Lessons from a Sunflower

This summer my family decided to grow a bumper crop of sunflowers (why we decided on sunflowers instead of corn or green beans or something more logical, I have no clue). Dad carefully planted them in the garden, and they began to grow. Since my dad and brother aren’t exactly expert gardeners, it soon became evident that they had planted them too close together. Then the transplanting began. Sunflowers were now planted and creeping up in corners all over our backyard, as well as the garden.

download (6)Fast forward a few weeks. My mom and I were talking a walk up the driveway, and I was sharing with her my thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. I was discouraged because I often look at other people’s life, situations, and experiences and feel behind or not good enough or rejected. I shared how easy it was for me to get caught up in the momentary adoration and put that above God’s final picture for my life. Mom listened patiently and gave words of wisdom, as she always does. Then, as we passed the sunflowers on our trip back down the driveway, she stopped. “Marina,” she began, “people are like these sunflowers. The ones planted in the garden are the tallest and the grandest right now. From the outside, they appear to be the ‘best.’ They never had to be transplanted, they’ve had the most sunlight and water. But then there are the ones over there.” She motioned to a corner of the yard by the gate. “Those were transplanted, they aren’t as tall and beautiful as the other ones. They haven’t had as much time to grow. But, you see, they aren’t done growing yet. For all we know, the tall ones may have very shallow roots. Those transplanted flowers may end up being the biggest and most beautiful, but right now it doesn’t seem that way.”

Often times, our mistakes, tragedies we face, changes, moves, and heartbreaks all transplant us, so to speak. Sometimes God uproots us for reasons we don’t understand. We question the will of the Creator. We feel lonely, unadmired, useless, and pitiful. We wish things could have been different. Why can’t we just be with all the others who are strong, tall, and adored? We focus on our immediate “purpose” we see for ourselves—looking good—when God has so much else in store.

I pondered these truths as I continued to watch the sunflowers grow. The ones in the garden continued to tower over the others, growing more magnificent by the day. They basked in their prideful beauty. The ones in the corner still couldn’t compare. Then the storms came.

I returned home after a week of camp and was surprised to see that all the garden sunflowers had been destroyed in the storms. Literally, the weight of their big heads broke their stems. My brother cut them down and drug them away. After all, a branch that isn’t connected to the Vine is useless. The two or three that remained were puny. They were no longer majestic. Their shallow roots were their demise. However, the flowers in the corner still stood strong! The Gardener knew what He was doing when he transplanted them. They had enough room to grow and thrive, although slow as it may have seemed.

downloadThe Bible has countless references to “building your house upon the Rock” and “scattering seed on good ground,” but I had never seen this truth more evidently displayed than in my own backyard. You see, it is only when we are rooted in Christ and reflecting His light to the world that we thrive. The world has so many false indicators of success and beauty, but all crumble in comparison to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God never intended for us to compare ourselves to those others. The ones who are sufficient within themselves have no need for the ultimate Source of Strength. Don’t let their beauty and accolades fool you—they will fade.

The weeks continued to pass and we began harvesting the sunflower heads. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the transplanted ones were the most glorious and fruitful. My mom eagerly pointed out to me, “Look, the ones that were so small are now standing tall and glorious, their petals slicked back towards the Sun.” Oh how beautiful we could be, too, if only we would focus on the Son! If only we would remember the countless ways He’s provided for us, nurtured us, and loved us. He wants us to bear fruit out of our gratitude to Him, not to impress ourselves or others.

Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t your time to shine, or if you’ve just been transplanted. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. Wait upon your Creator, trust His timing. He has the end goal in mind, and believe me when I say, it will be more glorious than you could ever imagine.

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