Last week during a brief but fierce wind a volunteer sunflower plant in my backyard broke. I went out after the wind died down to survey my trees for damage and noticed the broken plant, which had been 3 feet tall, flattened. I just left it in the garden rather than dropping it into the compost, busy with a work deadline and preparing for a camping trip. I was sad about the sunflower, but since it was a volunteer, planted by a bird or squirrel, I mostly felt annoyed at the wind.
Last night when we pulled into the driveway after the church picnic, I noticed that the sunflower wasn’t dead. In fact, it had lifted its head about 5 inches off the ground, seeking the sun.
I was astonished and paused to examine the stalk. A very thin thread of stalk was unbroken. At first glance the plant had seemed completely broken. But I noticed a small thread of life, pulling nourishment from the soil, through the now horizontal stalk, to the head of the sunflower plant. And after several days of wilted leaves, the head now stood about 5 inches above the ground, leaves spread out in the normal pattern.
Now I eagerly await a blossom on this resilient sunflower. Will the thin thread of life be enough to sustain a bloom? Of course, rather than a neglected volunteer, now I will provide extra care and be sure it has enough water, since it sprouted at the edge of the sprinkler’s range. But I am going to leave the main stalk horizontal, because if I fiddle with it, I’m sure to break it completely.
This morning on my walk I couldn’t get the image of the broken, but resilient, sunflower out of my head. (I don’t think I could write if I didn’t take walks.)
The broken sunflower was not defined by its brokenness.
The broken sunflower did what sunflowers do: it lifted its head toward the sun.
The broken sunflower’s identity was as a sunflower, not as a broken plant. A sunflower that had experienced brokenness.
Tears came to my eyes as my thoughts coalesced.
My identity is as a child of God. My brokenness and pain doesn’t have to define me, although it can if I let it.
I am a child of God, and I experience loneliness.
I am a child of God, and I have lived through the grief of losses.
I am a child of God, and I struggle with healthy body image.
I lift my head toward the sun, because that is what a child of God does. And I live on, held by the thread of life.