I just wanted to get in and out of the grocery store. I parked the car and plotted the shortest path through the aisles to retrieve a lemon and unsalted butter, two things I needed for dessert. I only had a few more chores for the evening and then planned to hit the couch with a good movie and a lemon dessert. But, just as if I had come to an intersection with a red light, I came to a halt, right there in the produce section.
He was standing by the bananas. He talked loudly himself, looked frail and appeared to be in his eighties. He held out a bunch of green bananas. I didn’t want to be rude and smiled in his direction. He wore a pair of broken horned glasses, one arm poorly fixed with black electrical tape. The whole contraption set crooked across his wrinkled face.
“I like to buy green bananas.” He caught my eyes and now looked squarely at me.
“I really don’t have time for your green bananas,” I thought.
Out of the blue, I heard a voice in my spirit, not an audible one, but a silent prompting with a force no less powerful than someone speaking to me. The command was clear and precise, made me bend my inner ear.
I can be a bit argumentative, especially when my own agenda is threatened. And if that agenda is a movie at the end of a busy day with a lemon dessert, I can get cranky.
“I really don’t care,” I thought and then heard myself say,
“Oh, is that right?”
There it was again. I sighed under my breath. I knew I needed to obey.
“Do you know why I buy green bananas?” he asked. I could see his milky eyes now, even behind his smudged glasses.
“Why is that, sir?”
“She likes bananas. It’s about the only thing she eats anymore. I buy them when they are green and set them on the counter. While they ripen, we eat the yellow ones.” His voice trailed and I could tell our conversation had only started.
“Listen.” The silent command kept me from walking toward the dairy.
I noticed his clothes. His brown trousers hung loosely around his waste. His shirt had a couple of stains. I wondered if he forgot to check the mirror before he left his house.
“She hardly wants to eat anymore. She even hides her pills.”
“Are you talking about your wife?” I asked. I felt a sense of calm.
“Yes. The doctors say she had a stroke. She hates anything I make for her to eat. But the bananas, she still likes.”
“It sounds like you are really frustrated about this.” I wasn’t sure how to go about comforting him.
“We have been married for almost sixty years. And now she stopped eating and doesn’t want to take her pills.”
I tried to imagine his struggles.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be here anymore?” I said, instantly regretting my words.
“I think you are right.” He looked as if he realized this for the first time.
How could I be this direct? I felt terrible.
There was the voice again. This time I didn’t argue.
“Are you a man of faith?” I felt the need to pray for him, but wasn’t sure how he would react.
He tried to smile and said, “I used to be.”
“Well, when I can’t make sense of things, I ask Jesus for help,” I said, trying to figure out if we had something in common.
His attitude suddenly shifted.
“I am so sick of the church. I used to go all the time. Then they made it about money. I used to love church. Not anymore.” He looked down and set his jaw.
“But Jesus is not like that church. He loves you and he loves your wife,” I said.
He reluctantly nodded.
Then the floodgates opened. He told me about a revival he had experienced many years ago. He had seen hearts supernaturally move and become open to God. He spoke about a group of men he was part of who studied the Word and prayed for God to move. His voice became soft as he recalled. I listened and noticed a fire take off in his eyes. As if something came alive in him, lit by embers of a faith from long ago. He recalled times when the men met in homes and prayed for each other and their families. His eyes sparkled behind his crooked glasses.
“May I pray for you?” I asked.
He smiled and agreed.
Before I did, I asked him for his name. I prayed a short prayer for James and told him that I would continue to pray for him and his wife. Then, before I headed on my way, he said these words I will never forget,
“I believe God had us both here for a reason today. You are an angel, a messenger from God.”
When I got to my car, I threw the butter and lemon on the passenger seat and cried. I almost would have missed out on a new friend.
James and I have run into each other several more times since. Once he told me his wife had passed.
I am a reluctant messenger, often willing to trade the sweetness of a heavenly conversation for the quickly fading taste of an earthly dessert.
How different our lives could be, were we to listen to the voice of the Spirit and take more time for green bananas.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Let me know what you think