Chuck is a high school music teacher who works with his students to put on a musical every spring. He carefully chooses a play that showcases the strengths of his students, stretches them to do more, and still stays within their ability to perform it well. He tells me that he has the same experience each year. “When we are deep in rehearsal, a line from one of the songs hits me right between the eyes.” He’s heard the words time and time again, but this time they come fully alive – moving him with the full weight of their meaning and significance.
Chuck’s description captures something of the experience of awakening. In a moment, he hears something old in a new way, he suddenly sees it differently, it forces him to think, and it touches his heart.
The Experience of Awakening
Awakening opens our ears. The lyric of a song or the line of a poem jumps out at us. Awakening urges us to pay attention, listen for what gives life, filter out the noise, welcome silence, value each word, encourage timid voices, and grasp deeper meaning when words fail.
Awakening opens our eyes. A magnolia tree explodes into bloom or a photograph triggers insight and amazement. Awakening urges us to see in new ways, envision possibilities, grasp meaning, encounter mystery, trust more than we can see, and hope in what’s beyond the horizon.
Awakening opens our minds. An idea triggers possibilities or a harsh reality forces us to rethink our beliefs. Awakening surprises us, fuels exploration, stimulates discovery, reveals possibilities, unmasks biases, confronts prejudices, and challenges us to stretch.
Awakening opens our hearts. The generosity of strangers inspires us or the suffering of others moves us to tears. Awakening enkindles passion, expands comfort zones, cultivates relationships, reaches out with compassion, and embraces with love.
Our ears, eyes, mind, and heart conspire to awaken us to meaning, to mystery, and – most of all – to God with us. Each awakening experience is an invitation to embrace the spiritual, discover the divine presence in a new way, and cultivate a deeper relationship with the ever- present God of life.
We May Experience Awakening as a Gift
A gift that opens our ears: delighting us with the laughter of children, soothing us with the rhythm of waves, moving us with the beauty of music, connecting us in the intimacy of self- revelation, and touching us with whispers of love.
A gift that opens our eyes: thrilling us with the sight of one we love, mesmerizing us with the view of a super moon rising over the horizon, and dazzling us with the beauty of a cardinal glistening in the sunlight.
A gift that opens our minds: inspiring us with creativity, unlocking imagination, stimulating vision, launching dreams, and driving meaning and purpose.
A gift that opens our hearts: enkindling passion, encouraging growth, motivating commitment, extending generosity, nourishing gratitude, and uniting in solidarity.
Awakening May Come with a Price
The price of opening our ears is hearing the cries for justice, the violence of war, the weeping of those who mourn, the ache to belong, the demand for a seat at the table, the desire to make a difference, and pleas for mercy and forgiveness.
The price of opening our eyes is seeing the homeless woman begging by the side of the road, those broken under the weight of poverty, the incarcerated whose “crime” is mental illness, and the painful realities that challenge comfort and expose privilege.
The price of opening our minds is the painful self-awareness with which we are forced to come to grips with our hidden motives, the self-interest lurking behind our best intentions, the unintended consequences attached to our noble actions, the rigidity of our mindset, and the cultural biases that exclude and oppress.
The price of opening our hearts is admitting our weakness, acknowledging our mortality, asking for forgiveness, extending mercy, embracing the broken, and suffering with those hurting.
Awakening is at the Heart of Jesus’ Ministry
When John’s disciples come to Jesus to inquire whether he is “the one who is to come,” Jesus answers:
Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news
brought to them. (Matt. 11: 4-5)
Jesus urges John’s disciples to describe what they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. He doesn’t need to provide a testimony; they have witnessed the answer to John’s question. Healing the broken, reconciling the lost, and bringing good news to the poor are the essence of Jesus’ ministry. They demonstrates that he is the promised “one who is to come.”
Like Chuck, we may have experienced awakening as a lyric that hits us right between the eyes. Or, like John’s disciples, perhaps it was a revelation that we saw with our eyes and heard with our own ears. Awakening may have come to us as a welcome gift, or it may have arrived with a price that had to be paid.
Jesus’ ministry of awakening continues to open blind eyes, deaf ears, closed minds and hardened hearts. Each experience of awakening calls us deeper into a love relationship with the incarnate God dwelling within and among us. Each experience of awakening is an invitation to open ourselves to that presence and respond with wholehearted surrender.
Invitation to Prayer
Open our eyes that we might see those in need
Open our ears that we might hear the cries of the poor
Open our minds that we might discover ways to serve others
Open our hearts that we might respond with compassion and love
Spirit of Love and Power
Gift us with wisdom that we might know how to love
Gift us with courage that we might live that love for others