In meeting today I was thinking again about “sinking down to the seed.” I remembered that, one summer when my children were young, I planted a row of sunflowers. They were the giant kind, growing 10 to 12 feet high with faces about a foot across.
It had been a difficult summer, with quite a bit of inward seeking and anguished wondering about the next steps I was about to take in my life. As I pulled into the driveway on that late summer day when the light was buttery golden and the air moved warm on my skin, those sunflowers greeted me as if singing their own Hallelujah chorus!
And suddenly something opened in me. I remembered placing those relatively small seeds in the moist ground, and now here were these impossibly tall, impossibly glorious flowers with heads so heavy with seeds of their own that they were beginning to droop. They hadn’t seemed to work hard to become sunflowers – they had just become. They hadn’t sprouted up roses, or violets, or oak trees. They had sprung effortlessly from God’s template of a sunflower. I imagined that they had followed the sounds of their souls, and so had become completely, thoroughly, utterly, beautifully, and effortlessly themselves. And not only were they themselves, they were lush with new life, abundant with promise, full of the future. Heavy with seed.
So I sat in meeting thinking about this vivid image of the sunflowers of my past. I remembered how freeing it felt to realize in that moment in the driveway that I did not have to effort in order to live an authentic life. That all that was needed was to follow the sound of my own soul, and that I would be led to the self that God had created in love and care and joy.
This was a revolutionary thought for me at the time. I had been struggling with many other people’s expectations of me, with confusion about who I was in the world and whether I was entitled to take up space in it, with a serious conflict between who I wanted to be and who I thought I should be. So the idea that there was an authentic part of me that, like the sunflower, could be trusted to become itself, reaching up through the dark earth of my messy life for the sunlight – this was a kind of birthing experience.
Now, 25 years after the driveway epiphany, I look back on my life and I know what a slow learner I have been. I see that the plans, the visions, the hopes and the dreams I have consciously held for myself and my family over the years invariably started out much too small for the seeds that were and are in us. The things and experiences I desired began more often than not with some idea about what I thought would make me or us more comfortable, or happier, or more secure. Too infrequently did they begin with nurturing the seed deep within. Too infrequently were they a reflection of the soul’s deep longings. Too often I had to be dragged kicking and screaming, "But THIS isn't what I asked for!" into the promised land.
I can say, with gratitude and humility, that has changed as I have gotten older. I was somehow given the grace to more easily accept the inevitable adaptations that my preferences have had to make in the face of the realities of my life. I am grateful that I was given the grace of courage to change the things that I could change, and finally the grace to accept the things I could not change. (I’m still learning to know the difference.)
Spirit has been pretty relentless in shepherding me back to the seed of my being. So it’s a good thing that I have been learning to give in, to sink down, to give up, to let go. To let God. And the life I am finally coming to live is much more beautiful and suited to my talents and needs than any I could have engineered.
Blessed be and hallelujah.