When my son, who has autism, was young, I took him to synagogue on Rosh HaShanah so he could hear the shofar blasts. Listening to the shofar being blown was a physical, sacred focal point on this High Holy Day, and I wanted him to feel included in this regal, ritual re-enactment of the birthday of the world. And I wanted to share these meaningful moments together. As soon as we entered, though, my son said he wanted to leave. It was too loud for him!

No sooner had we stepped outside than he saw a “guy”–my son’s honorific title for men on construction vehicles or lawn mowers–mowing the lawn of a building next door.

“Mommy look: a Guy!” my son beamed, as I faintly heard the Rabbi call “Tekiah Gedolah!” from the synagogue next door.

My son ran ahead to the Guy. He loved the rhythmic whirls of engines, no matter how loud. Unlike the shrill blasts of the shofar, engine noises soothed and engaged him. Before I knew it, this man got off his seated mower and took my son into the equipment shed. They found a tennis ball, and the two of them began playing catch on the lawn.

I had gone to synagogue that morning wanting to share with my son what I anticipated would be a meaningful experience, even a sacred one. Sometimes when I close my eyes on Rosh HaShanah and listen to the shofar, the vibrations of those blasts transport me to a timeless realm into which I meld utterly, somehow touching Eternity in the awakening of Becoming Anew.

I had hoped to share something of this sacred experience with my son, to enfold him in this immersive and soulful, ancient Jewish experience. It didn’t turn out that way exactly. An awakening of a different kind sounded its clarion call and I was being tuned to an epiphany of another sort. Different and, yet, to me, also utterly, sacred.

The sounds of the ball slicing the air, and my son’s delighted shouts were as sacred to me as the shofar blasts. The lawn we were standing on, though hiding in plain sight, was holy ground. Sometimes we are awakened in expected ways. And sometimes revelation happens off the beaten path, with a mercy unique and unpredictable.

Towards the beginning of Exodus, we find Moses busy tending sheep when he sees a thorn bush that is burning. He turns aside to look deeply at that bush and sees that it isn’t being consumed. God calls to Moses from the bush and says, “Do not come closer! Take your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground!”

The Hebrew word for shoe, na’al, in verb form means “lock”. The Hebrew word for foot, regel, contains the same letters used for the word for “habit”. So, “Take your shoes off your feet” can also be understood as “Take the locks off your habits”.

Sometimes life asks us to unlock our habituated ways so that we can know we stand on the holy ground where sacred encounter occurs. What might you need to unlock today, that you might feel the holy ground beneath your feet? What is calling you to awaken?