
Be my brood in the barren places;
Be my formation in the lost places.

-Ray Simpson

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Not Just a Tame Dove: My Host in the Wild Places

Not Just a Tame Dove: My Host in the Wild Places

That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit was to the freshly anointed David that day as he tripped and slid down the rocky north face of Elah Valley. Not a tame dove, but a wild goose. Not Luke Skywalker’s impersonal “Force” to be manipulated Jedi-like in opposing an evil emperor, but David’s powerful companion to be trusted in combatting an evil giant. Is that why as the young shepherd approached Goliath (it’s possible) he had a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth that astonished the hardened warriors of Israel, who thought grinning was a strange activity for a dead-man-walking? Was he sensing in that moment the Wild Goose functioning as his eye in the dark place, his flight in the trapped place, his host in the wild place that he was entering? I think so.

I think David was experiencing the reality of the powerful dream of the Wild Goose that Jesus would cast to His heartsick and fearful disciples eight hundred years later on the eve of His crucifixion. 

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15–17). 

This was fantastic news to Jesus’ disciples, who knew that, up until then, almost the only individuals blessed with an anointing by the Holy Spirit were Israelite prophets, priests, and kings. But now Jesus was promising to everyone who follows Him the anointing of the same Spirit of truth that David had received. Finally! Thank You Jesus for Your substitutionary death and resurrection, making possible the anointing of Your Holy Spirit for all who believe! 

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“Like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan, the Goose is good, but He is not safe…”

“Like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan, the Goose is good, but He is not safe…”

Discerning disciples to this day should receive that great news with a whole kaleidoscope of butterflies in their stomachs because yes, we all get the same Spirit that David got, but remember, that’s the Holy Spirit who led David to cheerfully engage an evil giant in single combat. Like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan, the Goose is good, but He is not safe, and if you’re a Christ follower, He lives inside you and remains famously intolerant of an uninteresting status quo! 

Jesus didn’t redeem us and send the Holy Spirit to us just to lead us gingerly on the path of safety, but to have this beautiful, Wild One lead us boldly striding in the way of brave.

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I Arise Today: The Holy Spirit as “Paraclete”

I Arise Today: The Holy Spirit as “Paraclete”

So yes, there will be wild times following the Wild Goose, but let not your heart be troubled, because you’ll never navigate them alone. Did you notice that Jesus calls the Spirit “another advocate” (John 14:16, literally “another of the same kind” as Christ, i.e., deity), which renders the Greek word “Paraclete,” a word capable of such a large range of meanings (from “Helper” and “Advocate” to “Comforter” and “Counselor”) that finding an English equivalent is difficult.

The beauty of having the third member of the Holy Trinity as our Paraclete is not just that He is our Helper, but that He is our ever-present Helper. As in constantly attentive. As in never absent. As in always available. That’s why, on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that they’d be worse off if He didn’t leave them. 

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). 

Even though Jesus was (and is) the Son of God, He could only be in one place at one time because of the limitations of His humanity. So He wanted to ascend into heaven so that He could send the Holy Spirit to every believer as their ever-present, always-available Advocate. As Gordon Fee writes, “The living God is a God of power; and by the Spirit the power of the living God is present with us and for us.” 

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A Prayer for Our “Wild Goose Chases”

A Prayer for Our “Wild Goose Chases”

 

Jesus sent the Spirit to be the power of the living God with us and for us. He sent the Spirit because He wanted to make it possible for all of His people to wholeheartedly pray with St. Patrick his wonderful AD 433 Celtic prayer (known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”) that he offered for divine protection on yet another of his “Wild Goose chases” to convert the pagan Irish King Leoghaire to the faith. Here are some excerpts of the prayer that demonstrate Patrick’s trust in the always-present Christ through Christ’s ever-available Advocate and Paraclete: 

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St. Patrick’s Breastplate

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom...
I summon today...Christ to shield me
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

A Better Kind of Wild Goose Chase

A Better Kind of Wild Goose Chase

Now there’s a powerful dream of a spiritual reality, that the indwelling, ever-available Holy Spirit of truth is like a Wild Goose falling down beside us to help when we enter lonesome valleys and face fearsome giants. That dream made David brave in a valley of fear. It made Jesus’ disciples courageous in a Goliath world. And it made the apostle Paul and his team courageous through their many daunting ministry adventures on three major missionary journeys into the land of giants. 

When we follow the Holy Spirit, we open our lives up to the His life-giving, kingdom-furthering, and God glorifying adventures.

What Does a Wild Goose Chase Look Like?

What Does a Wild Goose Chase Look Like?

How those chases look in each of our lives varies with our gifts, skills, callings, and context, but they are all equally exciting. For some, it may require moving overseas to join a mission agency in a remote African village, but for others it may mean taking up the charge in your current neighborhood to be salt and light, or maybe it means leading a small group or even volunteering at a homeless shelter. These are the “Wild Goose chases” we should pursue, not the purposeless, aimless searches for something that isn’t there “wild goose chases” that we often find ourselves on. The temptation is to go after the aimless goose chases by searching for significance in a job, or in attaining renown, money, or certain relationships. But really we should be pursuing and going on the Spirit’s “Wild Goose chases”—employing our gifts, serving the local church, and advancing the kingdom. 

Taken from The Way to Brave: Shaping a David Faith for Today’s Goliath World by Andy McQuitty (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

 

See Also:

See Also:

Read more about the St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer here.

For more on the Holy Spirit, see:

10 Supernatural Ways the Holy Spirit Wants to Empower You
10 Things to Know about Speaking in Tongues
Expect the Holy Spirit to Work in Your Life
Why Believe the Holy Spirit is a Person?

You can also watch the powerful visual adaptation of "St. Patrick's Breastplate" below.

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Halfpoint

 



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