Life is full of surprises and opportunities to live more fully. Yesterday, I received a surprising gift. It came through a simple and uncomfortable encounter. As I was getting ready to deplane after a short morning flight, I accidentally flung the buckle of my seatbelt onto a young woman sitting to my right. She let out a loud, “Wow!” It came with attitude, and not the nice kind. Her body language spoke volumes: “How dare you?” “What audacity” “What’s wrong with you?” I was taken aback, partially by my mindless action, but more so by her disproportioned reaction. I apologized and reassured her that I did not mean to cause her harm. She grumbled and dismissed my attempt to assuage the situation.

This simple incident frazzled me. I unknowingly absorbed the negative energy and started to be offended by her strong reaction. A jukebox of judgment started to play in my mind and psyche. I invented a story about what kind of person she probably is: unhappy, disgruntled, alone, paranoid that the whole world is against her, with me becoming the next person on her long blacklist. Then a sobering voice whispered to me, “Tri, you’re judging her. You’re reacting. You don’t have to go down this path.”

With this realization, I began to choose differently. I began to wake up. To be honest, it started a painful process. I called a good friend who helped me sort out the negative feelings rising within me. I took some time to pray, to welcome God into my not-very-nice inner happenings. I asked for the grace to befriend whatever chaos was stirring within me rather than to judge or demonize it, the woman, or myself. While this was not an unfamiliar process, it was humbling for me. Feelings of prejudice, self-righteousness, being a victim as well as a number of allusions crowded my awareness yesterday. Yet, what followed these unwanted visitors were also acceptance, letting go, trust in Divine healing, patience with myself and the woman for whatever burdens we both are carrying. I was invited to revisit a relationship with a person with whom I have been struggling, whose physical demeanors and personality resemble very much the young woman on the plane. I received the offer to greater freedom.

Incidentally, the Gospel yesterday encourages me to entrust my burdens to God and take on the humble and light yoke of Jesus that lightens and enlightens. Moreover, today’s first reading about Jacob’s realization after waking up from his dream inspires me to see my encounter yesterday as a sacred and gracious gift. Perhaps there is a conspiracy of grace happening, beyond mere coincidences, inviting me to be awakened to greater life.

The spiritual life is essentially a beckoning to “wake up,” to live and love anew, to become more fully alive and interiorly free. Join me today, to embrace an awakened life. In the words of John O’Donohue, let us “gradually learn how to live so as to awaken the eternal within [each of us].”