So, what’s with the sunflowers?
When I was a little girl, my aunt worked as a florist in a flower shop in Dallas. On an occasionally rare summer day, I would spend the afternoon at the shop, creating with my little imagination and busying my little hands, pretending that I, too, was a little florist. Each time I visited, my aunt would inquire which of the flowers was my favorite, and each time, I directed my awe towards the bold and radiant face of the strong stemmed sunflower. Something about its captivating warmth ignited a sense of wonder in my little spirit. No other flower got me like it did, and there in that flower shop a little seed was planted in my heart…
And as that little seed sprouted she found that no matter how hard she worked, or how much she strived, she could not become a flower on her own. She desperately needed rain, sun and soil in order to thrive. This little sprout had no need to worry, for she was so dearly loved even before she became a seed. So loved in fact, that ever so faithfully, the rains replenished, the soil rooted and the sun cultivated. And one day, this little sprout blossomed into a radiant sunflower, one whose image reflected that of the Sun and it’s rays that brought her to life. The Sun so loved His little sunflower, that as He rose in the east sky each morning, He captured her attention with His love and maintained it throughout the day and into the night as He settled through dusk in the west sky. In response, the little sunflower so loved the Sun that she could not leave the gaze of His face. She was so dependent on His rays for life, that she actually followed His lead across the sky until night, and waited for Him to rise again each morning.
The Sun loved His sunflower, and she loved the Sun. Everything was absolutely perfect…. for a while. But then the seasons began to shift, and a powerful wind came from the north nearly snapping her strong stem. Before she could recover from such a destructive force, a bitter winter attacked with freezes that sent her into a state shock and confusion. She began to question the Sun and His love for her… Why didn’t He protect her from such significant pain and abuse? She wondered if the Sun had forgotten about her, or if He cared about her. And worse of all, she questioned if He even loved her at all. These seasons caused a drooping of insecurity in her strong stem, and her confidence in the Sun’s rays was thwarted.
Because she hesitated to believe the Sun’s love for her, she looked around her to find significance. She often found herself leaning upon other sunflowers, which seemed to only take her deeper into the shadows and further away from the Sun’s rays. Before long, she found herself with no one else to lean on, and she was alone. The wilt of her stem was so damaged from hurt that had been done to her and the hurt she had done to others, that in the shadow of her own petals she could barely catch a glimpse of the Sunlight.
In her loneliness and in the barrenness of drought that had plagued her seed, the Sun began to woo her to Himself, and there He restored her with the truth of his love for her. He made a promise to her and told her that he would always rise for her and chase after her with His rays because she is precious in His eyes, and honored, and He loves her. She so badly wanted to believe Him and receive the love of His rays, but she was afraid. What about the wind? and the cold? What if she got lost in the shadows? How would she find His rays again? The sun assured her that though the seasons may be tough and His face may become hard to find, He would always be with her.
And so the seasons came and went, some brutally tore down, and others graciously built up. At times, she stood alone among a field of weeds, and other times she was surrounded by a community of other thriving sunflowers. Regardless, each day the Sun was faithful to His promise, and in His rays, her stem grew stronger through each season.
The sunflower began to notice how sensitive she was to the trying times, and became angry at the Sun for giving her the tendencies of a weak and needy sunflower. She wished she was a different flower. The roses didn’t require as much sunlight, and the lilies were miraculously resilient. Why couldn’t she be like them? Why did she feel the hurt so deeply? The Sun reassured her of how perfectly He had created her with a specific purpose as a sunflower. Yes, she was sensitive to the forces of nature, but her tenderness cultivated strength in her to persevere, and that perseverance produced a character of hope and a giftedness to understand, comfort and cultivate that hope for other sunflowers. Her presence inspired positivity and an uplifting, warm, calm and steady atmosphere. In her passion and a zeal, life blossomed around her. The Sun also acknowledged how dear she was to him, because no other flower was as desperate for His rays as she was. He reminded her that in her neediness and weakness, she is dependent on him, and there, she thrives most radiantly.
As the seasons circulated, she found what the Sun said was true about her. She believed him, and the more captivated by the Sun she was, the more confident she was in His rays. In her dependence on Him, she was living the life she was created for, and it was the life she had always imagined. She was a beloved companion of the Sun, and she believed it.
