What a Banana Taught Me About God

Banana Photo

This past Sunday, I was given the opportunity to prepare and present the Children’s Message during our church service while our Director of Children and Youth Ministries was away at seminary.  The experience was at once terrifying, amazing, and hilarious (thanks to an exuberant four year old “heckler” in the crowd).  When all was said and done, it was a life moment for me, a moment where I stepped out of my comfort zone and accomplished something I wasn’t sure I could handle.  It was a transformative moment, so I thought I would share it here as well.  Although it was not audio or video recorded, the memory of that 10 minutes will be etched in my mind for many years to come.  You, on the other hand, will have to settle for the written summary that follows.

Good morning everyone, my name is Andrea and I will be giving the Children’s Message this week.  To prepare, I read the readings we just heard and I thought about them and I prayed:

Dear God, you have given me the opportunity to share my voice with this group of  impressionable young minds.  Please direct my words and inspire my thoughts, because right now, I’ve got nothin’.

And before I knew it, I had somethin’.

Bananas.

Really God, Bananas???

I didn’t think God could really want me to talk about bananas, so I tried to put the thought of bananas out of my mind.

But then, earlier this week, my husband ran to the store to grab a few things.  When he came home he said, “Can you believe that the store was completely out of bananas.  Both displays, upstairs and downstairs, were wiped out.  Except for one lonely banana.  It had brown spots on it.”

“And let me guess, you brought it home,” I responded.

“Well of course I did,” he said with a proud smile.

All right God, you win.  I am going to talk about bananas on Sunday.

{So I asked the kids:  “Who here eats bananas?”  Lots of hands raise.  It was also about this time my “heckler” started giving me the rundown on his relationship with bananas.}

{Then I asked the kids:  “When you eat bananas, what color do you like the outside to be?  Green, yellow, brown spotted, all brown?”  As with my children, they all indicated they would only eat yellow bananas.  This was when my “heckler” really got going and we learned all about the time he ate a green banana (it was gross) and that his favorite food was pizza.}

{Finally I asked the kids:  “Who knows where most of the bananas we eat come from?”  At this point, my “heckler” was really going strong with a story about eating pizza with his friends, although I can’t be sure.  This was about the moment where I was starting to feel like I was having an out-of-body experience and panic that I was never going to get to the end of my message.  But the kid was so stinkin’ cute, and I didn’t have it in me to cut him off.  Thankfully, the child’s father graciously walked up and sat with his child and gently reminded him that it was time to let me talk now.  At this point a few of the older children were finally able to get a word in edgewise as well, and they informed me that bananas grow in trees on farms.  I shared with them that many of those farms are located in Central America and proceeded with the rest of the message.}

Did you know that the people in Central America who grow our bananas think we are a little silly about our bananas here in the United States?  Most people in that region wouldn’t even think of eating a banana until it started to turn brown.  That’s when bananas are at their peak of ripeness and really start to sweeten up.   But for some reason here in the U.S. most people won’t touch a banana with brown spots on it, unless they are using it to make things like muffins and banana bread, and based on my quick check of the internet, there are a ton of people out there who think bananas with brown spots on them are spoiled and could make you sick.  That is NOT true.

But somehow we got it in our heads that bananas with brown spots, because they don’t look as pretty, aren’t good to eat.

So why am I talking about bananas in church?

I think we are all quite a bit like bananas.  It seems that people are always telling us what we need to be like if we want to be the banana that someone would want to buy.

Maybe it’s kids at school telling you what shoes you have to wear, what sports you have to like, or what music you need to listen to, to be cool.

Maybe it’s the people you see in magazines or on TV telling you how smooth your hair needs to be and what color your skin needs to be and what size your body needs to be, to be beautiful.

Or maybe it’s the people who tell you there’s things about your insides or your feelings you need to be ashamed of, like being afraid of the dark, or getting angry with your sister for using your stuff, or being jealous of your friend who is a better skateboarder than you, or saying or thinking mean things about your parents when you are upset.

So we all start to feel like brown bananas that no one wants to buy from the grocery store; and sometimes, when we feel like brown bananas ourselves, we start to pick on others for the things that make them brown bananas in our eyes.

But when I read the passage that we just heard, and I thought about what it was saying, and I thought about what Jesus did when He was on this Earth and who He spent his time with, I thought, God must think we are kind of silly, just like the people in Central America think we are silly for not eating brown bananas.

I mean, Jesus spent his time on Earth with the brown bananas –  the Samaritans, the tax collectors, the people with icky skin diseases, the people everyone else called crazy.  He saw past what others considered imperfections and ugly packaging and recognized that those were often the very things that made the people he befriended and saved so sweet on the inside.

God sent us Jesus to tell us once and for all, you are all my children and I love you, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what you have done.  All God asked in return was that we love Him back and that we love one another, just as we are.

So the when you leave here today, remember to keep an eye out for any lonely, spotted bananas that might be left lying around.

“‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-39

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12

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