A while ago we had a bunch of bananas that never ripened. I think it was two weeks we had them and they remained greenish yellow. I remember peeling one and taking a bite, just in case. I know, I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Yep, you guessed it. It wasn’t good. One mouthful and I was throwing out the banana and the rest of the bunch with it into the trash.
So what does this have to do with Jesus? I’ll get to that. Never fear, this isn’t some cliché bearing good fruits bible study thing. This rambling is more of a train of thought. “What if I’m a bad banana?” crept into my mind. With some tangential bananas themes popping up throughout this, whatever this thing is that I’m writing.
Evangelical vs. Charismatic
So, in Christianity there’s two camps or parts of a whole: the Evangelical and the Charismatic divisions. There are a lot of different denominations, I’m not specifically talking about that. I’m sort of talking about the spirit or mindset from these traditions. I’m referring to the sound doctrine of the Bible and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
When I say Evangelical, I’m thinking of the denomination’s tendency to focus on biblical truths and studies. The discipline of studying and applying the word of God to one’s life. It’s an important factor of being a Christian. Sometimes, or maybe most of the time, sound doctrine or dogma tends to be stuffy and dry but true. One of the negatives in knowing your Bible doesn’t guarantee being a better Christian. Sometimes those who really know their Bibles in and out lack love and the power to live as followers of Christ. The truth of scriptures is really important. We should know our Bible and “be ready to give a defense for the gospel”.
Sometimes people are drawn to the Charismatic for good or selfish reasons. When I say Charismatic, I’m referring to the Charismatic denomination that focus on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit: healings, prophecy, exorcising demons or spiritual warfare, etc. There are people gifted or empowered by the Holy Spirit seeing the supernatural power of God. I know it sounds fruity, but it’s really real. Non-Christians can shake their heads and dismiss it, because, yeah, it sounds kooky or made-up. Some people have experienced healings and, well, real possessions. And it IS freaky and NOT something to play with or chase after.
But, sometimes the people who are caught up in the Charismatic side of things who aren’t grounded in the Bible are flaky. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in the Charismatic branch of Christianity. That’s why some believers rush over to the Evangelical side of Bible Studies, Dogma and Doctrines; so which path is right?
Just like we have two hemispheres to our brains, we need both. The right intuitive side that knows and takes action on stuff that it can’t explain and the left side of reason and biblical precepts to build one’s life upon. It’s best when both halves are working together.
There are a couple of Charismatic holy living Christians that I sometimes see preaching whose videos are on YouTube. And they inspire hope for living a holy life and encouragement that God does answer prayers and win spiritual battles. They both are humble, a bit hyper and eccentric, yet grounded in God’s Word.
Then I listen to an intellectual pastor out of California who sometimes trolls, knows and speaks about Jordan Peterson and isn’t afraid to have YouTube Conversations, (not debates), with atheists and agnostics. He’s a lifelong learner who’s very open-minded to new ideas, very smart and deals with homeless people daily at his Sacramento church. He’s also grounded in the Word after twenty plus years of ministry. I’d place this Dutch pastor in the Evangelical corner.
They are bearing good fruits in different ways. Very different people. And the variance between them both encourages and perplexes me. Where are the smart learners who live life with miracles and visions as a normal part of their lives? Is that why banana splits are a rare treat?
Good Tree vs. Bad Tree
There’s a parable in one of the Gospels, (or maybe several Gospels), that talks about being a good tree or a bad tree. The good tree bears fruit. The bad tree doesn’t and gets cut down and thrown into a fire. Here’s where the questioning if I’m a bad banana comes in.
I’m not as grounded in the Word as I could be. I think I know the Bible, but have barely memorized a few verses and the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a miracle, let alone had a prayer for one be answered. At least that I know of. I don’t think I’ve ever really witnessed to anyone about Jesus being the way of salvation from sin.
Other than periodically praying in tongues, I’m not a supernaturally empowered Christian. Well, not in ways that are dramatic or easily seen like “whoa, that person was healed”, or something. For good or bad, I’m just a mediocre Christian. There, I’ve said it. Of course I seek after God. But, I’m not doing anything special; just living my life and being myself.
Wishing yet fearing for the Holy Spirit to shift up the gears in my own life. Blessings? “Count me in!” Hardships and persecutions? “Um, please no.”
Salt and Light
Here’s the part where I fear I resemble the never ripening bananas. I’ve never seen bananas not ripen like that. But it happened.
