Sunflowers. Or: the Perfection of Desire

Earlier this week, I felt Christmas stirring around in my heart.

I mean, it’s June, so obviously that would happen, right?

If you don’t know what I mean by that, I’m afraid I really have no idea how to explain it to you. I even forget what verse or quote first did it several days ago, but it happened again today, when we got to the line in the readings: “And God has visited His people.”

There it was again: Christmas stirring in my heart.

In other news: recently I have been wanting sunflowers. This is not totally random: when my out-of-town sweetheart comes to visit me, he stays with some dear (and very generous) friends. The lady of the house likes sunflowers, and we like giving them to her –  as often as she’ll let us – to thank her. Shopping for sunflowers drew my attention to a flower I hadn’t thought much about. So when some unusual and very big green bushes started stretching taller on the side of a trail I love to walk, it vaguely occurred to me that they might be sunflowers. Then, I started wishing they might possibly be sunflowers. Suddenly I was outright praying they would, in fact, be sunflowers – taller than my head, covered in golden blooms, and too numerous to count. I could see it in my mind. I even told Alex (the aforementioned sweetheart) that I wanted them to be sunflowers when we passed them on one of our walks.

After that, it was An Official Thing. The shrubs needed to be sunflowers. Alex called once to tell me he’d passed some familiar looking leaves that were actually topped with my desired sunny buds. Soon after, when I went for one of my “checks,” there were actually tight little buds…completely closed and totally green. A few days later he reminded me we’d need to go check on “my” plants that weekend, to see if they had any open blooms of their own. When we did, they were still tight green bumps.

“Please be sunflowers. Please be sunflowers,” I would beg them, every time I passed either the bushes themselves or any sunflowers I saw elsewhere, as if my own personal wish would transform the genetic make-up of a few little bushes.

Then, between nephews, bad weather, and being out of town, I didn’t see them for a few weeks.

When I had a chance I set off to the trail – with a bit of trepidation. There were perfectly sunny sunflowers flowering all up and down the highways. If those shrubs weren’t golden by now, they might never be.

The little bushes were hidden at the end of a trail by trees. I got closer and realized they were taller. Much taller.

Closer…wow. Taller.

And then, there they were.

Sunflowers.

Some were even up to my shoulders. There were dozens of glowing yellow blooms.

I was so happy. Beyond happy, I was completely delighted.

“Not taller than my head, but it’s ok!” I was so excited that I had wanted sunflowers and now, here they were. I had waited, and they had appeared.

It struck me then, something St. Therese said:

“God cannot inspire unrealizable desires.”

Those were sunflowers all along. God knew that. He put them there, the plan for those flowers, and then right alongside the seeds He planted a desire for them in my heart: a desire He already had a plan to satisfy. Not only to delight my heart, though – no, I’m convinced that it delighted His Heart as well. He was putting those sunflowers there, and I like to think it brought Him joy to see me rejoicing in His gift. The sunflowers were going to be there. I got to be the person who wanted them. Then He got to be the One Who gave them to me.

After a few more weeks of nephews, some bad weather, and being out of town, my mom came in from a walk and asked if I’d seen them lately. She gave a rave review so I headed out today to check them again.

I came from the other side this time, not a peek at my flowers until I had turned the corner right on top of them. It was still overcast after a heavy rain – you know how colors glow in that light.

They had spread. Higher. Wider. Yards of them, hundreds of them. Taller than my head. Lining the sides of the sloping trail, stretched out in front of me. I stood and stared at them, stunned. 

Better than I could possibly have imagined.

Then, I started giggling ridiculously, and scurried over to the closest giant. I reached up and pulled a bloom down to my eye level for a closer examination. 

Glorious. 

I stepped back again, and after a few moments, I sat down. Sat down on the damp, gravel-covered slope in my yoga pants. Sat there, God and I, staring at our sunflowers. Mine because I waited for them, His because He made them. We looked at them, and told each other how marvelous they were, and how sweet it was to look at them together.

Of course this was a perfect chance to reflect on how God fulfills my desires, the real, deep, true desires I see in my heart when I am quiet and “bide a wee” with Him. He satisfies them, quenches them, more profoundly then I could have hoped.

It also got me thinking about Advent, and waiting, and some of the many wonderful conversations I have had with my dear friend, Katie. One of the conclusions we have reached together is: when God makes us wait for something, He is perfecting our desires. (I have a whole blog post I’ve meant to write for about a year on that. Perhaps eventually I actually will.) We have noticed that when God does not give us something at the exact moment we want it, but instead appears to “delay,” by the time we receive a gift from Him our desire for it has become purified, more intense.

If I were to get every thing I wanted the very instant I wanted it, I would think I was only getting what I deserved. When God leads me through waiting to examine my desires, turn them over to Him, and grow closer to Him through my longing, I am able to receive His answers as what they are: pure gifts. Waiting perfects my desire, then my gratitude for the gift is also more pure – and gratitude is a humbling, sanctifying thing.

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