“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.But the greatest of these is love.”
–1 Corinthians 13:13
Can we all agree that everything is bananas right now in the world? I have come to suspect the universe is stuck in a banana truck. Some of the peels are beginning to stink, some are still delicious. (If you like bananas, that is.)
The tricky part of being human seems to be learning to enjoy the good fruit while ignoring the rotten bits. Chewing the meat and spitting out the bones. Enduring the mosquitos while enjoying the sunshine. Have I reduced the philosophical complexities of humanity enough in these metaphorical word pictures, so we can all smile and nod together? I certainly hope so.
My point: Everything is bananas and we still have to get up every day and somehow make a go of it.
My son’s basketball team won the state championship the same week war erupted in Ukraine. Both events were precedented by long histories full of a mixture of tragedies and triumphs, and yet both seemed unprecedented and impossible in other ways. The photos of the basketball team after their victory reveal a dazzling Texas sunset hanging over their heads. The photos of Ukrainian cities reveal tragic loss and devastation. My feelings about these two situations were sharp-edged and potent.
We’ve used the word “unprecedented” a lot in the last two years. At various points in our shared history of pandemic bananas, I’ve heard people say they longed for precedented times again. That seemed so funny to me until it occurred to me that precedented world events involve not only familiar comforts but also horrific injustice. Take war, for example. War is quite precedented, historically speaking.
The question plaguing me is this: How do we carry war, virus pandemics, basketball trophies, and the beauty of ordinary sunsets all at once?
As I considered possible answers to this question, I thought of 1 Corinthians 13:13. It is a familiar, almost saccharine verse. 1 Corinthians 13:13 is the scriptural manifestation of a piece of candy used to keep a child quiet in church.
Or at least, Paul’s words seems a little too sweet until we need faith, hope, and love in the deep aching places of our bones. Then these three words, faith, hope, and love emit a holy hush over our desperate souls.
I believe Paul’s wisdom offers us three things to carry us through the highs and lows of life: faith, hope, and love.
Faith is vital, of course. Believing that with God the impossible becomes possible is a necessity in dark and terrifying times. Whether we believe it or not, divine power and aid and rescue are always on their way to us eventually. The difficulty with faith is that our ability to believe is connected to a future we can’t always imagine. My prayer is that God would spark our imaginations so there can be space for our faith to grow into what awaits us tomorrow, next week, and next year.
The path of faith is the only one that can lead us to the territory of hope, where we camp out often in this life. To abide in hope, we must try to savor and appreciate the miracles before God does them. This is tricky and feels foolish when cynicism snaps at us. Hope is strange and Pollyanna-ish, but we never regret fighting to set up our tent on her land.
Paul called love the greatest. While faith and hope require our participation in the action, love is powerful all on its own.
The truth is, love is what complicates my ability to carry the good and bad circumstances in life. The basketball victory is meaningful because I love the kid on the court and long for him to flourish and succeed in all he does. Witnessing war is painful and confusing because I believe I am called to love others as God has loved me, and I feel mostly powerless to enter into the pain of the Ukrainian people in a meaningful way.
Love reveals all that is bananas in life. It tenderizes us and leaves us desperate for a world where things are not as they are, but can be as they are meant to be: full of righteous and holy goodness and peace.
This is how we have always made it through, and how we will make it through all we face today: We will remember God’s love is powerful enough to drive away fear. We will pray in faith for God to rescue the hurting and the lost as he brings peace to the world. And we will hope for opportunities to join God in making that peace happen.
Most of all, we will hold onto the three things that remain once the terror passes and life is no longer impossibly bananas.