This time last year my wife and I were living off Round Springs Road in a home with a small pond behind it just down the hill. From our dining room, which contained a wall of windows, we could sit at our table, look down the hill, and see the water. As those who know me well would attest, I am a duck lover, so I always watched the pond to see if any ducks were passing through. Although we didn’t get any ducks last year, we did get a couple of geese. “I guess they’ll do, Lord,” I jokingly prayed. And so I began watching them.
Over the next couple of weeks I set aside time every day just to watch them. I saw them “play,” at least that’s what I imagined they were doing. I saw them eat. I saw them pick at their feathers with their beaks. I even saw them fly away, and I saw them come in. But one thing struck me as odd about these birds early on: Not only were they always together, but when they were on the water, I never saw their heads down to eat at the same time. One goose was always alert, head up, and, for some reason, that fascinated me. I began meditating over it.
As I reflected and watched them all the more intently, I gained some insight. Had they ever both had their heads down at the same time, they would have been defenseless—sort of like what Jesus said when he spoke of “the blind leading the blind.” But with one keeping its head up while the other went down to feed, they were protected so that, should any danger alarm them—my coming out the back door, for instance, since I’m such a threat—they could warn each other and so take to flight quick enough to escape. Each goose had a goose, and the wisdom of what did only by instinct struck me as divine.
It’s worth remembering that when Abel was nowhere to be found, God went to Cain. “Where is Abel, your brother?” God asked (Gen 4:9). There was something about brotherhood that made Cain, in some ways, responsible to God for Abel. Cain’s response, though written down over two and a half millennia ago, sounds like it could have been asked today in our individualistic culture: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9) Interestingly, God does not answer Cain’s question. But isn’t the answer obvious by the fact God had asked him in the first place? “Yes, Cain! You are your brother’s keeper!”
It seems to me that during those two weeks last spring, creation was teaching me the same lesson—the wisdom of having a “goose,” someone who can “watch for our souls,” someone who could “warn us” in the event of imminent danger. This is the concept of “accountability,” which is a Biblical concept rooted in stewardship. All stewards will give an account for their stewardship; but the idea of accountability is an “audit” before the ultimate “audit” so that, should anything need to be set right, we can make it right before everything is on the line. This way we can “take flight” before our wrongs cost us eternally. After all, are not all at times oblivious to danger? Don’t we all need someone who can tell us the truth?
If I’m honest, I would have preferred ducks—I won’t lie. But at least that once, I am glad I got a goose—geese, actually—instead. It reminded me that Cain was Abel’s “goose.” And in doing so, it begged me to ask myself some soul-searching questions, which I leave for your, the reader’s, consideration: Who is your keeper? Who holds you accountable? If God needed to get your attention, whom could He send? Whose counsel would you trust enough to hear—and heed? In short, who is your goose?
Matt Burleson is pastor at Choctaw Church of Christ