God helps me shop for bananas. Frankly, someone needs to.
It started a few months after my wife and I got married. Up until that point we had pretty much done everything together. We’re sappy like that.
Suddenly there was a crisis! Well, at least there was a scheduling conflict. Actually, both “crisis” and “conflict” give it too much dramatic credit. We hit a slight and delicate ripple in the ocean of time management. As a result one of us needed to do our grocery shopping alone.
To this day I don’t understand how I got the nod. Grocery shopping involves a surprising number of life-skills, and with the exception of the math-based ones, I have none of them. I can tell you which size cereal box is cheapest per ounce, but I don’t always realize that a small family doesn’t need the restaurant-sized tub of breakfast food. Or–yes this has actually happened–ten tubs of breakfast food, because there was a sale.
Nevertheless, I went grocery shopping that day by myself. I made it all the way to the bananas before I had trouble. Sadly, the bananas were fifteen feet away from the entrance. In fact the only things closer were the shipping carts.
For the record I had no troubles finding a shopping cart. You give me a vast selection of essentially identical objects, the choice of which has no practical implications, and I’m totally capable of making that choice with only moderate deliberation.
Then I came to the banana bin. It might sound like the same sort of choice, but let me explain: I don’t eat bananas; I know nothing about bananas; I was buying them for my wife. The same impulse that inspired us to spend every minute together required me to buy for her the very best bananas, but I didn’t know how.
They all looked the same to me, just like the carts, but this choice mattered. I wanted my wife to enjoy the bananas and exclaim, “Wow, these are great!” I didn’t want her to scrunch up her face and say something like, “Um, honey, these are rhubarb.” (Admittedly, there was minimal rhubarb danger, but my point remains.)
So in desperate earnest I prayed, “Dear Father, help me find good bananas for my wife.” I still pray that every time I buy bananas, although I include my daughter now because she eats them too. I believe God hears and helps.
Now to be clear, I don’t see lights from heaven. No angel has ever appeared to give me a specific bunch. (If one ever does, I’ll tell you.) I do my admittedly meager best to find good bananas, and I buy them. I have an uncanny track record for an amateur, but I’m not going to employ that as evidence. Instead I just want to talk about the experience.
Every single time I buy bananas, I wonder if I’m just making up divine involvement. It doesn’t feel special; I don’t get all tingly; my heart is never strangely warmed. There’s never anything that a good naturalist can’t dismiss.
Even more, bananas are such a small and insignificant choice; there are no poems that say, “For the want of a banana, the kingdom was lost.” The obstacle is my own ignorance and inexperience, rather than some obvious external evil. There are a dozen reasons even for Christians to argue that the matter is not the sort with which God gets involved.
Every time though, I decide to have faith. I decide to trust that there’s more than I can see, that God can act without it being clear and visible to me. I decide to trust that God is at least as good a father as I am, and I would help my daughter if she asked. Sometimes the doubts are particularly hard to shake, but I keep trying.
When I ask God to help me raise my daughter, I don’t see lights or angels, and the obstacles are too frequently the same, my ignorance and inexperience. I believe he hears and helps about that too. Maybe the small things are exercise.
If anything, I should probably ask his help with the cereal too.