Bananas, Lemons, Torches and Churches

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Fundamentally, I think bananas are a lot like toddlers that belong to other people. There is a very short window where you think they are appealing slathered in Nutella, but past that, they make everything smell funny.

I mention this because I have enjoyed a domestic triumph this week, on the heels of a mothering flop. 16 years into this gig and I still fall for the old “No, I love that food! I would eat all of it if you bought it!” bit, which is how I ended up with 8 bananas past their moment of glory (which literally is about 25 minutes) sitting on the counter, and I orchestrated a coup and conquered the overripe suckers. Incidentally, did you know a banana is technically in the berry family? Talk about a red-headed stepchild. Growing up next to raspberries and strawberries must be like constantly having to share a mirror with Marsha Brady.

Did you further know that washing bananas actually does not make them sweeter? I can actually hear your thoughts screeching to a halt mid-sentence, wondering what kind of fake news I have been reading (since you probably already suspect my sources on that whole banana-is-a-berry thing, and the doubter in me acknowledges the doubter in you), but it was a fascinating tidbit that came forth from the Quail in their younger years after having enjoyed the hospitality of my parents. That is, they thought they were simply enjoying hospitality. They didn’t realize they were also being subtly rewired for germophobia. Marme insists to this day that she never told them washing the banana would make it taste sweeter, that the Quail reinterpreted the data, and she is also not wrong that we should probably be more grossed out by banana peels and cross-contamination. Just thought I would take a moment and debunk that myth, in case any of you were operating under the above mentioned delusion. You’re welcome, and where was I…

Oh that’s right. The torch.

I am not much of a banana person, and having been lured into buying them twice in a row, thinking my Quail would inhale them, I was faced with the mild irritation of having to figure out what to do with them. I know — you have the best banana bread recipe. Mine is better, trust me. And even so, you can only eat so much banana bread over the course of 14 days without muttering things about the son of a berry and whatnot, so I was making a determined effort to branch out.

I came, I saw, I made a banana cake that involved a butane torch.

It isn’t Saturday, so I really shouldn’t be blithering about the details of a cake we ate for Sabbath breakfast. If you want bona fide blither in that department, try searching “Butter and Rest” at the top of the page and let me know what you decide to do with the information (yes, historically, one of the possible choices involves loud belly laughing and opening a box of Pop Tarts. They say negative attention is attention too, so I press on offering you recipes), but all you need to know on the banana cake front is that I felt absolutely brilliant. The cake itself was an imitation of a pineapple upside-down cake in its design, but with velvety coconut milk flavor and a moist crumb, the long sliced bananas coated in caramel so that when you flip it over and sprinkle it with sugar, you can go clicky-clicky-boom with your kitchen torch (thank you, Southern Buddy!) and turn it into the most magical sugary breakfast you have eaten since last Sunday morning!

Of course, the real banana triumph came in making banana cinnamon chip challah bread, which makes killer toast and happens to be stuck in my teeth as I type this.

Man, I keep getting distracted… the point is, I used up all my bananas.

Truthfully, I’ve never understood why the saying of old is about when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Who the heck minds being handed lemons? The possibilities are endless: lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemon chiffon cake, lemon poppyseed everything, every tasty liquor in the world plus a lemon… What a thoughtless truism. You want to push people to resourcefulness, try “When life gives you a gigantic bunch of overripe bananas…” and then finish it, how you do.

This is especially true and needful when the bananas in question are actually people.

Romans 12 exhorts us to “outdo one another in showing love”, or honor, depending on your version. Some people are lemons — they naturally enhance every situation they are squeezed into, they add color and zest and brightness and only very occasionally leave a seed-shaped knob in their doings. But others are more like the overripe banana — they add tremendous sweetness and concentrated flavor, but only when you purposefully approach them, lift them from wherever they sit spoiling and peel back the prohibitive sliminess, which may or may not break into pieces when touched. Overripe bananas require gentle handling.

An overripe person may be someone who has been left out of Christian fellowship too long. While they too, like the cheerful lemons, have been blessed with spiritual gifts from God Himself, intended for the good of the church, they find themselves unused and unable to jump into the fray of community life on their own. Perhaps trials have isolated them. Perhaps hardships have bruised them prematurely and they find themselves not easily blending with the less beaten up fruits of the body. Perhaps they simply give an appearance of being difficult to handle — whether they are or not.

This weekend, I was proven shamefully wrong twice in the course of a single morning about 2 such women that I had not previously seen, understood, or mashed into a tasty spiritual cake. Both had sweetness and insight that I had not previously experienced, and I would not have guessed how deeply I would be blessed by even brief conversation with them.

So because I do love beating a good metaphor to a smooshed up pulp, banana-style, a final parting word to both the bananas and the lemons in my readership (you may or may not know who you are. That’s ok): Outdo. If our eyes are on Christ, then we are free to reach out, hands open, to everyone God puts in our path and see nothing but our Lord Himself. You will never outdo Him in showing love, and so we have nothing to fear and every reason to embrace whoever God has put in front of us… or on the counter. There is no one too ripe for God to use for His glory.

  1. Ellen
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    I can report confidently that I PEELED with laughter at comparing bananas to other folks’ toddlers and also a red-headed stepchild. Plus a BUNCH of other hilarity in this read. Thanks, again.

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