It was one of those rare spring mornings in New England when the air is warm enough to tempt you into the water and you're reasonably sure it won't rain before you emerge. Mom and Dad had decided this was the perfect opportunity for a swimming lesson.
Dad was the first into the water. He shook himself and waited for the rest of the family to follow. Mom nudged two little ones forward. The safe shallow water gleamed a welcome. They clambered over the rocks, then hesitated again. Dad took a quick dive and came up tossing silver drops high in the air. Mom flapped her broad white (often sheltering) wings and applied enough pressure to get those babies into the water.
Yes, I mean wings. This was in a shady cove along the Charles River where two Emden geese were schooling eight furry goslings no more than a few days old.
Within 10 minutes, six of the babies were in the water, swimming cautiously behind their father. The last two didn't take the plunge until they had been nudged three more times by their mom, their dad had demonstrated his dives again, and he had paddled twice past the launching place with the new recruits in fleet formation.
It took me no more than 15 minutes with the goslings to see how what they were learning might be related to my own spiritual growth, and especially to my trust in God.
•Lesson One: Learn who truly loves you, and let them take charge.
Those goslings were quick to take refuge when necessary under their mother's wings. And all of us can rely on a God who is both Mother and Father.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "All nature teaches God's love to man, but man cannot love God supremely and set his whole affections on spiritual things, while loving the material or trusting in it more than in the spiritual" (p. 326). Our affections must be anchored firmly in a God whom we love "because he first loved us" (I John 4:19).
•Lesson Two: Look for helpful examples, and strive to emulate them.
The father and mother geese showed wisdom, caring, experience, and love. They understood about currents and buoyancy and self-confidence and the importance of setting a fearless example – and they were prepared to show off their paddle strokes and their dives all morning if necessary. They simply asked that the little ones trust them and follow their lead – which is precisely what God expects of us, and we are encouraged to do in the Bible: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).
•Lesson Three: Value a spirit of community.
It helps to learn from, or share concerns with, others who live in the same community (or predicament) as you do – especially a community of faith that understands, supports, and embraces you. It might be that first day at a new school or college, on the parade ground at a military boot camp, or walking down the aisle on your wedding day.
On the narrow but spiritually stretching road of Christian discipleship, it's exciting to be able to speak truthfully with one another about the pitfalls and temporary roadblocks we sometimes face, and be inspired by the healings through prayer we see happening in our community of family, friends, or fellow worshipers.
Altogether, a lot of learning went on that morning at the river's edge. Since then, I have been back several times to check on the goslings. They are now swimming effortlessly, even across the strong currents in deep water. How reassuring it is to know that God is lovingly parenting us all, at each stage of our lives.
He shall cover thee
with his feathers,
and under his wings
shalt thou trust.