We used to live in a development that surrounded two large ponds. Unfortunately, geese decided it was their favorite convention spot. The word got around in Geesedom and they brought all their friends.
The homeowners association installed tall natural plantings on the banks of the ponds, to make it hard for the geese to stroll on land and use our grounds as their outhouse. One of the property owners bought a loud horn to sound off, which was supposed to scare off the geese, but the geese called in reinforcements to outsquawk the horn. Residents didn’t know whether to shoot the geese or the guy with the horn.
Currently, we’re living in another home temporarily, before permanently relocating in the south. This place also sits beside a small lake. However, the grass along the banks is clipped short and there are even a couple small grassy manmade islands, all of which geese love.
The weather has been unseasonably warm, so the geese come in small bunches to sunbathe, stroll, snack, swim, much like picnickers out for a day at the park. Residents sit on their porches with a beer and a book. Nobody goes postal. It’s actually pleasant.
I’ve been trying to figure out what was different about the two scenes. The weather? The location? The season? Maybe all of the above. All I know is that the current situation is a lot more pleasant for all concerned.
I’m speculating here. But, if I can take a few imaginative liberties, what if this time both sides of Geese Wars realize they’re different and no amount of “push back” by either side is going to change that. Humans have certain expectations of what they want from a lakeside experience. So do geese. We can power up on them to make them behave…but they have a few tricks of their own to even the score. So when does it end?
There’s a spiritual corollary here. As Christians, we have a point of view that affects our values, our tastes, our must-haves and can’t stands. And people who don’t share our worldview see the world through a totally different lens. No surprise there. In fact, chasms exist even between different corners of the Christian world. If blame is your game, targets abound.
But I can’t think of a single time when bullying, shaming, and name-calling by either side–no matter how politely phrased and slickly packaged–changed anybody’s mind or created lasting change. Louder is not a strategy.
Rules aren’t the whole answer either. You can legislate traffic laws and child abuse and create regulations to keep food safe. But people still get drunk and crash into innocent motorists. Children are still discovered who have been locked away in basement cages by psycho parents. And current news accounts of “pink slime” remind us that there’s a lot we don’t know about what we consume.
Lasting change–in people, neighborhoods and our culture–happens when we are changed from the inside out. Heart change. And that kind of lasting change needs a hand from Someone much smarter than any of us, Someone who knows how our hearts were supposed to work before we screwed up the plan.
Don’t get me wrong. There are always plenty of things we can do to help. Food pantries, tutoring inner-city kids, serving on a school board, taking an elderly neighbor to the doctor, voting. But what about your heart? When was the last time you asked God about the condition of your heart and whether it was still aligned with his or has gone rogue over certain issues or situations?
We live in a time where politics, environmental issues, social justice issues, racial and ethnic divisions, demand a mindset that’s not all about us. God sent Jesus to show us what it looks like and told us what to do: Imitate him.