By David Burnet
This term, "Chasing the Wild Goose" has a meaning which surprised me, one I never expected. Maybe you will be surprised at this, too. It's about words, metaphors, meanings and different cultures. (How many languages is the Bible translated into?) Okay...here's what I'm talking about.
Different cultures use their own cultural symbols to express things differently than we do in our own culture.
This can include expressing or teaching about Christianity.
I wonder how the story of Jesus, what he did, how and why; the Good News of the Kingdom - is said in a Chinese culture. Or in Native American culture. Or in Celtic culture. It is good to just wonder about such things, sometimes.
Holy Spirit speaks to and inspires all peoples, and each "people-group". Each and every person, too. Using symbols and metaphors that they are familiar with. Our brains can only use language and symbols we know.
Not all cultures come from a Judeo-Christian culture. Ours comes from one, but these days, only a little bit. The Bible is not as well known and read or heard being read as used to be done 70-100 years ago. Many of us, myself included, need study Bibles that translate biblical imagery and metaphors for us. Our present day culture has only some familiarity, not enough for most of us to understand scripture well without help.
God speaks to each and every person and culture differently. In terms of their own experience and understanding. How can it be otherwise?
The still, small voice of God is not really heard, but it is known and experienced. And we "translate" or put into words what God said to us.
God told me, when I was looking at the lady who was to become my wife, "She's the one (for you)." In still, small voice. Not in words. But translated into words, that's how I can best expressed what I heard and knew. The experience of the Presence of God was very, very strong when that knowing came to me. That was fifty years ago. I am still surprised at her love, my love for her, and how well we get along together. We are gifted for and towards one another. Not surprising...God told me, "She is the one." In still small voice, not English. In English, though, this is what I heard. Translated into English. I sure am glad God told me! I am grateful to our Lord for the gift of her in my life.
English is not the first language of God. Yet my Bibles are translated into English for me, and for this I am also very grateful. I get to know God's Word.
And so, to other private persons or individuals, and to people in other countries, to capture the meaning of Christian terms and metaphors, their present cultural metaphors may be used to capture the meaning of what is to be taught, a meaning caught, or simply expressed to another human being.
Translating the story of Jesus Christ, the experience of the Holy Spirit, who as a wind, comes from where we do not know, and goes to where we do not know...may necessitate translation into a different language or different metaphors than the ones we grew up with.
When we hear such translations, we may need help and study notes. We may need someone to explain what it meant to the original hearers. Just as I need study notes or a teacher to explain to me the meaning of Greek or Hebrew words that went into the Bible and that had to be translated into words for us. English words. Cultural metaphors I or you are familiar with.
Here is an example. On the Internet, there is a website a page about a book that expresses this very, very well. You can find this page at:
On this page is an artistic picture of a wild goose. And it has these words, promoting what looks to me like a very interesting book that I did not know about until today, and which I now want to read. These are the words on that page:
“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surrounds Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….
Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.
Chasing the wild goose, or a wild goose chase...can mean something different than it first means to you or to me. Yet with a bit of explanation, a note or a teacher explaining, we can easily understand. And what a beautiful and accurate metaphor it is. Powerful.
Other cultures and people grow up with different languages than we did and have different metaphors. God's Word to us can be translated into these. Sometimes well, sometimes poorly...just like different Bible translations.