oh, to be flourishing

Years ago, God gave her an image. An image of a sunflower, strong, tall and radiant, restored from death to life, anchored in rich soil, absorbed on the face of the sun: a beloved companion, delighted in the gaze of her lover.

Fixated on the Sun’s rays, she embraces who she is as one so loved by Him. There, caught up in His gaze, she radiates the splendor of His love to those she comes alongside. The Truth saturating her soul reflects off her being. Her confidence in Him cultivates hope and grace, leaving no remnant of shame. Her beauty is His, and it’s captivating. So captivating, that as she is with Him, others are inspired to catch His gaze. And, tell me, what is more radiant than a field of wildflowers reflecting the splendor of the sun?

She remembers this picture as she drives along Texas hill country roads witnessing the budding of life beautifying what was once dried up and dead. Spring, a season of flourishing. But is she, still? Flourishing that is… Where she was strong and radiant, she now feels weak and dry. She fears what others see when they look to her…

Anxious at the thought, she searches the fields and the flowers around her, some thriving others dying, none very close at all. The soil beneath her is crumbly, lacking moisture, and the shadows upon her face keep her in hiding. Her roots are shallow, fragile, and have lost strength. She’s not flourishing, no not at all. How did she get here? The seasons have been mild, not too hot, not too dry, no drought or freeze or flood to blame. In fact, circumstances have been ideal, a dream, if you will. Beyond what she could have hoped or imagined is what saturates her daily living. Even still, she is not satisfied.

She stretches and seeks and strives to no avail. Burnt out, others look to her, so she gives what she has not yet received. She seeks to produce what she cannot, because her storehouses are empty. Her fruit has run dry. She fears the season to come, the heat of the summer, she will not withstand. She longs to hole up and hide. The shadows seem safest. What appears to be security in darkness forbids her from being the beloved companion she is. She longs for light, but can’t seem to catch it. She misses the Sun. Remembering the smile on His face, the tenderness of His voice and the comfort of His arms, she falls, soul depleted and cries out out,

“Father, where are you? Have you left me? I am parched and cold and empty, and I have nothing left to give. Have you forsaken me? Are you even with me? I stretch to see your face, and seek to hear your voice, and strive to feel your embrace, but I cannot. I cannot find you. Have you given up on me? Is my effectiveness not enough for you? Am I no longer worth your time, your thought, your attention? Oh, God, have you let me go?”

Downcast, she waits in silence. Then, a ray of His light brushes her face, “Oh, my dear… your heart has been deceived.” Sinking lower with grief as another petal falls to the earth, she whimpers in despair “Oh.. my God, would you search it, and know it, and reveal it’s offensive ways to me, so I can see.” A passing cloud reveals light and her gaze shifts upwards and another ray paints her shadow on the ground, “Why are you seeking me?” the sun’s rays whisper. A breeze takes her breath away, and all at once the fraught sight of her shadow is revealed. Her stem slumped over, with petals dry and leaves on the ground, it is apparent, the once flourishing sunflower is desperately sick.

“I seek you, because I want to radiate. I want to be gazed upon as beautiful. I want to be esteemed and applauded. I seek you, because when I do, they think well of me. Oh, my Sunshine, I’m using you for how I might win. I’m compromising your call, your gifts and your blessings to gain the approval of men.”

What He has done to bring her to beauty, she has taken for herself. Running with the life, and hope and victory He bestowed, she has forgotten His face, and has trusted in herself to sustain. Fixed on the delight of those around her, she has leaned upon her own strength, understanding and wisdom, and she has failed.

“My God, I am sick, a wretched self-seeking sunflower, I am. My strength is depleted, because I have trusted in myself, in my own radiance. I have come to care much more about the faces around me and their thoughts of me than Yours. I have made my life about acquiring their gaze and affection rather than pointing them to you. Oh, Father, will you forgive me? Oh, I need you.”

From heaven, the sky opens and light illuminates the darkest corners of the field. She gazes upwards, her eyes squinting in His mercy, as she receives His rays, There you are, my beloved, I have missed you.” She catches a glimpse of the compassionate smile upon His face, she hears His still soft voice and feels the comfort of His warm embrace. Oh, what grace. How could she forget it?

Her heart is deceitful above all else, and her stare is prone to wander from the Sun. She is tempted to believe what isn’t true, and invites clouds to creep in and keep her from being who she is, a beloved companion delighted in the gaze of her lover. In a moment of captivation, she longs to stay. To stay in grace, remembering His love and her desperation for it. How will she remain fixed on His face?

Stepping back from the pressure to tend the garden in her midst, she begs for more, more of Jesus. To seek and know and enjoy Him. As she receives and believes, she hopes to share, but not at the cost of her eyes on Him.


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