“HONK! HONK!” This is a noise I hear quite often driving in downtown Houston, but it is also a familiar sound during this time of year. Until recently, I gave little thought to a flock of geese flying overhead. However, after reading about these birds, I am amazed by the lessons we can gain from observing them.
As geese fly south to new destinations for the winter, they make a loud “honking” sound. But do you know why they honk? It is to encourage the geese flying in front of them to keep up their speed. When geese fly in a “V” formation it adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. When we share a common direction and sense of community with others, i.e. in a church, we can get where we are going much easier and with greater speed because we are traveling on the thrust of one another.
As Paul taught us, we all play a role in the the body of Christ. If only the hands show up, we have no way of walking out the plan because there are no feet. Each of us plays an integral part and, when we work together, we can move at greater speeds to achieve more for the Kingdom of God.
Geese also know how to take advantage of the “lifting power” that others can give. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone. Sensing the struggle, the goose quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of them. When we recognize the importance of staying with others who are headed in the same direction in which we want to go, we soon realize that it is much easier than going it alone.
Barna Research has determined that one out of every four adults does not attend a church of any kind, and the numbers seem to be growing. The study went on to cite that these “unattached” people feel more stressed out and less optimistic about their futures than regular churchgoers. In Hebrews 10, we are told “Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds and noble activities. Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together, as is the habit of some people, but admonishing one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.” (Amplified Bible)
Geese can also teach us the importance of leadership. How many times in the church do we hear that the same 20% of the people do 100% of the work? If a lead goose gets tired when flying in the “V” formation, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.
Often times, our leaders need support. When we all pitch in and share the hard jobs, the load becomes much easier. At the same time, leaders must admit when they are tired and trust that God can use others to help get His work accomplished as they take time off to renew and refresh.
Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out of “V” formation, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down. They stay with the goose until he is able to fly or until he is dead. Then, they return to flight, either on their own, or with another formation, until they catch up with their original group.
What would happen in our churches, families and community if we “dropped out of formation” each time one of our own was wounded? Put in simpler terms, what would happen if we put all our extracurricular activities on hold to help someone in our church, family, or community who is hurting? The Christian Church as a whole might look very different if we lived like these unselfish geese.
I encourage you to pay special attention the next time you see a flock of geese flying overhead. Allow God to remind you of all they can teach as you watch them seek warmer climates. Remember, we have a loving Father who goes before us to show us the way and who comes along beside us when we are wounded, offering us all of the support, encouragement and love we will ever need. And to that I say, “Honk, honk!”