Sunflowers are my absolute favorite flowers. They are so bright, happy, and cheerful. It is impossible to present someone with sunflowers, whether real or depicted in a picture, and not have these blooms elicit a smile.
This year, I planted a different type of sunflower than I have in the past. Carefully poking them into the ground on the east side of the house, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was thrilled to see the plants start to emerge from the ground and it wasn’t long before it became clear that these were going to be very tall plants, in spite of the fact that they were not “giant sunflowers.”
As they grew in height and the stalks grew in sturdiness, multiple buds appeared on the branches of each stalk. “How lovely!” I thought, “These two sunflower plants will give us weeks of bright blooms!” And they have.
What I didn’t expect was how popular these plants would be with our local goldfinches. Each morning, I raise the blinds to find several finches sitting on the stalk, singing and eating. Their breakfast songs have been such an unexpected, but pleasant gift in a summer marked by global uncertainty and unrest.
Watching the birds enjoy the meat of these flowers, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?Matthew 6:26
God provides for these wee creatures. And here, in my suburban landscaping, He’s used me to help feed and strengthen them.
Turning to the Sun
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about sunflowers, though—at least to me—is their loyalty to their name. They truly do thrive on the sun, demonstrated in their actual movement to track the sun throughout the day. This sun tracking is called heliotropism. A 2016 Science article explains it thusly:
Sunflower stems exhibit heliotropic movement such that their shoot apices shift from facing east at dawn to facing west at dusk as they track the Sun’s relative position. Shoot apices then reorient at night to face east in anticipation of dawn. (Atamian et al., Circadian regulation of sunflower heliotropism, floral orientation, and pollinator visits. Science. 2016;353:587-590.)
I suspect that, had I planted my flowers on a different side of the house, i.e., the north side, this sun tracking would have been a bit more conspicuous. As it is, though, these sweet blooms have clearly enjoyed basking in the sun all day throughout these summer months.
Light of the World
Perhaps it is a bit of a trite metaphor, but when I see a sunflower with its face reaching to the brightness of that warm, bright ball in the sky, I am reminded of the importance of keeping my eyes fixed on the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
Helen Keller once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” What a thought this becomes if we keep our face pointed to the Light of the World, Who promises that we will not walk in darkness if we follow Him!
I am further reminded of an incomprehensible promise found in Revelation 21:23, as John describes our future home:
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.Revelation 21:23
Will there be sunflowers in eternity? Perhaps. But I suspect we have a vast array of new, unknown blooms waiting for us such that we cannot imagine with our fallen minds. And these heavenly blossoms, too, will thrive on the light given by the Son.
May His Face Shine Upon You
Consider the many times in Scripture where the idea of God’s face shining upon a person or people is mentioned as a blessing, and even as a picture of salvation. We see this several places in the Psalms, and perhaps most familiarly in the benediction from Numbers 6.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.Numbers 6:24-26
Sunflowers turn to the sun for continued growth during their short lives. So too must we turn to the Son for salvation, and keep our faces turned toward Him for continued growth and sustenance. One day, He alone will be the purest source of light for all of eternity. What a picture. What a promise. What a gift.