The weather in my area has shifted back and forth from warm and sunny to cold and rainy or snowy several times in the past week. We went from thundershowers to snow showers in less than 24 hours the other day. The emerging buds on the trees and tiny shoots coming up from the bulbs in the ground grow one day from the warmth of the sun and shrink the next from the colder temperatures. Despite all the up and down temperatures, it appears the buds and shoots are surviving and adapting well.
Green in the Hills
While running and biking, I noticed a tinge of green and yellow from the emerging leaves of the forsythia, multiflora rose, and briar bushes in the woods. This hint of color was not noticeable last week and seemed to develop overnight after a warm day filled with sunshine. The light and heat from the sun drew the leaves out of their shells.
Watching the change reminded me of science classes years ago when I first learned about photosynthesis, or the process by which plants turn light energy into chemical energy. The light from the sun heats the molecules in the plants to create a reaction. Heat is considered catalyst, or agent of change, in the process.
Thinking about this process, I was reminded of Newton’s Laws of motion, and specifically, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Plants and trees react to the light of the sun by pushing forth buds, leaves, and blossoms.
Reacting to the Light
Like the emerging leaves, I noticed people in my neighborhood were also drawn outside by the sun to walk, bike, run, and work in their yards. This observation made me think about how we are naturally drawn to the light. Like the plants and trees around us, we need a catalyst or stimulus in order to get moving. This stimulus may be natural, as with the sunlight, or it may be man-made, as with reacting to what a person reads or hears.
Perhaps this is why Jesus used light in many of his parables. He recognized the natural tendency of humans to react, and used this to draw both draw attention and get a response. Granted, some responses were probably not what Jesus desired. However, he did not hold it against the people, nor did he allow it to deter him from his work.
St. John also speaks a great deal about light in his gospel. Perhaps he also recognized the natural association and used it to draw readers to his work. Though I cannot speak for others, I know from reading St. John’s gospel that his words inspire me to seek the light and the truth in life. How I go about this may or may not be the way St. John intended, but I hope he would agree that there is merit in trying.
Riding the Winds & Waves
The emerging leaves on the trees in my area endured some very high winds last night. Watching the branches bob and sway reminded me that we must often hold on through natural and man-made storms in life. How we hold on may differ, depending on the circumstances and type of storm. Some of us hold on by retreating inward, others explode outward in frustration, and still others may go through a list of questions and answers to better analyze before responding.
Like the leaves on the trees, we must endure physical forces in nature. Our endurance may depend upon physical and mental strength, attitude, character, faith, or some other trait. In order to endure, we must build stamina, which is done by exercising our bodies, minds, and spirits. The exercises we do may be the stimulus allowing us to endure, or may be the response to the need to endure hardship.
Importance of Exercise & Endurance
Whether exercise acts as a stimulus or a response, it is important. Using one’s mind to think, plan, and analyze keeps us aware and alert to our surroundings. Being aware of our surroundings in turn allows us to exercise our bodies as we move through the conditions. Taking what we learn in our movements in turn helps build strength for our spirit.
This process also works in reverse. If we stay spiritually healthy by reading scripture, praying, and spending quiet time with God, we build an inner strength. This inner strength can be called upon when doing physical tasks, allowing us to have a sense of accomplishment. Our level of accomplishment provides strength to the mind, giving us confidence and courage to continue onward.
Balancing Life’s Equations
These processes take place simultaneously, giving us balance in life. This balance in turn allows us to help others and prepares us for the unknown. As we traverse the unknown, we call upon all of our various strengths to guide us and lead us onward.
Though the world around us may appear to be full of extremes, all of the extremes are necessary to maintain overall balance. Thinking about this reminds me of days long ago spent balancing equations in chemistry class. The number of atoms in the elements on the left side of the equation had to equal the number of atoms in the elements on the right side of the equation, though the sequence or order of the elements may differ on each side. In order to balance the equation, one must know that mixing certain elements creates new elements. One must also know which elements do or do not combine.
Knowing this information comes through studying and doing sample problems, also known as exercises. Going through the exercises of studying and doing problems builds a mental library of information. This mental library is what we call upon to allow us to solve problems. The problems we solve give us experience in applying what we know. Applying these aspects of learning starts the cycle over again.
As in chemistry, we can combine different elements of life to create new elements. For example, if we combine physical exercise with healthy eating, we obtain a healthy lifestyle and strength to help us with daily tasks. If we combine a negative attitude with lack of sleep, we may get a very stressful environment and feel run down. Just as in chemistry, we need to be careful with what we combine or else we end up with undesirable results. The key is to balance good and bad, positive and negative, similarities and differences in order to obtain the best outcome.
Just Like the Weather
Often, our experiences in life cause us to change drastically, just like the weather. One moment we may be enjoying life, and the next moment we may be fighting for our life. Any little change in the world around us can set off a fire storm within us that may test our strength, character, faith, and abilities. It is in such times of transition that we rely on our physical, mental, and spiritual health to endure and survive.
St. Paul speaks of endurance and compares it to running a race in I Corinthians 9:24-27. He also speaks of drawing strength from weakness. Through comparing and contrasting, St. Paul illustrates the stimulus and response one’s mind, body, and spirit play in the overall equation of life to obtain balance.
May our actions and reactions to the world around us allow us to grow in physical, mental, and spiritual strength. May this strength allow us to endure, and to help others endure, life’s storms. May what we learn in the process allow us to find balance over time.
Green buds, opening on the trees
Reaching up to meet
The sun’s rays permeating the atmosphere
And the clouds of rain gathered near;
Reaching to the skies’ extents
Leaving the past behind to focus on the present,
In order to grow and survive
Through endurance learned in life.
Needed as reassurance
During the run of the race
Under heaven’s reigns
Reinventing and changing,
Near and far
Circling life’s stops and starts
Encountered along the way to heaven’s gates.
Sun in the sky filtering down
The gift of life all around
Seen in the geese on the pond,
The mist above the trees in the dawn,
Daffodils, tulips, bleeding heart, and hyacinth,
The moon, the stars, and nature’s labyrinth,
Allowing the mind, body, and soul to thrive
Through endurance learned in life.
Defining who we are
Under the stars,
Rolling in the waves of the sea,
And keeping our feet
Near the path of the light
Coming from the sun in the sky
Entering the heart and soul to forever hold.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Balancing chemical equations – http://www.sparknotes.com/testprep/books/sat2/chemistry/chapter6section1.rhtml
Drawing strength from weakness – http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/strength-in-weakness.html
Gospel of St. John – http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/1
Newton’s laws of motion – https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/K-12/airplane/newton.html
Photosynthesis – https://www.britannica.com/science/photosynthesis