Trust the Wild Goose

Be merciful to those who doubt. – Jude 1:22

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Jesus way,

I hope this letter finds you passionately pursuing the Man from Galilee and that your soul is flourishing. I have something that I want to share with you concerning those who will be accusers of the way you have chosen to live the contemplative life.

When my oldest son was learning the craft of preaching he was invited to preach at a church that was without of pastor. My son preached his sermon, and it went well. He was scheduled to preach the following Sunday, but between Sundays, he was uninvited to preach the coming Sunday by the leadership of the church. When my son asked why it was because he quoted from The Message translation. He didn’t preach from The Message, he read the verse from the New International Version and then said, “Listen to the way Eugene Peterson translates this verse.”

That act of uninviting my son to preach because someone didn’t like the version of the bible he used was devastating to my young preacher son. That act contributed to much of his extreme allergy to the conservative branch of our spiritual family tree to this day.

You have chosen to live a contemplative life. That way of life has critics. It’s hard to know how to respond to a critic of your spiritual life.

Realize that there are people that will not embrace the way of life you have chosen. They will see it as dangerous and threatening. Walk that path anyway. They will doubt the origins of your faith and the spirituality of your soul. Critics of the contemplative life think they are defending orthodoxy. They mean well, but they are fearful of what they do not understand and have not experienced. Mostly they are fearful because their tribal leadership is fearful.

It is easy to get reactive when accused of being a proponent of heresy. Don’t give in to that feeling or behavior. When that happens to me, I get very angry and want to fight them in the church parking lot, but when I calm down, I choose to spend time in wordless prayer and receive the warm comfort of the third member of the Trinity.

You will be accused of reading and listening to false teachers—people like Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Beth Moore, N.T. Write, or Henri Nouwen. They are not false teachers. False teachers always lead you away from the rabbi from Galilee. False teachers will eventually lead you to excesses that abuse the grace of Calvary or towards the binding confines of the moralism of Sinai. The authors I mentioned above (and others) will never lead you to those extremes. Read them.

The Holy Spirit has been trusted in times past of being a good check on falsity in the body of Christ. Our mothers and fathers in the faith have grasped at words to try and describe God’s strange and wonderful presence among us in his spirit.

In the New Testament, the Spirit is often pictured as a dove. Early Celtic Christians appropriated this in their own way by describing the spirit as a wild goose because that was a more familiar bird to them. One of our early Church fathers named Tertullian called God’s Spirit the Doctor Veritas— the truth Doctor. Augustine of Hippo, who was a fourth-century Christian thinker and leader, talked about the spirit of God as the Digitus Dei— the Finger of God.

You will be told to not trust the internal leadings of the soul as accurate impulses of the good Doctor Veritas. Trust him anyway

The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Study Jesus. Become an apprentice of the teacher from Nazareth. Follow his steps. If he fasted, you fast. If he meditated on scripture, you meditate on scripture. If he spent time in silence and solitude, you spend time there. If he observed the Sabbath, you observe the Sabbath. If he expressed emotional lamentations, you share your complaints with God.

When you are looking for an earthly guide for your journey, don’t look for the gifted, the ones with vast knowledge, or the ones that are fierce defenders of orthodoxy. Find someone who has learned to live in the house of their own teaching. Find someone who, when you sneak up on them, you catch them ladened with the fruit of the Spirit. Find someone who has learned that grace always precedes truth. Find someone who is a non-anxious presence—a person of ease who feels as if they have all the time in the world for Jesus, their enemies, and you.

This week I found this little poem that went deep into my heart. It describes in near perfect language what I have felt and been trying to say to you in this letter.

In Error

by John D. Blase

It grieves me to hear

men in the afternoon

of life wrangling like

it’s the morning.

There are sixty year

old men still booming

over the inerrancy of

scripture instead of

growing quieter and

quieter, learning the

verses of bird song.

The Apostle Paul reminds us,

If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (ESV)

Prophetic powers without love are dangerous. Wordless prayer born out of deep adoration and love for Jesus is as safe as his nail-scarred hands because attached to that wounded hand is the Digitus Dei— the Finger of God

There will be times when you will be tempted to give into fear, anger, and withdraw and not rise early in the morning to meet with the Word. Rise early and meet with him anyway.

And when your critics doubt the veracity of your mystical experience with the Triune God, ask them to meet you in the church parking lot so that you can pray for them and be merciful to them.

Because that is what Jesus’ little brother said to do. Show mercy to your critics and chase the goose.

About Joe Chambers

I am the beloved of the Most High God. I am an avid reader and writer and have been a continuous learner since my college studies in Ancient Literature and English. I live at the base of Mount Princeton in the Colorado Rockies with my wife of over three decades. I believe I have been put here to tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way Home. I am the father of three sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. I love to read, tell stories, and spend time in the wilderness.
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