Olivia Was A Spiritual Guide
I am thoroughly convinced that paying attention is the greatest spiritual practice in our lives.
It looks different for all of us, but usually it means putting down the phone, looking at the person next to us, and seeing what happens.
This was the case on a recent flight home. Marissa and I sat next to a young woman named Olivia. And Olivia happened to be a spiritual guide.
We met Olivia in the lobby before we boarded our flight. She had lost her boarding pass, so we helped her navigate talking to an airline employee and getting on the plane. She thanked us and said goodbye.
We put the encounter behind us and found our seats on the plane. Moments later, though, she walked down the aisle and, much to our surprise, was seated next to us.
Olivia was a juxtaposition in many ways–quirky, insightful, and a little crass. A really great combination. And she was also speaking to my soul.
She was terrified of flying, so we helped her sort that out with encouragement and conversation. And then she launched into a diatribe of insight and instruction on what it means to live a healthy a life.
She had a way with words and also expressing the sentiment of the moment. It’s funny how God can use someone to say exactly what you need to hear.
Typically, when you meet someone on a plane, conversations go a couple directions.
You make small talk, finding out where someone is from and what they do for a living.
Because we tend to define one another by those two things, that’s how conversations usually unfold. But this wasn’t the case with Olivia.
In fact, when the question of “what do you do?” came up and I immediately went into my well rehearsed pat answer that had solely to do with my job, she countered.
“I didn’t ask what you did for work. I want to know who you are…as a person?”
I had just answered her by saying I worked at a church. Now, most of the time when people hear that I’m a pastor, the walls go up and the conversation steers in another direction entirely. But it didn’t this time.
It was refreshing because so often that’s how I view myself. My perspective is narrow and my identity is, even when I’m working on it, caught up in titles and what I do to make a living.
We talked about the rat race of the world we’re living in with rampant consumerism and schedules that are so chock full that we barely have any time to breathe.
We talked about spirituality, slowing down, and following Jesus.
And we talked about how most of us are living to work, instead of working to allow us to live.
“That’s not good for your soul,” she said.
And she was right. So incredibly right.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is the importance of not “should-ing” ourselves. (In fact, just for fun, count how many times you use the word “should” throughout your day. I’m embarrassed to admit mine was outrageously high).
The mindset for many of us, myself included, is rules based. We create lists of thing we need to do. These rules about life govern how we live, and also shape the way we view other people.
But is this really living?
And is this even how Jesus invites us to live?
When Jesus said He came to give us a life to the full, he was describing a life better than anything the world had to offer. This was a life of love, joy, peace, grace, and acceptance.
A life centered on Him and His movement to provide freedom–freedom from the world’s value system, and freedom from ourselves.
Olivia was a spiritual guide, even if she didn’t intend to be.
In fact, maybe that’s the best way to be a guide. You just speak what’s in your soul and trust that the words you say, even if they aren’t entirely yours, are helping someone else.
Sometimes profound insights come from reading a hefty theological book, or hearing a well rehearsed and refined sermon.
Other times, they come from a conversation in an unlikely place and time, like a plane ride home with a complete stranger. And yet, they guide us nonetheless.
Never forget: everyone is your teacher.
When we pay attention, we’ll be surprised by the lessons we’ll learn.
Because God is speaking.
And there are so many truths we need to hear.