Serving God in cross-cultural settings always provokes interesting conversations with those from our passport countries. Some find our forays into missions far away as fascinating and exotic. Nowadays, with globalization and the ability to interact with friends and colleagues all over the world, many people are somewhat nonchalant: “Ah, they are spreading the gospel just like us; they just happen to live in another country.” But still others never cease to amaze us with wide-eyed questions based in disbelief:
“How do your kids go to school there? Is there good education?”
“We know it’s dangerous there. Do you ever go out?”
Increasingly I have come in contact with more and more Christians who are living their lives based on comfort and fear. God is a God who always wants us safe after all, right?
Recently I came across a parable that I had read many years ago, written by the Danish thinker, Sören Kierkegaard. It has me examining my own penchant to talk a good talk while failing to “spread my wings and fly.” Will I – will we – embrace the adventure God has for us? Or will we continue to enjoy our comfy brand of Western Christianity?
Kierkegaard’s Parable of the Geese
“A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk.
One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. ‘My fellow travelers on the way of life,’ he would say, ‘can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence? I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.’
The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. ‘How poetical,’ they thought. ‘How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.’ Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often, he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.
And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher’s message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!”
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