It’s April tomorrow and it’s starting to feel a lot like spring in Winnipeg. The snow is melting, it’s raining rather than snowing, and soon the forests and gardens will show signs of new life. It is an exciting time of year. Those who like gardening (whether we’re successful or not) will once again give it a try. There is so much you can do and grow in a garden with the abundance of plants to choose from. Which is your favourite?
Of all the flowers out there, my favourite is by far the sunflower. I know it’s not one that many people would pick. I didn’t choose it because I necessarily love the way the plant looks any more than other flowers. I can’t even say that I love the seeds more than what other plants produce. But I love sunflowers because of what they teach me about Jesus and my walk with Him.
Sunflowers have a characteristic called heliotropism (see video below). Simply put, this means that they follow the sun as it moves through the sky. As the sun rises and sets, the sunflower points its bud towards the sun so that it can absorb the most amount of sunlight as it grows.
What’s so amazing is that sunflowers look like the sun! Well, perhaps a cartoon sun, but a sun none the less. Even though they aren't the sun, they remind us of it because of the way they look. I like to think that as the sunflower looks at the sun, it starts to look like the sun.
Therein lies an important lesson for us. All we need to do is replace the “u” in sun with an “o.” We are the flowers and Jesus is the sun. What sunflowers can teach us is that:
As we look at the Son, we start to look like the Son.
As Christians, we know who our example is. We are followers of Jesus, and we are invited to look to Him as our guide for life. “The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
We, as humans, were all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We were made to reflect His likeness through relationship and responsibility. But as we may have heard many times already, sin got in the way. As we chose to follow our own will, we allowed our image to be tainted. Our relationship with God became broken as we did what we wanted to do instead of what was best for us.
It is through Jesus that we are made whole once again, born again, adopted into the family of God (John 1:12). When we choose to surrender our lives to God, the Holy Spirit begins the work of transforming us. We are changed when we allow God to work in us and through us, and slowly we start to once again bear the image of God to the world around us.
Jesus is the best representation we have of who God is. The best historical account of who Jesus is is found in the Bible. As we read about Jesus’ life, we see and learn about what bearing the image of God actually means. We see the fruit of what comes when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us. But that doesn't mean we have no part to play. In Hebrews 12:1-3, we read:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
We are called to keep our eyes on Jesus as we run the race of life. There are so many other distractions out there, but the only true life-giving example is Jesus. As we focus our attention on Jesus and centre our life around Him, we will begin to look more and more like Jesus to the people around us.
People may notice that we have become more loving and compassionate as we care for the marginalized and neglected, as we stand up against injustice. Perhaps people will see how we are drawn to spending more time with the Father through prayer and devotion. Maybe they will notice the fruit that comes from the kind of love Jesus has to offer. And perhaps people will see the sacrifice and suffering we are willing to endure to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Let’s not forget that we never become Jesus. A sunflower resembles the sun, but it never actually becomes the sun. As we fix our eyes on Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, we will resemble Jesus to the world around us. The hope is that people will see our resemblance and be drawn to God Himself, not to us. We become road signs, pointing people to the one who gives life and transforms hearts.
So the next time you see a sunflower or munch away on sunflower seeds, think about who or what your life is focused on. If you want to discover what it truly means to be human and to bear God’s image, fix your eyes on Jesus. It will change your life.