I went to the local park the other day with my kids. We had some bread with us, so we decided to feed the ducks nearby. That’s when I saw this.
I’ve seen a lot of Canadian Geese in my life … but I’ve never seen one alone. I’ve read all the stories of how geese travel in a group, how they take care of each other, look out for each other on their annual migration. So seeing this guy mixed in with a motley assortment of ducks struck me as odd.
But look closer. His wing is dragging. Has this guy been injured? Suddenly, it makes a bit more sense. He obviously couldn’t continue his flight with the rest of his flock, and had to be left behind. Moments like these prompt me to think strange thoughts – like, “what is it like to live as a Canadian goose among Arkansas ducks?” Does he feel out of place? He certainly looks out of place to me… And how does he feel about being left behind?
It kind of made me think of myself a bit. Almost everywhere I’ve been, I have felt out of place. My light skin and blonde hair certainly made me look out of place among my Liberian friends where I grew up. On the outside, I fit in much better among my friends in Los Angeles, later during my high school years – but my heart still beat African. I definitely didn’t “belong” there. In fact, the first time I ever felt that sense of “belonging” was among an array of nationalities, languages, and cultures in the center of Amsterdam … a bunch of misfits that found belonging among each other.
And how many of us have felt that horrible “left behind” feeling? There goes the rest of the world – they have their life together and are moving along just like they “should”… and here I sit with a broken wing. The loneliness can smother at times like this.
But this goose wasn’t alone. And though his new “family” was a strange assortment of creatures that didn’t look like they belonged together, I found it a beautiful picture of the church. Not the building – the church as Jesus referred to it. What could have been more out of place and clumsy to the outside observer than the motley crew of disciples Jesus gathered? And to the loudest, most impulsive, He said, “You are the rock on which I will build my church” (Mt. 16)
And here we are, 2,000 years later, still clumsy and out of place, but being together. Jesus gave us each other for these broken wing times, when all your expectations and dreams and longings seem to fly on without you, and you’re stuck with a bunch of strange ducks. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11).
Is Jesus trying to tell us to release the yoke of expectations, our self-inflated notion of who we should be, our habit of comparing ourselves and our lives with everyone around us? We all have our yokes – things we have done, things done to us, shame we hide in the dark places, things we wish we could erase. What if we really lived this – and set it down? His yoke may involve a cross, but His promise of true freedom can’t be shaken. Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Proverbs 1:33 “But whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
If this is what it means to have a broken wing, let it be. And let me be free!
But I don’t think I’m unique in this. My story may sound different – not everyone grew up in another country – but I’m guessing your desire to “belong” is as strong as mine. And I’m also guessing that you haven’t always felt like you fit in.
I realize that there is nothing new in this. And we’re in pretty good company. Hebrews 11 talks about great heroes of the faith – Noah, Abraham, Enoch, Sarah, and many others … and then it says this: “they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Paul says it this way: “Therefore, I urge you as foreigners and exiles (aliens