It was on the Saturday before Advent began that I bought a large, specialty Amaryllis bulb at the local garden shop. I was told it would bloom white with red edging, and that it was ready and full of potential to be planted and grown indoors, right now. We found a large terra cotta pot, filled it with dirt from the garden, and pressed the bulb into the soil. We did what we needed to foster growth: provided water, set the bulb and pot in the sunlight. Today, I noticed that the bulb was beginning to respond with bright green leaf buds starting to sprout. Time had passed; all the necessary elements were in place. The potential of the bulb was emerging in its response to the conditions of growth.
I am a full week into my writing on these advent words that are being sent to me daily. Tonight, as I sat to write, I realized that something in me is changing, too. It is an active, noticeable emergence; a palpable feeling of something taking root in my soul. When I first began, I was looking around for pictures to take and submit to the global advent calendar on Instagram. I would sit with my pretty picture and let it inspire me to write. After doing this for a few days, I realized that images were finding me. Then, stories formed as images would appear and the two began to come together each night. Yesterday, as well as today, I found myself holding the day’s word in my mind and in my heart. These words have begun to form a response in me.
This is particularly appropriate to realize when the daily word is “respond.”
Responding is different than reacting. I think of reaction in scientific terms. In chemistry, reaction describes the automatic interaction between two substances. Reactions can be volatile, heated, or just a dull fizzle. Reactions happen simply because of the natural composition and collision of forces. Likewise, in physics we learn that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Reaction, once again, is automatic and based on an outside force.
Response is something more complex. To respond requires time, context, and intentionality. Responding tends to happen gradually over time, like the slow growth of the flower bulb I photographed today. I never need to teach my students how to react: that happens spontaneously. What I need to do is to teach them how to respond by applying skills, wisdom, knowledge, and empathy to the situations they encounter. Our response is measured, gradual, learned, and adaptive. It requires some choice…or, at the very least, receptivity…to the possibility of change.
I am responding this Advent, continuing the slow growth of what emerges in me.
In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #Respond. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at: http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm