When Things are Bananas, Focus on the Fruit

It’s inevitable. We all face seasons when life is less than peachy. Our leadership is producing nothing but lemons. All our pretty, pretty pleas for help must be lacking the cherry on top, because no one is responding. As hard as you try, you just can’t find that sweet spot; and all that hard work left you plum tired. Things are absolutely bananas!

Some time ago, I saw a funny-ish old episode of “Frasier” where the doctors Crane learn to ride bikes for the first time as adults. The brothers go to a local park to practice their new skill. Frasier is terrified of riding into hazards along the path. While he rides, he carefully focuses on the trees to make sure he doesn’t run into them. He’s so focused on them that sure enough, he rides right into exactly what he wanted to avoid! Whatever he focused on, he crashed into.

The same principle applies in life. When times are tough, what we are focused on makes all the difference. When we focus our attention and emotion on the potential hazards along the way, we crash land into the problems. Whatever we are focused on is what we are targeting. We can spend all our time running after fixing problems, and there is an endless succession of them! It leads to a terrible quality of life. When we are forced to continually react to and repair what is happening to us, we burn out.

We get through tough seasons by focusing on the right things. Jesus never called us to a life of misery! He said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Life is better when most of our attention is focused on building vision rather than the problems. We need to keep the problems in our peripheral vision, but keep our focus on the things that move us forward. This means putting more energy and attention into what we are doing right than what we are doing wrong. Keep your eyes on the prize!

It’s easy to define wins if we are working toward a clear vision. We can only move forward if we have a target we are aiming for. It doesn’t matter how young or how old we are—if we don’t have a vision, it’s time to do some dreaming! If the dream seems derailed, then it’s time to pick back up and focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t.

While every person needs unique goals, there is also a universal mission that Jesus gave the church collectively. Our mission is to help make new followers of Christ while we move forward on our own journey. That journey is a multi-step process and takes a lifetime to complete. Each step forward in that process is producing what the Bible calls fruit. Every decision that is a step toward Jesus is worth celebrating! It doesn’t matter how far along we are, as long as we are moving!

Fruit comes in all shapes and sizes, but it is all fruit! My fruit will not necessarily look like your fruit. This doesn’t make either kind any less valuable. Jesus didn’t curse the fig tree because it wasn’t bearing strawberries. He cursed it because it had no fruit. It can be easy to devalue the fruit we are producing because we are too familiar with it. Sometimes we look into someone else’s garden plot and see the beautiful things being produced and get overwhelmed. We’ve been in it since the beginning—planting seeds, dealing with manure, watering it, and watching slow growth. It’s a whole lot of work! The fruit that comes out the other end can be very rewarding, or disappointing, if it’s not what we were hoping for.

Harvest seasons have historically always been time for celebration and thanksgiving. We have an entire American holiday around that theme! Next time you feel a little discouraged, look for your fruit. You will find it in the place you have been working hard and investing. It is incredibly valuable to God, and it’s a reason to celebrate!

11 thoughts on “When Things are Bananas, Focus on the Fruit

  1. Hello Anna,

    I have a question that I hope you can answer. I’ve been going to my church for quite a while and I hadn’t volunteered in years. Recently, I felt moved to be active again in the ministry. Things were going well and then I noticed a shift. It seemed as though nonsense and drama were kept up mainly by some of the people that were employed by the church and avid volunteers. Nonetheless, it became discouraging. While I thought they should be there to motivate, they were judging others, making fun of them, and spreading rumors. Yes, I remembered that they too are flesh, but like I said, it was highly discouraging to be around that. I prayed for them, but to me the atmosphere was never the same.

    I noticed that this could be one of the biggest reasons that volunteers and new members started to diminish after volunteering. What was supposed to be a great experience and life changing became something that was resented by some. Honestly, had I not been planted in the church years prior and my faith not as strong, I believe I too would have left the church as well, as many new volunteers did.

    My question is, how do you plant yourself in a ministry at a good church without getting discouraged by some of the staff/volunteers that keep a lot of the gossip and judgmental behavior going? My heart is in the right place to serve, but should I leave and serve at a different place all together?

    • Dear Called To Serve,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I wish I could sit down and have a coffee and a chat with you because it is difficult for me to give you any specific advice without hearing details from you about your heart and your situation. I would offer these broad brush-stroke thoughts because I believe that they apply to every situation.

      1. Have a talk with your pastor about it. I don’t believe that anyone should slip quietly out the back door. It doesn’t help the pastor to not know what is going on, and it doesn’t help you clearly understand his or her perspective about what is bothering you. So on the behalf of every pastor I have ever known, please, please, talk to them about it before it gets to the critical point of no return.

      2. You will not find a church that doesn’t have interpersonal problems because they are a byproduct of having many people involved. So many different personalities and values will collide into drama. Because of this, people and personalities should not be the reason we decide to connect ourselves to a local church. Inevitably they will let us down. Vision is what should cause us to connect to a local church. If your church is doing things that excite you and make you feel fulfilled in your service to the kingdom, stay by all means. In the meantime, pray that God gives you his heart about his people. We all need a little of this from time to time when dealing with exasperating Christians.

      3. Real relationships are very valuable. They are valuable because they are rare, and they are rare because they are a heck of a lot of work. We always have more grace for people that we are in relationship with. I would encourage you to take the initiative to connect relationally with the leaders you are working with. It will be work and it may feel one-sided for a while, but it will be worth it if you can stick with the process of building relationship. The closer you are to these folks, the more grace you will have for their frailties and foibles.

      4. Everyone should be in a church that they want to and are able to serve in. If you cannot find your footing on a team, don’t settle for just attending your church. Find a church that you can serve wholeheartedly in. God makes local churches in all different flavors and colors, and combined, they make up this incredibly beautiful mosaic of the body of Christ. We should all find the place we fit best and are the most effective in. (I do think that family plays a part in this choice. Parents will sometimes choose to be a part of a church that isn’t the best fit for them because their teenager loves it. I think that is just fine for a season.)

      5. Give it time. In my experience, teams take six months to a year to really feel cohesive after a new leader takes them over. I think the same is true when we join a team. It will probably take six months to a year before it feels totally comfortable. It’s like moving to a new town, or buying a new pair of shoes. It takes a little bit of time to break it in.

      I’m praying for you now and your situation that God gives you wisdom, grace, clear direction and a strong sense of purpose.

      Yours,
      Anna

      • Thank you Anna. I’ve always admired your leadership that I watched from afar.

        I’ve been rooted at my church since I was a child and I do get spiritually fed there. I think I may need to pray harder on where God would have me volunteer my time. That particular department may not have been for me.

        I’ll take this season to figure out where God is leading me and how he would like to use me in the church. And I’ll also be praying for God to let me see people as he does.

        Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. You don’t know how long I’ve been praying and dealing with this situation. Thank you for being obedient and letting God use you to pour into others like myself.

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