I think it’s extremely inventive of God to use metaphors in nature to teach spiritual truth. And the truth “flashes” with me at the oddest times. . .like in a Jeff Corwin show.
Jeff Corwin is often a guest lecturer at the Dickerson Homeschool. One episode shows him flying an ultralight aircraft with a flock of migrating barnacle geese in France. Here’s the dialog:
What you’ll notice is that there’s a leader in this “V” formation. What that leading goose does is break up that wall of wind to the front. Each of the geese line up alongside. By doing that, the wind resistance to their front is decreasing. Every year, these birds make extreme migration, thousands of miles around the world at up to 6,000 feet above the surface of the earth. What’s incredible to me is how these birds use both instinct as well as learned behaviors for their navigation.
As Jeff talked, I marveled at God’s design for traveling in the “V” formation. The Library of Congress website has more information about that phenomenon. (Get ready: spiritual metaphors ahead!)
Scientists have determined that the V-shaped formation that geese use when migrating serves two important purposes: First, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they must stop for rest. The second benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.
So. There’s always a leader out front, breaking up the wall of wind. Each member in the team takes a turn being out in front. When the front-person grows tired, she steps aside and rotates to the not-in-front position for awhile. Every member of the team staggers his/her position so everyone can see each other, keep an eye on each other, look out for each other. Everyone moves in the same direction, yes, but in the “V” formation, the team can migrate far distances at extreme altitudes. Team members use instinct and learned behavior to navigate this travel pattern.
Parenting a child with hidden disabilities needs a “V” formation. There are times when I’ve been leading Cami—in academics and social skills and personal struggles—and I’m tired. Or I don’t know the best way to handle a situation. Or I’m burned out because I haven’t taken care of my own needs. Those times are when I step to the back of our family formation and let someone else lead Cami for awhile.
Because we homeschool, making time for myself to go to the doctor or the dentist or anywhere Cami can’t accompany me can get interesting. Finding childcare for my 11-year-old is not an easy thing. Not everyone understands her quirkiness or makes accommodations for her hidden disabilities. That’s when the “V” formation is a helpful concept.
I’m blessed to have several people in my formation, people whom I trust to love Cami and protect her physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My main go-to guy is my husband Michael. He is the head of our home and always the Dad, but sometimes he’s also the homeschool teacher, the friendship coach, and the maid. He’s a father that shows up to Cami’s life by really listening to her and remembering what she says. I find that many times, he “gets” her better than I do.
The rest of my V formation consists of a few close girlfriends and some incredibly supportive and trustworthy neighbors. Because none of Cami’s grandparents, aunts, or uncles live locally, it would be easy to feel isolated and abandoned, or like I’m the only one who can take care of Cami. But that simply isn’t true. God provides who Cami needs—and who I need—every single time. And He’s never late. I think sometimes, He’s just waiting for me to move out of the front and ask for help.
It’s good to do some migrating, some shifting, some refocusing. It’s good to share the privilege of loving and leading Cami. It’s good to watch God extend His graces and promises to her. Even when I’m not out in front, I’m still moving in the same direction with my V formation: in pursuit of a Savior Who is jealous for us, Who delights in us, Who is awfully fond of us.
What a marvelous journey!