You might wonder what there is to learn about peeling a banana. The answer will surprise you.
Years ago, I was taught how to peel a banana by my Girl Scout leader. At the time, she was working toward her degree and would often regale us with educational insights from life after high school. She taught us, for example, that the most economical packaging is spherical because a sphere has the largest internal volume for the least packaging surface area. But we rarely find spherical packages on grocery store shelves because people perceive taller objects as bigger, even if they really aren’t. We are much more likely to buy tall skinny boxes, cylindrical cans, and elongated bottles, because we think we are getting more for our money. Perceptions can be deceiving.
Which brings us to the banana. According to my Girl Scout leader – and I have no reason to doubt her or her college professors – researchers have observed that non-human primates peel bananas from the non-stem end. They do this because it is easier. People, on the other hand, typically start from the stem end. We grab that stem like a handle and pull. And we frequently mush the tip of the banana in the process. Have you ever had a stubborn banana that just would… not…. peel…? It would have been much easier if you flipped it over and tried from the other end. (Try it sometime. I dare you.)
If it is so much easier to peel a banana from the non-stem end, why do we insist on peeling it the other way? The answer, I think, is the same reason why marketers line our shelves with tall, wasteful packaging. Human perception sometimes leads us to things that are not as they first appear.
Jesus knows this about us. He warned us about it. Not so much about how to peel a banana (I suspect He doesn’t really care one way or the other about that). But He cares very much that we do not allow ourselves to grab onto what at first seems obvious and easy when there is actually a better way.
“Enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus tells us. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
In other words, don’t grab onto that big obvious stem the way the rest of the world does. There is a better way.
The obvious way to peel a banana will frequently lead to mushy fruit. The obvious way to live a life will frequently lead to a mushy life. Jesus is warning us that just because everyone else is ruining their bananas – or their lives – doesn’t mean we have to ruin ours. There is a less obvious way that we can choose. For a banana, it means taking our eyes off that prominent stem and looking at the smaller end. For life, it means taking our eyes off the world’s culture and looking at Jesus.
Jesus specifically said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). Jesus may not seem like an obvious choice in today’s culture, but then, He told us that the gate was small. We shouldn’t expect it to be obvious. The road to follow Him is narrow, but if we commit to it, He will keep us on it. He will use His law to convict us, His grace to save us, and His spirit to guide us. When we trust Jesus, we become empowered by His very presence in our lives.
It’s not always easy to stay focused on Jesus. Just like reaching out and grabbing that banana stem, we often reach out and grab onto everything but Jesus. We get overwhelmed with our jobs, our families, our concerns. But we shouldn’t let our perceptions fool us. There is more than one way to peel a banana. And when we take our eyes off the obvious things, we will find something more. Jesus is here. He is opening the gate for us. He is showing us a better way to peel that banana.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).