Friday, November 9, 2012

The Banana Story...


Right now I am praying (and have been praying) for something that from a human standpoint seems impossible.  Even as I lift this request to the throne of God, part of me wants to help my Heavenly Father solve this difficult quandary but every time I try, I come up against a dead end.  What I'm asking for is just not possible.
      These past two weeks, I have re-read Evidence Not Seen and I have listened to Darlene's testimony twice.
Why?  Because it boggles my mind that anyone could survive what she did and still say those were the sweetest years of her life.  In the midst of horror that I can't even imagine, she took every heartache, question, and need directly to the throne room of God and I'm telling you, He always answered her.  And when He answered, she knew it.
      I don't want to suffer like she did (and she didn't want to suffer like that either), but I can't think of anything more awesome than to have such a close walk with the Lord.  Part of it was because she had memorized tons of Scripture starting in childhood.  In times of distress, verse after verse would come back to her heart and when God spoke to her, it was usually through Scripture and/or snatches of hymns, often things that she couldn't even remember having memorized.  When she finally ended up in death row in a Japanese Gestapo-like prison, they took her Bible away from her but she said it was no hardship because she knew so much of the Bible by heart.  His word literally  sustained her.
      Also, when she was ten years old, she attended a worship service aimed at the young people of the church.  Towards the end of the service, the visiting pastor asked the teen-agers to consider coming forward to give their lives to God for His service, wherever that might lead them.
     She wished with all her heart that she was old enough to respond to that call.  And then she felt a hand on her shoulder but when she looked, there was no one standing beside her and she knew God was reaching out to her.  And she felt Him asking her, "Would you be willing to go anywhere for me, regardless of the cost?" She was thrilled to know that He had noticed her, a little girl from a small town with nothing to recommend her to His attention. And she whispered, "Yes, Lord, I would go anywhere for You."
This was the "good" prison...
     At the time, she had no idea that "anywhere" would include four years in various prisons under the Japanese as well as widowhood when she was only 26 years old.  But after those four years of deprivation, she could still say - only this time with deeper understanding - "Yes, Lord, I would go anywhere for You, no matter what it costs."
     Why? Because she was a glutton for punishment?
     No. In her words, those became the sweetest years of her life because she learned by experience that everything she had been taught in Sunday school about God's faithfulness and His love was true.  Absolutely true.
     From the first time I read her book 22 years ago, one story in it has stood out in my mind; I've never forgotten it.  I call it the "banana story" and   I know it so well that I thought I didn't need to read it (or hear it) again.  However this time, as I listened to her testimony,  to my surprise I picked up something new and I want to share that "something new" in this blog.
     At one point in her internment, Darlene was falsely accused of being an American spy and taken to a Gestapo-like prison where she was sentenced to die.  For three months she was starved and routinely beaten.  During those months, she suffered from three diseases - beri-beri, cerebral malaria, and dysentery.  The dysentery bothered her the most and so she asked God to heal her, if He would, and He did.  Later she realized she only asked to be healed of one disease and He healed her of all three.  As she would say, "Beloved, that's God..."
   But that's not what I want to write about today:)
   At one point, Darlene, managed to climb up to a transom window positioned over the door of her cell.  She had studied gymnastics in school and even though she was weak, she could balance with one foot on the doorknob and one foot on the window ledge and see outside into the courtyard.  She needed to get to the window when her fever was high because there was no breeze stirring in her cell.   Also, it helped to see other people, prisoners who were not kept in solitary confinement like her.
   One day she saw a native prisoner, a woman, moving towards a fence that was covered with Honolulu Creeper.  Whenever the Japanese guard would look in the woman's direction, she would stop moving. As soon as he turned away, she would sidle towards the fence once more.  Finally she reached the fence and when she did, a hand came through the flowering vines with some bananas. The woman grabbed them and hid them in the fold of her skirt and then began to slowly move away from the fence.
   Darlene said that when she saw those bananas, she could smell them!  She could almost taste them!  She remembered exactly how they tasted and she wanted one so badly that it was almost a physical hurt within her!
  So she got on her knees and said, "Now, Lord, if You could get me one banana, I would be so grateful."
  And then she began to reason.
  "Now, Lord, I know the two Gestapo-like men who interrogate me - I know neither one of them would ever give me a banana.  And I don't think the man who is on guard duty during the day would either.  But Lord, I think the elderly man who is on duty at night - I think if he knew I wanted a banana, he might get me one.  But I wouldn't ask him because if he was even caught talking to me, he would be shot."
   Then she said, "That's it..  There's nobody else who has any contact with me.  So, Lord, please forgive me for asking for a banana; I know it's just not possible.  And please don't think I'm not grateful for the rice porridge, worms and all, that I'm given. I really am grateful because I know I could be in here with nothing at all to eat. So please forget that I asked for a banana."
   The next day, the commander of her previous prison came to visit her.  This man had a vicious streak in him and probably was the last person she expected to see.  But at one time she had been allowed to witness to him about the love of God and that had affected him deeply. So when he received word that she was dying, he went from office to office to get permission to visit her.  When he was finally granted permission to see her, he could see that she was very ill.  He just looked at her and then went right outside her door and began to chastise the officers who had been torturing her.  She couldn't understand what he said but she could see the officers hanging their heads lower and lower.
   After he left, she realized that she had not made a 90 degree bow before the officers and that always was punished by a beating.  She was distressed and asked God why He hadn't reminded her to bow when the officers came into her cell.    Then  she asked God to give her the strength to go through another beating.
   When the door opened, she stood, expecting to be led to the interrogation room but instead, someone put a stalk of bananas in her room and shut the door. She counted them and found there were 92 of them!
   She had asked for one and He had given 92...
   As she would say, "Beloved, that's God... He delights to give over and abundantly beyond what we ask for."
  The lesson I drew from that is that I will continue to lay my impossible request before Him until He either answers it or leads me to quit asking because my request is simply not in His will for me at this time.
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable   Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?  God specializes in things thought impossible. He does the things that others cannot do.

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