For my first Goose, I took it all in. I filled my days with sessions. I filled myself with the Spirit. I made friends and met many whose ministries I admire. I came expecting community and still being surprised at how amazing it is to actually find it.
For my second Goose, I brought my daughter. Eight. A natural and eager storyteller. A songwriter. A dancer. I wanted her to have the chance to be filled with the Spirit of justice, peace, love, and dirt.For four days, this small patch of dirt is home. Click To Tweet
We get up before the sun to drive through the Appalachian Mountains to the small resort town nestled by the French Broad River.
We pitch our tent, only to discover it is missing its fly–the open sky permanently visible from within. I am freaking out. My heart is pounding. I watch the time. The rain is already coming down. I’ll need to move the car soon. The options before me are of the last resort variety.
And I was a terrible boy scout.
This is the Wild Goose Festival. This isn’t some normal campground. This is holy ground. Here, during this weekend, the world is different. I know this, so I summon what passes for inner peace in my heart and walk to our neighbor who is setting up his space.
I mention our predicament, suggesting we might need a tarp to somehow cover our tent. Someone has to have an extra. He does. And is so pleased to share it with us.
After several failed attempts, we turn the tarp into a fly which holds the whole time.
That evening J.Kwest tells his story of life and faith: of making lemonade out of the junk that comes our way. The simple aphorism about optimism is really about faith and about hope and about the kind of love of GOD that believes that all will be well.
So my little storyteller and I sit in our tent that night, escaping the storm with a tarp holding, giving thanks for this lemonade.
While we camped out at the main stage and went to all the sessions we could last year, bringing my daughter by myself changes things. It means that we do everything as a team and according to her schedule.
While I still have the opportunity to sit with Shane Claiborne and ask about justice and judgment at the Open Tent and talk metaphor and morality of The Walking Dead with Anthony Smith and Teresa B. Mateus, I don’t attend the storytelling workshops or the StorySlam I would have sans kids.
She comes with me to see my friends, David and Mark record their podcast, The Moonshine Jesus Show. She thinks they are hilarious.
I keep her up for the Homebrewed Christianity live show, which happens to be the most adult-themed show yet. Yeah…she doesn’t like it. Sorry, Tripp. But I love it.
For all the engaging and the conversations and the networking I want to do, none of that matters.
We stick together. We eat meals together and read together and play in the river together. We make sand castles and tell stories and share a common space.
For four days, this small patch of dirt is home. But home expands to include the spigot where we fill our canteens and the rock right next to it is ours. So are the coffee truck and the lemonade stand and the sink we use to brush our teeth and wash dishes.
The paths we walk are ours, as are the hand-painted signs, especially the one across from our tent which reads “BE STILL” which makes no sense at all to her, but which is a constant reminder to me.
Slow down. Listen to her.
Listen to her as she fights to stay awake during the Indigo Girls’ fantastic set: not because she’s bored, but because she’s exhausted and its hours past bedtime and she doesn’t know all these songs yet.
Not like she will. When she hears her own wrestling in them, as I do. Her own aches and longings and hopes.
When Matt Morris comes on stage to help them sing “Kid Fears” I know what was next, the one she is waiting for. The one that is the closing anthem for a reason: the one which could be the Wild Goose anthem is next.
And she lights up as the words come over all the people in front of us, standing, holding her in my arms:
And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
is to help me take my life less seriously,
it’s only life after all.
And it is true.
As much as Wild Goose is the embodied gospel, the living into discipleship on a mountaintop, the leaving and returning home is the real act of discipleship.
That’s why we kicked off with Jennifer Bailey’s call for listening and closed with Claudio Carvaleas’ call for letting the Holy Spirit tell her story through us.
We have to go, saying goodbye to the mountaintop, returning again to the floodplain. We will get wifi again and cell service. We will come home and return to our families. Like Peter, going back to fishing after Jesus. After the return. Returning himself.
And the story we have heard is a story needed to be told to those who weren’t there. A story of love and inclusion and hope and thankfulness. A story of compassion and listening and collaborating and praise.
Our tent comes down and the stage is disassembled and the vendors close. There is no clearer sign than the sudden emptiness of the campgrounds to know that it is over. It becomes emptier and emptier and the vision of staying because more and more impossible and more and more obviously a false option.
So we drive away, saying goodbye to not only our little patch of dirt, but all that made this a new home, a dwelling place for us. We wish it well, looking forward to returning next year. We miss it before we’re even out of town.
Eventually we turn off the Indigo Girls and listen to some podcasts: Storynory and Brains On!.
And we arrive home after the sun has set, wired, and eager to share our story together.The story we hear is a story we need to tell those who weren’t there. Click To Tweet