September is fast approaching, with only a hot August casting a shadow on its advent. July is punctuated by the first few brilliant sunflowers lining the roads and fields in the Kansas heat-wave. They seem undeterred by the 100-degree plus weather. They actually thrive in the sun, unlike myself. It is a well-known fact that sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning they follow the sun from East to West throughout the day, at least until their stems become a little more solidified. At that point, they maintain a position of facing the east. And they thrive. They thrive in what feels a bit like a desert wasteland. The impatient ones, popping up in late July, speak to the inevitability of hope. In this life, hope seems to sneak up on me in the soul-scorching heat of a summer that seems to be suffocating. This outdoor oven reminds me every time that I step outside that my body is failing to do what it was designed to do. It possesses no ability to regulate itself in any environment, especially one of extreme temperature. And in the hot-box of the summer months, my hope has slowly melted away, as ice cubes in a glass of lemonade left in the sun. With the absence of the refreshing hope, all I feel that is left is the boiling reality of a failing body and an over-extended life.
Four years ago, the sunflowers brought hope through the tears of miscarriage. The following year, the sunflowers lifted their faces to assure me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel of postpartum depression and anxiety. Two years ago, the sunflowers carried with them my second, sweet, agonizing experience of childbirth and new life. Last year, the sunflowers offered a glimpse of grace in the grips of chronic illness and life-changing news. This year, the flower that symbolizes faith feels like an empty mockery. I trust that they will not return void come September.
Because God is so excellent with imagery and symbolism, and because I am a mystic at heart, I know that the sunflowers will carry with them a new message of hope and reassurance in this season of trial. I will listen and watch and wait. I will watch from the passenger window of the cars of friends who drive me to and from my appointments and infusions. I will watch from my scooter that is my new means of locomotion in public places and events. I will watch from a body that is significantly withered and weak. But maybe those positions will help me to be more receptive to message of the Spirit in His glorious creation. Oh good God, let my position not harden my heart but soften it to the outpouring of your Spirit. Melt away the bitterness and plant the seeds of hope with the blooming of your sunflowers. Let my face be like the face of that symbolic plant that follows the direction of the sun from the first light of the dawn to the last ray of the evening. Let me not grow hardened and too stiff-necked to look to your face in eternal hope. Christ is in me, the hope of glory.