It is in her belovedness that she comes alongside of others to inspire the love of the Sun by cultivating the hope and grace of Him who leaves no remnant of shame. I imagine in her in her belovedness and I see a field stretching endlessly of sunflowers whose faces are confidently fixed on the Sun as they reflect the radiance of His image and the glorious splendor of His name.
She is a sunflower.
God gave me this little word picture in December of 2011 hence igniting an infatuation with sunflowers as a reminder of who I am as a ‘beloved companion’ and what I am created for in the coming alongside of others to inspire the love of Christ. Since the revelations of the this picture, I have asked the Lord to show me a field of sunflowers reflecting the radiance of the sun. I often pretended the Texas highways lined of wild weeded of mini yellows and browns satisfied this request, but inside, I longed to see the real deal. I thought driving to Kansas might be the only way to get there, but when would I have a time or a legitimate reason to do that? To meet my dream in the middle, this vibrant blossom has a tendency to pop up on my desktop background, facebook cover photo, accenting my room or adding a splash to the white watercolor pad beneath my paint brush. Additionally, the Lord likes to remind me of my belovedness as His, by using a dear friend to refresh my bedstand with a few fresh cut stems or reveal unexpected glimpses of a the yellow petals throughout my day. However, I always imagined that the field of dreams would be left up to me to find for myself…
I once believed that my life as a sunflower was a life of shame, one to be kept in the shadows. I thought that certain ‘seasons’ should never be shared, and should remain private. This was fed by my fear of disappointment, rejection and motivated by my longing for approval and acceptance. Last March, God told me that He wasn’t finished with my story. That the story He was writing in my life was not my story of shame, but His story of grace, to be testified of as His redemptive rescue. I clamored at the thought of it, and rejected His command. But over the next ten months He softened my heart to the idea of sharing His story of grace, not only with those who I felt safe with, but also as He asked me at random and to those who have been tormented in the same seasons as I have. So, in December of this year, He exhorted me with, “On your mark, get set, GO!!!” And I began to testify openly of how He had saved me from darkness and my own destructive ways.
Over the past two months, I’ve been given opportunities to testify of His story of grace in my life in front of five different large groups, and each time He has been faithful to meet me where He’s called me. In sharing about the ‘seasons of shame’, He’s overwhelmed me with blossoms of others seeking refuge from similar tormenting, and I am blown away, and humbled as He continues to reveal His sovereignty.
My last opportunity to share was in front of a group of middle school through young adult aged ladies as I spoke on who we are as the beloved bride of Christ. I woke up the next morning more exhilarated for the Lord than I can ever remember being and was moved to tears as my roommate and I processed the evening that had preceded us. Overwhelmed in awe, I was excited to have a three hour drive to Cleburne for my mom’s birthday to reflect and rejoice in God’s grace, power and faithfulness. Singing, dancing, smiling and crying filled the next two hours as I eagerly anticipated a weekend of rest at home with my family.
In my last stretch of windows down and JJ Heller up, I saw a field painted in yellow on the horizon. I thought, “Hmmm, how cool would it be if that was a field of sunflowers… Nah, it would be too absolutely perfect to be true. Not here outside of Hillsboro, TX on a road I’ve driven a hundred times before…” My mind got distracted in thought and I forgot about the brief glimpse. About five minutes later, I dazingly glanced to my left, and there it was, extending as far in the distance as I could see staring directly at me and captivated by the sun in the sky behind me, a field of sunflowers….
Each one, radiantly fixed on the sun. I had never seen anything more glorious.
I immediately whipped a U-Turn, pulled over, jumped a fence and ran recklessly into my dream come true, arms high and heart abandoned. Tears painted my face as I caught my breath in awe of God’s specific and significant love for me.
And He reminded me, “You, my beloved, are a sunflower. I am the sun, and I hold you in my rays. Absolutely nothing can separate you from my love. It is by grace dear one, through faith and for my glory that in your belovedness, you radiate alongside of other sunflowers as they follow my lead across the sky. Well done, my faithful one. I am proud of you, and I love you.”