I’ve been a Christian for nearly thirty years. I went through the enthusiasm of being a new believer, stagnation and wrestling with sin, and hiding my faith or muffling it for over a decade. Other than having a better handle on my temper, and God helping me to overcome some sins, I don’t really feel like I have much salt to share; or light to pierce the darkness to give hope. I used to rarely go to church. Due to Covid-19, my current church is in limbo, still figuring things out. I have a periodic Bible Study group that I go to, meeting now on social media.
Here’s another reason I question if I am a bad banana. There’s the great commission Christians are given. I haven’t really led anyone in the Sinner’s Prayer to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Let alone actually ministered to anyone about Jesus.
For nearly two years now I’ve been doing daily devotional, Bible reading and praying. That’s an improvement. But do I really love people, my family, my friends and my neighbors? Or am I just being nice because that’s how I was raised to be? Do I really manifest the fruits of Spirit in my life, or am I just acting the part?
Sometimes, I do the right thing. Other times, I let pride get the better of me and fail again. I don’t know if living the quiet life is all there is for me. What if God’s giving me rest before launching me into the action later in my life? Does Kingdom of Heaven work exist in the small menial day-to-day tasks taking care of my family? It exists obviously in ministry. So, am I just to be content and live each day the best I can in the smallness that I find myself in? No saving the world or big miracles. Living in peace with those around me. Will that testify to God being glorified? Will that increase the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth?
I guess that’s all I know; I have a stable life, filled with family members with medical conditions. There’s food in the fridge, a roof over our heads and the bills are paid. All of which I’m very grateful to God for providing. I want to relish and stay in this place of provision and safety. I also selfishly want more power and money. A bigger home, more room, and control over my life.
What am I trying to say? I could be a better Christian. More devoted, better at reading and memorizing my Bible. Better at loving my family, instead of just serving them from a sense of duty and need. Better at loving my friends and neighbors. Covid-19 seems to be a convenient excuse to not engage with my neighbors right now, for better or worse.
Am I a bad banana or banana yogurt? When I was a toddler, my parents used to warm up some yogurt and mix some mashed bananas into it. They would feed me it as I watched Sesame Street. Things were simpler then. I knew my parents loved me and simple shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood educated me as they entertained me.
Life is more complex. However, some things are simple to understand. I know I’m saved, but I don’t know if I’ll receive a reward in heaven. I don’t know if I’m really obeying Him in all I say or do. I think I am, then pride rears its head and I get cocky again.
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Paul said. Maybe I’m still a work in progress that’ll take another twenty years to see the improvement. I don’t know.
Jesus loves me, imperfect, frail and flawed as I am. He gave His all, His life and said follow me. I’m saved, yet I shrink back from going full tilt for Him like He did for me. I love Him, but I’m a coward. I don’t want to endure suffering or persecutions. But, as a believer, I’m probably going to at some point. If I’m sincere in my faith I’ll persevere. Will I stand for Christ or bow to worldly pressure? I hope I stand for Him, like He stood up for me.
I can’t really do much and others are facing much harder times than I am. I’m thankful for what God has given me and try to do my morning devotion and pray honestly with Him. Spending time with Him. It doesn’t seem like much, but the habit has been built almost two years now and I think it’s good.
Non-religious people may feel like prayer is a waste of time or just wishful thinking. But when you really have no power or just realize that you’re not God, it really is a relief to be able to talk honestly with the highest source of power and authority. Asking Him for help with all the things. Help, healing, wisdom and stuff for yourself, other people, and other nations.
God is so big. Bigger than the problems, bigger than the egos, bigger than life, time and the universe. To know He’s good and righteous and holy and has loved people since the beginning. It is a comforting thing to trust Him in spite of all the woes, suffering and injustices in the world. I only become aware of snippets of it all. I wouldn’t be able to handle what He sees and know of what’s really going on. Past, present and future. He’s God and I’m not. Sometimes what I do know of the wrongs do overwhelm me. And I question Him. But, in the end I still trust Him. What is the alternative? I don’t trust my mind or emotions, I don’t trust my motives. When doubt creeps in and I get an inkling of the hopelessness of the perspective of there being no God, it scares me. And I thank God He’s really real and actually loves us and is good.
There was this dish my Mom used to make called Baked Bananas. She’d cut up the almost too ripe bananas in half sideways. Put the halves in a square Pyrex pan. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top then squeeze or shake some lemon juice on them. Bake them in the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes at two hundred and fifty degrees.
