I planted 70 sunflowers for my wedding in June 2006. They grew, they flourished, they were beautiful. Many girls love roses or carnations but not me, my eyes were drawn to sunflowers. I think of myself much like a sunflower; they are not elegant like a rose but they turn their face to smile at the sun. They stand side by side with arms raised and when you look at them you can’t help but smile. I may not be a rare beauty but I can make people smile.
The sunflowers at my wedding were beautiful. I remember them still in all their bright color. I hoped that they would be a symbol of a vibrant love but deep inside I knew that I was marrying the wrong man. Blinded by a whirl of romance I found ways to overlook his quirks that spoke of hurts deeper than I or he knew. As I danced my first dance with the man that I married I could almost feel the life drain out of him. We were surrounded by family, friends and sunflowers but he seemed to turn cold in my arms.
Others looking on would not have been able to tell, but I could. I knew, I just felt it, and it scared me.
We moved into a little house on a lake that had wine colored lilies planted along the front walk and beautiful pine paneling throughout the inside. I will forever remember that little house. I had hoped that we would begin an amazing journey together in that house but it felt more like a roller coaster ride, than a walk with the one you love. We had happy times that would lift us followed by unrest and confusion which brought us down. My husband began to express deep doubts about his faith, self image and ability. He was good at many things but could not seem to commit to anything. I noticed the pattern but could do nothing but tell him I loved him.
He found it difficult to socialize, so I would stay with him. I tried to help him, to make him see that he was a good man, but the lies entrenched in his soul were that he was no good and never could be. The more I tried to help him see that I loved him despite his faults, the more he set about rejecting me so that I could not be close to him. I had married a man who turned out not to love God or me and he became unable to hide his lie.
However, the sunflowers I grew on my parents farm seeded themselves and that year many grew back.
After two years rejection turned into intimidation and neglect. I felt like his poison. Where I was, he did not want to be. He was suicidal and I was constantly afraid I would come home to a dead husband. So again I would stay with him, but out of the way so I would not bother him, just to be sure he was safe. I felt stranded and alone with shattered dreams kept alive by co-depependence on the only man I had ever dared to love, feeling deeply that I had given away my heart only to have all that it contains rejected.
But the sunflowers grew back again to remind me of all I had hoped for, but this year there were less.
We tried therapy and there he seemed to hide further as he realized more of his pain that he never knew he had. He fell deeper into depression and I fell with him. I longed to be loved by him, but love was the one thing he said he could not give.
That year only a few sunflowers grew back.
Then, after four years of praying for him until my heart ached, God made it clear that he was done with me and I needed to be done with him. He had moved in with another woman, the betrayal seemed complete and I could not hold on anymore. I could not make it work. This type of work takes two. All the prayers with my face to the sky, like the sunflower, and my arms outstretched to the God of Heaven could not change the broken heart of the only man I had ever loved. That man did not want to change, he did not want me and I had to let him go. So with open hands like the sunflower I made the choice I never thought I would make and we became legally unbound.
That year there were no sunflowers growing in the field at my parents’ farm. I went out to find them but they were gone. Was this my life? Gone was the promise I made for better or worse. Gone was the man and gone were the dreams I thought we would share.
You may think that this is a sad story or that I am a sad person. You may think I was pitiful to stay so long. I would be lying if I said that those four years of being unloved by the man who promised to love me did not leave a mark. There was sadness, and there were tears, there were days when my hands seemed to drag upon the floor and breathing in was a chore.
But remember the sunflower…
I am like the sunflower and when the sun goes down the head droops but when the sun comes up the flower has no choice but to lift its head. Its God given design is to lift its head in response to the light of the sun. God perhaps made me like the sunflower for this very moment in time, not elegant or fragrant like the rose but thick stemmed and desperate for the Son.
Although the pain of divorce felt like flesh being ripped off my bones, Jesus, the Son, was the one who knit it back onto my bones perhaps much like He knits a baby in the womb. I remember one day when I was particularly distressed, I cried out to God on my living room floor, “I need to hear from you! I need something!” Through the tears I looked up at the blurry CD player in front of me. I got this urge to turn it on. I had not listened to it in months and was not even sure there was a disc inside, but I obeyed my urge. The familiar song began to play by Third Day “Don’t you know I’ve always loved you? Even before there was time. Though you turn away, I tell you still…I always loved you and I always will.” I melted into a puddle, like a block of ice in summer. The warmth of the Son began soothing my pain with tender love. He was my rescue and my head lifted in response to the Son as nourishment streamed in. Jesus, the Son of God, was my balm and he slowly returned what the locusts had stolen as I began to deal with the things that had led me to marry someone I knew I shouldn’t. I began to see my own wounding, insecurity and hang-ups that led me down the path I took. I began to heal and in the process discovered who I truly am.
I am like the sunflower.
God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans). He used this bad marriage to reveal to me a multitude of personal issues, to heal them and to show me exactly how much he loves me. Jesus loves me, this I know, because He has spoken it into my very soul. I now sit here, over three years after my divorce, a completely different person. I am older, wiser and at peace with who I am. I like who I am, when before I sought validation from other people. Now I am validated by the knowledge that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of the universe. I am fiercely loved by my Maker. I am worth fighting for!
Recently Jesus revealed to me that He is the perfect sacrifice as I read through Hebrews. He is the one that tore the curtain in the temple as a representation of a new covenant with His people. Blood shed because of the love of a Father for his people. He fought for all of us on the cross, because we are all worth fighting for. Do you believe that you are worth fighting for? I didn’t, but I do now. The very thought often brings me to tears.
My sister got married this summer. It was a beautiful wedding on top of a green hill, with a strong wind blowing. I made the altar with hay bales and bikes and sunflowers. I looked at those sunflowers as the wind blew and their vows were exchanged and knew that I was the bride of Christ that day. I felt like the most beautiful bride, even as the wind blew my hairstyle apart. The wind seemed like the Presence of the Most High, showing power and love to my sister and her new husband to blow blessings into their new marriage. To blow blessings into my heart, to breathe life and fully revive everything that I am to be.
The morning after my sisters wedding the sunflowers used as her decorations were on the kitchen table. My mother noted their beauty and then in passing mentioned how beautiful the sunflowers were at my wedding. She then paused – she may have thought she spoke before thinking. She looked at me and I looked into my mothers eyes, who has always seemed to see into my soul, and I simply said “Yes, they were beautiful”. I knew then my healing was complete and the story of the sunflowers finally had a happy ending.