Existentialism vis-à-vis Bananas

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.


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