Sunflowers and Awe

Sunflowers are not only one of my favorite flowers, but also one of my favorite things in the world.  They are wasteful, beautiful, full-of-themselves; they stand tall for no other reason than to beat the other plants to the sunlight.  They are grandiose and boastful, yet, gloriously so, and, in some strange way, I feel a bit like sunflower myself.  I mean, a man in a golden thread embroidered scarf with a knee-length camel pea coat cannot be described as anything else than boastfully grandiose.

This summer as I was travelling to the small wine town of Beaune from Paris by train, I experienced one of the most breath-taking views that our world can offer – field on field of deafeningly yellow sunflowers, turned up to the evening sun like a giant swath of floral solar panels.  It’s rare that a human sunflower like myself is left open-jawed staring out a train window (I can cry at the drop of a hat- churches, puppies, romantic movies- but train rides usually leave me feeling slightly bourgeois, nothing more).  Yet, something about acres of black and gold flowers zipping by stirred up those pesky feelings of ‘awe and wonder.’

I think I would enjoy finding God in a field of flowers- what a story!  I could write a book, go on TV, tell everyone about the need to get into nature to experience the divine, and then make my millions the comfortable way- armchair apologetics.  That evening I did not necessarily find (or even seek) God in the sunflower fields whirring past my window, but they did awaken within me a recognition of the holiness of this world.

Christianity tends to paint the Earth in terms of brokenness and pain, a world fallen from grace and plunged into suffering. However, I would argue that this portrayal of creation is deeply flawed and itself marred by the effects of the Fall.  God created the world in a fit of absolute goodness and love; I refuse to admit that the wildness and fecundity of nature are anything other than marks of the Godhead’s playfulness.  The world is a sunflower and we her seeds longing for good soil.


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