I don’t know if I’m a never-ripening banana, a bad banana or a baked banana. Remember Keith Green’s song, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt? He ended the humorous long list of manna variance with banana bread. Spoilers for those of you who’ve never heard the song before. Sorry, not sorry. It’s still a fun song, check it out on YouTube or Spotify or something.
Perhaps you’re an atheist or agnostic who read this thinking religious people are slightly bananas for believing as we do. I don’t know, maybe we are, but just maybe we’re not. Sometimes I doubt it as well. Ever read The Silver Chair from the Narnia series? The scene with the Green Witch, the fire smoke and the Marshwiggle is one to check out for those doubting moments.
Jill and Eustace kept messing up Aslan’s clues, but they did do one thing right. For those who don’t know the story, I won’t reveal any other spoilers. But those who have read the book know what I’m referring to. Seems a bit unfair if you’ve never read the book and aren’t going to, I guess.
But that’s life, isn’t it? Unfair. Sometimes it’s absurd like Woody Allen’s Bananas movie. But sometimes there are moments of beauty and sweetness.
Maybe the question isn’t if I’m a good or bad banana. Maybe the focus should be who is the top banana. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. Lord of lords, King of kings, the Prince of Peace.
Going to heaven isn’t the point of becoming a Christian. It’s a small part of it. It’s about what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven and the Resurrection. Someday all the believers are going to have a new resurrected body. Just like Jesus when he rose from the dead after three days.
Well, this is the end of my verbal processing. Thank you for listening. Maybe you’re a banana split or banana bread. Or maybe you’re wondering if you’re a bad banana too. Hope this helps you.
As a Christian I rest in the hope, “Day-o! Daaay-O! Daylight come and me wanna go home!”
Tim Haskell (Blocky) says
I love this, Valerie! It is such a pleasure to read through your thoughts and ideas. You have a wonderful writing style that feels very conversational, and that helps me understand you and also to engage with the subject. I share your perspective in many ways. God is using you for sure. Caring for loved ones is a ministry itself. Your desire to be used by God is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in you. The more we become like Christ, the easier it will be to face challenges and when we’re ready, the opportunities are likely to increase. As you cleverly pointed out, bananas can be used in many delicious ways, so just keep all the recipes handy because you just never know which one will be needed. Like another great Keith Green song says: “You just keep doing your best, and pray that it’s blesses, and Jesus takes care of the rest.”
Valerie Flynn says
Thank you for your encouraging words and for commenting! It’s heartening when what you write resonates with others. I was just listening to some of Keith Green’s songs today. That is a great line from his lyrics. Too true as ever!
Emmanuel Leisetritt says
Sometimes I feel like prayer – of all the, so called, ‘spiritual disciplines’ – is that feature of the Christian life most radically dependent upon faith. There’s simply no other reason to engage in what – for most Protestants, at any rate – is effectively *conversational speech directed toward God* . . .
So, lacking faith, we often neglect the exercise – or at least I do – and most especially with my fellow believers. Yet, it seems increasingly clear that prayer is the realization of God’s will – both for God (bringing about his purposes in no uncertain terms) and for believers (coming to recognize his providence in their experience).
So, I might just be warming up to the idea – – – maybe I’m a ripening banana . . . still largely green – but- not without hope.
This writing – of yours – has been one environmental factor contributing to my prospects for future success . . . for newness of life and soundness of purpose . . .
For that, I thank you.
Valerie Flynn says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on prayer and what it’s purposes are. You articulated it so well.
We’re all works in progress. Your banana reference made me smile.
You’re welcome. Thank you for your kind words and comment! It’s always heartening to hear when one’s writing has encouraged others.
Tony Gunter says
Really enjoyed the banana read Val. For me the most enjoyable was your honest heart and willingness to expose your questions honestly. You write extremely well, George would be proud.
When you’re talking about ministry stuff please expand your definition to include your care and kindnesses to your family. That’s the sort of stuff I think of when I hear someone say that we’re the hands and feet of Jesus.
Might I suggest as you do your daily devotionals that you begin to write what you think of as a result of what you read that might be an encouragement to someone else and start collecting them for a later series of cards or notes people could use to send to friends or family. I’m sure the same honesty displayed in your banana story will shine through.
Thus a new ministry may be born.
Valerie Flynn says
Thank you for your kind comment and suggestions!
That’s something I never think of as ministry. That’s a good point.
Oh huh. That’s an interesting idea. I mostly read the devotions and it’s become more of a ritual I do in the morning. But, that’s a good thought. I’ll try to keep that in mind.
Best wishes to you and Mina!