by Jessi Uran | 6-minute read
Sunflowers never make it at our homestead. Every year, with ideal hopes and renewed resolve, I try to get the open-faced, golden giants of the flower world to take. Every year I am met with new obstacles.
One year we got such heavy rains that the seeds never had a chance. They were washed away under the fence to our back alley. Last year the tender shoots arrived just in time to feed a family of hungry bunnies that had burrowed a hole in our yard.
This year? Each sunflower toppled under its own weight. I had planted them too shallow in our raised garden beds, and their root structures were too short and anemic. All it took was some strong winds at the beginning of summer and over they fell.
A few weeks later, I was driving in the country and passed a familiar farm stand that usually featured glorious displays of sunflower varieties.
Where once these rows of sun soldiers stood so proudly at attention, they were now mere shadows of their former glory. They were battered, broken, heavy laden.
Looks like I’m not the only one struggling with sunflowers this year, I thought.
My competitive feeling of justification at not being alone in my crop failure was quickly replaced by something else.
As I parked my car to the side and gazed out my window, their countenance struck a sobering chord. It suddenly dawned on me why this vision felt like more than just gazing at a field of wilting flowers.
It was like looking at people. Myself, my friends, my family, my church, my city.
Some were battered. Some broken. Others heavy laden and about to fall. Some had lost their usual vibrant colors.
“Yes,” I found myself whispering aloud. “At times I have felt the same.”
I watched those sunflowers grow smaller in my rearview mirror as I headed for home. The vision stayed with me for the rest of the drive. I remembered the past six months … how one heartache after the other seemed to make it that much more difficult to lift our heads to even face the months ahead.
“I have a hard time picturing things anymore.” I told my husband later that night.
We were in the middle of a discussion about the upcoming school year. Where once autumn and the holidays would bring a certain lightness and anticipation, a pervading feeling of foreboding, even heaviness seemed to loom.
“I can’t imagine things in the future like I used to. My footing feels weird. What is that?”
Neither of us had an answer.
The next morning, I sat at my desk, coffee in hand. Through an open window I could hear the doves on the telephone wire above our street speaking to one another in their calming calls. I turned to pick up where I had left off in my reading in John. Chapter 13.
I began to read from verse 1. The hour was upon Jesus for the beginning of his death. His appointed time was coming.
In verse 2, he was sitting down for dinner with his betrayer, knowing full well that Judas’ heart was in agreement with evil and already working with the kingdom of darkness.
Talk about a sense of foreboding, I thought.
Lord, I would be going off the rails at this point! Fear would overtake me. I couldn’t stand. I would want to run!
Verses 3 and 4: “Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that He was going back to God.”
It was as if the words leapt off the page.
Oh Lord, I prayed.
You’ve come to meet me here haven’t you?
And sure enough, as I sat there on a very ordinary morning in late July, the perfect Teacher began to show me His answer to all my spoken questions and anxious thoughts–to guide me in how to face the unknown with solid footing.
The tears began to flow as his Spirit ministered to mine.
Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands …
Daughter, I have given everything into your hands, too. This is not the prosperity gospel or a narcissistic approach toward life. This is faith. This is you holding onto my promises of your present and future reality. Remember Ephesians 1, “You are blessed with every spiritual blessing.” And 1 Corinthians 3:22–23, “Remember I promise you that everything is yours and you belong to me.”
That he had come from God …
My child, you too came from me. You were not an afterthought or an accident. Psalm 139:16 is just one example of where I assure you of this! “My eyes saw you when you were formless; all your days were written in my book and planned before a single one of them began.”
And that He was going back to God.
Beloved, here! Pay attention! This is the best part. Not only am I present with you now through my Spirit, but you are coming back to me. To be together, to walk in the cool of the day once again has been the heartbeat of my redemption plan all along! And remember John 14 — “If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.”
That morning, God’s presence and instruction went to deep places in my heart.
If Jesus (fully God and also fully human, capable of any number of morally neutral emotions) surely felt fear or dread or confusion in the face of darkness, yet recalled stable truths of his identity to propel him further on, then I could stand firm and do the same.
That day I felt myself straighten a bit.
In the days after, he continued to bring about the same — growth through his Spirit, a quiet strength.
Later that week, I pulled into my parents’ driveway for a visit. Immediately my eyes caught sight of a towering, familiar flower standing guard at their front door. Bright yellow petals unfolded from a jet-black face that stared straight up to the sun as if to shout: “See! I’m living up to my name!”
It was nothing like those downtrodden rows by the road or the uprooted waifs in my garden bed.
As I walked up the sidewalk, further inspection revealed the sunflower’s thick and sturdy stalk. Whatever root infrastructure lay beneath the soil, it had to be deep and strong. This particular sunflower was so large that it bore more comparison to a young tree than a summer garden plant.
As I stood there soaking in its beauty, the Teacher reminded me again of our time in John.
You can live up to your name.
You can face these strong storms with even stronger roots.
Gaze at my radiance, and I will lift your head.
For you are mine.
And I will hold you steady until we have endured every storm together.
Until I bring you back to me —
I broke into a smile. All of this was truth enough for me to walk this moment, this day, with him. I walked inside my parents’ home and hugged my mom. We ate dinner on the porch and watched the kids run through the sprinkler. The cicadas sang their summer songs.
As I crawled into bed that night in my own home, it didn’t matter so much that I couldn’t picture the future.
Let the days come, was my whispered prayer. I’m rooted in love.
And so they do. And so we are.