If we were to study the growth cycle of different kinds of plants, we would be in awe of the systems that God developed for them to mature into beautiful specimens. Such is the case for the sunflower. Have you ever driven by a field of sunflowers with their golden heads all facing the same direction and wondered why? There is an internal mechanism in these plants that enables them to turn to the sun. The scientific term is "heliotropism"--"helio" meaning sun and "tropism" meaning turn. This is also called "solar tracking."
The sunflower only has a single blossom so its goal is to grow a head that can produce as many seeds as possible. Inside the green parts of the plant is a hormone called "auxins" that are sensitive to light. The auxins migrate to the shaded part of the stem and behind the bud head to stimulate cell growth so that the shaded side of the plant grows longer and faster than the rest of the plant. Then the flower head follows the arc of the sun. At night, it repositions itself so that it is east facing and can begin the process of following the sun all over again in the morning. Note that even on a cloudy or rainy day the sunflowers still follow the sun.
By turning its face toward the sun, the sunflower takes full advantage of the light for photosynthesis, the process whereby it obtains energy for growth. Once the flower matures, it no longer tracks the sun but faces east all the time. By facing east, the flower is warmed by the morning sun and attracts pollinators, primarily bees, who travel from head to head and fertilize the centers so that they produce seeds. Is this not fascinating?
I see a correlation between the sunflowers and our growth as Christians. First, God planted each of us in the ideal place for relationship with Him. "...He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27) Then, He placed within us the desire to worship. Everyone has their own "auxins," so to speak. David recognized this and expressed it in Psalm 27. "My heart says of you, 'Seek His face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Verse 8) In Psalm 105:4 it says, "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Even when we go through dark times and the Lord is not so visible, we need to turn toward Him to help us in our time of need.
As we seek the Lord and find Him, we will be growing in the likeness of Him. God delights in watching us produce the fruits of His Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. (Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) It is through our growth in the Spirit that we will begin to plant seeds in others so that the Lord will have a magnificent harvest. When seed is planted in good soil it "produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matthew 13:23)
One day the Lord will return for His harvest. Scriptures tells us He will come from the east and all of us will face toward Him, our Lord and Master. Matthew describes how it will look: "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthews 24:27) What a glorious day it will be! We must keep facing the Son to be ready for that day.
Joan E. Mathias