It’s a little hard to believe that after 17……..yes, that’s 17!!!…….years of living in Kansas, this is the first year that we have planted sunflowers. I have no idea why we waited so long, but maybe that long wait is one reason that I am enjoying them so much. And as always, I’m learning more from our sunflowers than just the mechanics of how they grow. God speaks to me through my growing things, including through my own growing…..which is often a little painful, I’ll admit.
Did you know that sunflowers follow the sun? Maybe that’s a “duh” comment to most of you, but I noticed how our sunflowers………while they were beginning to bloom and before the big flowers opened…….were leaning one way in the morning and then leaning another way in the evening. In my reading about sunflowers, I discovered that they literally do follow the sun during this “beginning to bloom” phase. It’s called the Sunflower Dance. They are the only flower, from what I read, that engage in this dance. How amazing!
I was super excited when our first sunflower actually bloomed. And boy, it was a huge one!! We really planted these sunflowers for Aaron, but he didn’t really get nearly as animated about that first flower as I did. Of course, Aaron rarely gets as animated about everyday things as most of us do. Now, if it was an alien standing in our garden……
Anyway, this huge first sunflower was just gorgeous. So tall…..so erect……so bright!!!
But after a period of time, I noticed that the stunning head of our sunflower was drooping. Being the sunflower novice that I am, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. I WAS quite sure, though, that as our sunflower head hung lower and lower, I was very disappointed.
I thought sunflowers were supposed to be all tall and amazing for their whole blooming life. I surmised, in all my “wisdom,” that this particular sunflower must have just been too large for its own good. The stalk must not have been able to support that weight, and so it just could bear it no longer and it sank down in defeat.
But if you look at this recent picture I took of Aaron with the sunflowers, you’ll see that nearly ALL of them are now bending over. And now I understand why!
The sunflower hangs its head when it’s producing fruit! Sunflower seeds are now ripening in each of those gorgeous blooms, and soon can be harvested. On the actual sunflower, there are many individual flowers……and behind each flower, there is a seed. But the seed doesn’t ripen until the head is lowered.
This was a very meaningful discovery to me, and it’s for more reason than just no longer being worried about my droopy sunflowers. It’s meaningful to me because of ME. I’ve been a little droopy lately……weighed down by this and by that, as all of us are sometimes prone to be in this life. I haven’t been sleeping well, and not sleeping at night is when my concerns escalate into giants……giants that like to follow me around all day.
Have you ever been there? Bothered by both small and large issues in life? Questioning why things are what they are? Sad? Lonely? Exhausted? Just weighed down, like my sunflowers……bending low under the weight of stress and worry.
Yesterday morning, I did what I often do when I am feeling overwhelmed……I asked God to meet with me. Not that He needs an invitation, but there are times that I really know I need to reach out to Him and ask Him to have a talk with me. I opened my Bible, looked down, and found myself staring at Psalm 77. Wow!!! How perfect!!! Read a few portions of this Psalm:
“In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.”
Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it? That’s why this Psalm is called a Psalm of Lament. But that’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling. Keep reading:
“I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders. Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?”
We wonder sometimes, don’t we, if God has just quit caring….or if maybe we don’t feel Him so much anymore because the deeper we hang low, the farther away He becomes? Which then means that I’m responsible for God pulling away, and that’s really depressing! But listen to what comes next:
“I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work, and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? You are the God Who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.”
It’s what I think about that can make a huge difference in my emotional well being. Using my mind to remember God’s past goodness, His sovereignty, His Word, His hand in my life……all these things are what I need to ponder in the darkness of the night and in the light of my busy days. God has, and He does, make His strength known to me when I need it most. And sometimes His plan does include the burdens that pile on to me and bend me low.
BUT……and this a huge “but”……..when I am burdened and bending low is when God is producing fruit in my life. Just like my hanging sunflowers out in the garden producing their fruit, God uses the low times in my life……if I LET Him……to produce some needed fruit.
And so my thoughts turn to Romans 5 and I am once again reminded that:
“……we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Delicious seeds are growing out in my garden among my once dancing and then erect blooming sunflowers. Birds…..and maybe Gary, Aaron, and me……will one day enjoy those mature seeds. But right now, the sunflowers look a little weary as they sag and droop. Yet if I kept the tall, bright sunflowers all the time, there would be no fruit.
And so it is with me. If things were always fun and wonderful, I would miss so much that God wants to teach me. I wouldn’t be a partaker in the fellowship of His sufferings that He tells us is the only way to grow and learn and be more like Him. I would have no substantial fruit…….only outward beauty that matters nothing.
My little issues are really just that……small and not such a big deal. But they are a big deal to me in many ways, and it’s what God seems to want to use at this point in my life to draw me to Him. And that pull toward God is best accomplished when I am bowed down, hanging low, and thus producing the fruit that He best grows in the drooping times.
So may I patiently let God do His growing work in my life, praying that I produce the fruit He desires. And maybe…..just maybe, if I obey……that fruit will also be used to honor God, and bless and encourage others.
It can be your story, too, this time of hanging low and producing fruit. May we all remember the hanging sunflowers!