Early morning walks along the river, listening to bird songs and splashes of water against the rocks, is a perfect way to start the day. The sun peeks over the mountain top and through the canopy of leaves formed by giant trees on both sides of the trail. Ducks float downstream or swim upstream to join others looking for food and companionship. This walk in nature is a feast for the senses and for the soul. It refreshes my heart, mind, and spirit to be surround by the works of the great Creator, the Giver of Life.
As I walked the trail this morning, admiring the lush green leaves of summer, a pop of color caught my eye. Tucked under the shade of the towering trees and scrub brush was a solitary sunflower. I stepped off the trail to get a closer look. How delightful, though unusual, to see bright yellow petals growing amidst the trees rather than in an open field. I wondered how the flowering head could track the sun’s movement when so much of the light was blocked by the thickly covered branches above.
I admired that sun-loving flower for daring to grow under less than perfect conditions. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most beautiful sunflower I’d ever seen. I’d seen fields of them in France that take one’s breath away. Truth be told, this particular little specimen was a bit sparse and even on the shabby side compared to its counterparts in full sun. But that just endeared it to me all the more. The exposure to light was limited, but the flower looked for it, soaked it in, and followed it as much as possible.
After snapping a few pictures, I continued my walk and pondered on the inspiration of that particular flower. Thinking of the circumstances in which I’ve found myself recently, I felt a kinship with that single sunflower. Standing alone, small in stature, surrounded by giant trees, looking for light, and not afraid to be seen. Bringing with it, new color to the multiple shades of green that lined both sides of the trail and the river. It was definitely a flower worth noticing!
I thought on the deep roots of the immense maple and cottonwood trees. Like them, I have deep roots as well. I have religious roots in Mormonism as a fifth-generation Latter-Day-Saint. My ancestors joined the church in England and Scotland, and immigrated to America. Then they traveled across the plains and sacrificed much to follow the church’s call to build Zion in the western United States. I’d always felt proud and grateful to be a recipient of such a legacy of faith.
As I looked up through the canopy created by the large branches that touched and overlapped each other, I thought about the people who made up the branches of my family tree. Generations of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are part of my familial canopy. I’m grateful they taught me about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I’ve always known that Jesus was my Savior, and that I would live with Him and the Father one day…IF I was worthy! But the joy of knowing I could live with God was swallowed up in the anxiety of knowing I’d never be worthy. I’d never measure up and be a mighty oak or massive cottonwood tree of righteousness. No matter how hard I tried, I was constantly reminded of my unworthiness and inability to please God with my good works. And yet I persevered!
Then I learned about God’s grace. That glorious, life-giving, joy-filled gift of grace! The Savior of the World called my name, offered me the gift, and I came running. I eagerly drank from that well of Living Water found in the Word. I laid my burdens and frailties at His feet, along with my attempts to be a tree of righteousness. In exchange, He planted a seed in my heart. A Son-flower seed. It sprouted quickly and has been growing for several months. Now I’m always looking to the Son. I try to follow Him even when I can only catch a glimmer of His light, for I’m still overshadowed by the time-honored trees of Mormonism. Sometimes I cry out, “I don’t belong here anymore! Transplant me elsewhere!” Then I remember that He has begun a “good work” in me and will “bring it to completion” in His time. (Philippians 1:6).
God is tending to me in the shade of the trees. I am nourished by studying His word which allows me to recognize who He is. I’m learning how to bend to His will and follow His light. I feel small and out of place. A baby-believer in a grove of religious traditions. But I’m exactly where God wants me to be. A pop of yellow light among dark green legalistic leaves. I’m still a bit shabby; not a full expansive bloom. But I’ll continue to grow under the tender care of the Master Gardener. And you’ll always find me seeking the Son.