(by Daniel R. Jones)
The trouble with Max’s supper time prayers isn’t that he babbles on as the pagans do (he doesn’t,) and it isn’t that they don’t adhere to the A.C.T.S. format (They don’t.)
It’s that he only prays about sunflowers. In the springtime, we understood. His folded hands still silty from the peat pot he posited in the thawing ground. Only natural that he’d ask:
God, help my sunflowers to grow.
Endearing, at first. But night after night, he’d forgo the blessing of food in favor of praying for the germination of his sunflowers.
Spring time passed. He’d sown and reaped and those heliotropic heads were held almost as high as his own. And night after night, the same prayer:
God, thank you for the sunflowers. Amen.
Cute as it was rudimentary. By day 60, we grew concerned. Is he just phoning it in, to God? Should we be encouraging him to stake out a little further?
“What will you pray about when the sunflowers die, Buddy?”
Max considers this. The next night he prays:
Dear God, thank you for the sunflowers. Help them not to die. And if they do die, bring them back to life. In Jesus name, amen.
I smirk and sigh and worry what it’ll do to his faith when the sunflowers inevitably die.
It’s fall. The sunflowers stalks have bowed and collapsed under their drooping, dead heads. On the entire arrangement, there’s no yellow or green to speak of.
Undeterred, Max prays:
Dear God, thank you for my sunflowers. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Weeks pass. He’s still thanking God for sunflowers that haven’t existed for over a month. As I squeeze my eyes and start to tell Max that the sunflowers are dead, I see the Spirit glide in through the open kitchen window.
He’s come to warn me of the stupidity of chiding a child of three-years-old on how many times he ought to thank his Creator for sunflowers.
And then, I think I see on Max’s hand, palm-side up as if to heaven, he’d mustered up two, tiny, bouncing yellow seeds. Shaking. Not from an unsure hand but because the tectonic plates beneath his feet was unbuckling. The earth itself upending to throw itself into the sea.
Or else, to resurrect a dozen sunflowers in Indianapolis, by special request of the God who never tires: Not of making them. Not of hearing about them.