There is a parable about a wild goose shot down by a local hunter. Only wounded in one wing, the goose landed safely in a barnyard. The chickens were quite startled by this sudden visitor from the sky. After becoming more comfortable with the stranger, they began to ask about what had been seen but never experienced:

“Tell us what it’s like to fly!”

“It’s wonderful!” said the Goose, who told story after story of his flights. “It’s so beautiful to soar in the wild blue yonder! Why this barn looks only an inch high and all of you look like tiny specks from such a distance. First you fly high and then you glide and enjoy the astonishing scenery.”

The chickens were quite impressed by the goose and his stories. Later they asked him to tell more about his high-flying adventures. Soon, it became a weekly event for the goose to entertain all the barnyard birds. They even provided a box for him to stand so everyone could see him.

But the strangest thing happened; or maybe I should say never happened. While the birds enjoyed hearing about the glories of flight, they never tried to fly themselves. And the wild goose, even though his wing healed, continued to talk about flying but never actually flew again.

I find this parable frightening. Why? Because it hits too close to home.

• How easy it is to talk about being a Christian without acting like one.
• How easy to say, “Jesus is Lord,” without turning our lives over to His direction.
• How easy to ignore a world in desperate need of our witness.
• How easy for us to talk ministry without actually doing anything.

Talk is easy; flying is not. We must learn to flex new muscles and continuously work hard at flapping our wings before we can actually fly.

Scary thoughts as we rapidly approach the beginning of a new year. Are you making your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Here is one for you:

“Give me the courage to flap my wings and fly.”

Jesus said: “‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.’” (Mark 8:34-35)

“Shoulder your cross and follow me.” I used to think the cross stood for the pain of being a Christian. “If you really want to follow me, you must be willing to endure pain and suffering.” Not very exciting; nor completely true. Although pain strikes us all, pain is not exactly what Jesus had in mind. If this were only about pain, we would all keep “pain diaries” to see which one suffers the most and “pain winners” would go to heaven.

So, what does it mean to shoulder your cross and follow Christ?

Jesus is talking about flying. What?

Jesus is talking about commitment. Jesus accepted suffering because that was his purpose. The cross was his ultimate assignment and he was committed to seeing it through to the end. A bird’s purpose is to fly; but he must first be committed to the work and effort of flapping his wings over and over again. Our decision to shoulder the cross of Christ regardless of the cost is our commitment to “flap our wings” and to keep flapping until we finally fly.

So, how about this for your New Year’s resolution: “Teach me to fly… whatever it takes. I’m willing to do the work of flapping my wings over and over again. I understand the cost but I also understand my purpose. I am willing to shoulder my cross, flap my wings and learn how to fly.”

Make no mistake: Flying is the best part. It may be safer to stay in the barnyard, but look at what we miss. Imagine the beauty of soaring as we ride the air currents. If we always live carefully, protecting and watching our own self-interests; if we make no effort for anyone but ourselves, we will miss the very best part of life — knowing our God-given mission and having the satisfaction of carrying it out to the best of our ability.

“I want to fly.” What a great way to begin the new year.