Of Rogue Sunflowers and Tame Lions: The Great Good Gift of a Wild God

There is a sunflower growing in the backyard.


I’m not sure how it got there. The backyard is a small wilderness of weeds and tall grasses so mature that Lucy pretends she’s harvesting barley when her daddy is out there moving rocks.

Someday, d.v., there will be a sprinkler system, and then grass, and then perhaps a garden. For now, it’s a sight that’s simultaneously thrilled and terrified the three landscapers who have walked its rocky soil. The terror became ours upon hearing their estimates.

I’m not overly fond of large flowers; I prefer smaller blooms like the bluets of my childhood creeks and the hydrangeas of my bridal bouquet that we saw growing on every street on our honeymoon. But this lone plant has my admiration for its sheer tenacity.

There’s a lesson here, I suppose: something about hope springing up undaunted from dry ground, or about finding beauty in the places you least expect it. But I’ve somehow worked myself into a rather deep writer’s rut of manufacturing morals from everyday life — I don’t post them, but I think them and on occasion draft them — and I’m trying to get out of it.

It’s a wretched feeling to have God show you something and to reply, in effect, “Wait — wait, don’t tell me. I know this one. You want me to see [this lesson] in all of this, right?”

Perhaps He does, and perhaps He doesn’t… but I’ve begun to realize that if I continue on like that, my life stands a very good chance of becoming a small and finely curated collection of stale maxims.

He’s not a tame lion. I thought this idea appeared once in The Chronicles of Narnia, but on the last round through the audiobooks I realized it’s reiterated continually by different characters. Through all the ages of Narnia, one thing that does not change is the Christ-figure’s unpredictability.

He’s not a tame lion.

This means that there will be times when Christ will not make sense, even troublingly so. He will seem too extravagant, or too strict, or too peaceful, or too zealous. I would have balked with Peter to hear Jesus say He was the Son of God and then stoop to wash the disciples’ dirty feet; I would have goggled at the sight of Him overturning tables with a whip in the temple, and then stood stunned to witness Him utter not one word during Herod’s interrogation. That He is not a tame lion means there will most likely be times when He seems distant — inexorable — indifferent — perhaps even cruel.

Yet He is consistent; it is we who are catching on to the breadth of love, the indestructible blessings hidden in disguise, and the size of our God.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” 

– Prince Caspian

And if He has thoughts beyond my comprehension and actions to match, then I lose nothing and have only to gain by biting my conclusion-jumping tongue and letting myself encounter the real God again and again in His Word and in my life, shocks and surprises included, and waiting to see what He might have to reveal. Waiting requires faith to believe that while He is not tame, and never will be, He is good, and worthy of trust.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

– The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

God will not always be “good” to me the way that I request and define it; He is too big for that. But by the same rule, His “good” will be bigger — astoundingly bigger — than my expectations, such that Paul can say He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” I’m more timid and less adventurous than I’d like to think, but how glad I am that God is Himself, wilder and bigger than what I imagine, and that He loves us enough to lead us in His ways and not ours.

Every story worth telling from my life bears that mark.

The sunflower is still standing this morning, persistent and hail-beaten. It didn’t grow by my hand, and it’s not the kind of beauty I would have cultivated out there, but it’s the brightest spot of color in our browning patch of earth. In spite of my opinion. But it stands, its petals a shaggy mane around an insect-harboring center, and now its presence has made me think an entire bevy of thoughts about God and His nature… so at least one of us seems to be living out its purpose to the fullest extent.

Beauty in a wild thing: the best illustration I never requested about following our Creator.