Christians on a Wild Goose Chase
Celtic Christians had an interesting term for the Holy Spirit. They called it “Ah Geadh-Glas”, or the wild goose. They were on to something for the Holy Spirit is something that cannot be tracked or tamed.
Pastor and author Mark Batterson believes Christians spend too much time worrying about making the right decision. He thinks that if people would just allow the Holy Spirit to lead them completely they would be better off. In his new book, Wild Goose Chase (Multnomah Books), Batterson leads Christians on the road to rediscover the untamed adventure of pursuing God.*
CBN.com Program Director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Batterson to discuss how people can pursue the adventure God has for them, whether people can live by faith and be bored, and pursuing a passion but settling for a paycheck.
Your new book is called “Wild Goose Chase”. Beyond the cliché’ of the title what is the significance of a wild goose?
A few years ago I was reading about Celtic Christianity and discovered that they had an interesting name for the Holy Spirit. They called it the Wild Goose. When I first heard that I thought that it sounded sacrilegious. But the more I thought about it I realized what a great description of what it means to live a spirit led life. It is like a wild goose chase. You aren’t going to know where you are going most of the time but that also goes by another name – adventure. In my experience, take the Holy Spirit out of the equation of your life and it spells boring. Add it into the equation of your life and you never know where you are going to go, what you are going to do, or who you are going to meet. The name comes out of that ancient understanding of who the Holy Spirit is.
With that in mind, what does it mean to rediscover the untamed nature of God?
I am a pastor so I eat and breathe the Church. But I think what happens in a lot of churches is that we try to tame people in the name of Christ. What we end up with is a very domesticated kind of experience with God but when I read the Gospels it was very uncivilized and undomesticated. What I would like to think is that Jesus didn’t just die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous. When I pronounce a benediction at the end of our services I would like to think that I am releasing dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the enemy. Wild Goose Chase is really a book about unleashing people to really experience the true reality of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.
What you are describing definitely sounds adventurous. How can people pursue the adventure that God has for them?
Three years ago I was in the Galapagos Islands. That place is the closest thing I have seen to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It is just an amazing place. I went swimming with sea lions. I was within an arm’s reach of marine iguanas. Pelicans that looked like prehistoric pterodactyls were dive-bombing off the boat. It is just a very wild place. It was amazing to see those animals in their natural habitat. So, then I came home and I went to the National Zoo near my home in Washington, D.C. I saw all of these caged animals. I have now been ruined for zoos. There is just something about caged animals – they are just not the same experience. I’m looking at these apes in their cages and I am thinking I wonder if the Church does to Christians what zoos do to animals. We end up in a cage and it is not the true experience. What I do in the book is talk about six cages that really keep us from living the true adventure that God has called us to -- everything from routine to guilt to fear. I highlight how all those different things keep us from the true experience that God wants us to have.
Let’s talk about some of those cages you mention. Could you take two or three and outline what they represent?
Fear is a big one for people. The enemy’s tactics haven’t really changed since the Garden of Eden. He wants to use guilt to keep us focused on the past and use fear to keep us from really living by faith. I talk a lot about how we can face those fears, step out in faith, and do what God has called us to do. I think one of the cages that is kind of a subtle thing is the Cage of Routine. Routines are normal, natural, healthy things. Most of us take a shower and brush our teeth every day. That is a good routine. Spiritual disciplines are routines. That is a good thing. But once routines become routine you need to change your routine. Otherwise, you will end up in this place where you are kind of going through the motions spiritually. One of the things I share in the book is change of pace plus change of place equals change of perspective. It is a very simple thing but in my walk with Christ I have found that if I just simply change things up a little bit, go to a different place, or even change my version of my Bible, or do things at a different time, it just kind of gives me a fresh experience with God. It keeps it real.
You have mentioned that there are six cages you address in your book. Is there any one cage that is more dangerous or more important than the others?
I think the Cage of Guilt is one that we are in and out of all the time. If we aren’t careful we can land in that Cage of Guilt and get so focused on what we have done wrong in the past that we don’t have any emotional or spiritual energy to really think about what God has for us in the future. The Cage of Guilt is a dangerous one because you have to keep coming back to the foot of the Cross, confessing your sin, receiving that forgiveness. Then you need to set back out on that adventure that God has called us to.
Can people live by faith and be bored?
I think it is impossible. Faith and boredom are antonyms. A guy named Soren Kierkegaard said that boredom is the root of all evil. That is a profound statement. You have to think about it. I think faith is the small mustard seed of opportunities every day. For example, am I going to love this person? Am I going to share my faith with this person? Am I going to pray that little prayer? It really is a daily thing where you seize those little mustard seed opportunities and then see what God does. That is where the adventure comes from. I pastor a church in Washington, D.C. In my experience, and I am in just one little corner of the Kingdom in Washington, but most people at some point get bored with their faith. That is problematic. As I read the Gospels I don’t see the disciples getting BORED! Jesus always has a surprise up his sleeve. So, it is about living a life that I think approximates sort of that original experience that those disciples had.
Why do you think people start out in life pursuing a passion but then end up settling for a paycheck? You write about this.
This is the Cage of Responsibility. It is a subtle one because what happens is at some point a lot of us turn our responsibilities into excuses to why we cannot live by faith. I call it “responsible irresponsibility”. It is living our lives in a way that the true God ordained passions. Sometimes this gets buried beneath those responsibilities. We end up just living a life of mediocrity. What I really want to challenge people to is to identify what are those God ordained passions? What has He called you to? Get back in touch with those and have this challenge of wanting do die doing what you love to do. I do not want to just arrive safely at death. I want to live by faith and do the things God has called me to do.
In Wild Goose Chase you write, ‘Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time.’ My question for you is, is this a good place for us to be?
Absolutely. I don’t think faith has to do with God revealing circumstantial things. We want to know when, where, how, but if God would answer all of those questions we would stop living in total dependence upon Him. In my experience, we usually can’t see very far. Abraham is the patron saint of Wild Goose chasers. It says in Hebrews 11 that he went even though he did not know where he was going. One of the things I try to talk about is that people need to stop reading my book for a second, take a deep breath and let it back out. What happens physiologically is it recalibrates us. That is what the sovereignty of God does for me. I remind myself that I may not know where I am going but God is sovereign. He is ordering my footsteps. It takes all of the pressure off of me. My hope is that as people read “Wild Goose Chase” that it kind of lifts a little bit of a burden. So many Christians almost have a sense of guilt and frustration that they don’t know what to do next. What I am saying is that it is ok. But are you living in a moment by moment sensitivity to the Spirit of God to the way He is leading? And if you do than I will promise you this: God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get there. I think that we forget that. We forget that God wants to show us the way.
After people read Wild Goose Chase, as an author what is the one thing you want them to take away with them?
One of my goals is to have readers get to the end of the book and just identify those places where they are playing defense in their lives. Where are you living defensively? It might be in a marriage, maybe with your kids, it might be spiritually, it might be occupationally. Where are you playing it safe? Where is the will of God for you? How is God calling you to step out in faith? I am hoping that it is enough of an impetus to kind of be that push for them. I want people to realize that they should be playing offense with their life. I want them to play offense for the Kingdom of God. The wild goose will show them the way.