Mosquitoes are attacking my ankle. As I write this, two children are clamoring for pretzels and another one is sobbing because all I’m offering is pretzels. An Easter hat is perched on my head. Not my hat. It’s my three-year-old’s hat. Inside the house there is a pot of beans simmering for dinner, because I forgot to go grocery shopping and there’s nothing else in the pantry.
Can you remember this? Remember that my life is not perfect. Remember that it is not restful. Just remember that as we read about this parable.
Here, from Matthew 25:1-13, it is in a nut shell. This parable is known as “the parable of the ten virgins.” In keeping with the custom of the culture of that day, ten virgins were selected to accompany the bridegroom as he went to see his bride. They would form a lighted procession through the town escorting the bridegroom to his wedding. Warm flickering lamp light. Small flames crackling. A crowd growing. From one light, to two lights, to one hundred lights as the waiting bridegroom makes his way to his wife.
To be selected, to be chosen, to be worthy to stand in the wedding party… one can imagine the care, the grooming, the excitement. Each prepares her lamp to add to the beautiful parade.
Notice this – they all have lamps, they all have oil. Initially. But as the time wears on, their hearts grow tired as the bridegroom is greatly delayed. Hour after hour. He is so delayed that it says “they all became drowsy and slept.” To go from that energy, that high, to then be plunged to a lassitude so deep that you fall asleep… do we not sometimes do the same?
Salvation occurs. We are excited, we are aflame, we are ready. But then the hours, the days, the years are long. Christ has not come back. We are here. We are waiting. We are weary.
Suddenly the news comes “But at midnight there was a cry, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”” Finally, what they’ve been waiting for!
But five of the virgins have awakened to a sad reality: their lamps, their means of joining the bridegroom, have flickered. Their flames are dying. They plead with their friends “Please share with us! Share with us!” But the wise virgins reply “Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.”
The parable ends sadly. The five unprepared virgins are unable to join the feast.
The parables around this story give us a clue as to the meaning. Both parables on either side indicate waiting, being given something to steward, responsibility in the absence of a master. There is a level of personal responsibility as we wait for our Lord’s return.
The initial lamp lighting is not enough. There is a responsibility to fill your stores with oil. Just as the initial surge of emotion at the moment of conversion is not enough, you must continually seek rest, peace, strength, fulfillment, and conviction at the side of our Savior.
You cannot lose your salvation. But it can be like the seed in the parable of the sower. Some of it falls in fertile ground where it can thrive and grow. But some of it falls in shallow dirt. It grows quickly. The emotion is there, but there is no depth and no strength. When the sun comes out it withers. In the same way, the virgins are ready. They want to participate. But when midnight approaches they are not ready to meet the bridegroom.
Life does not lend itself to a natural feeling of rest and fulfillment. This life will drain you. It will wear on you. I am sitting here on a normal day. With mosquitoes, beans, and whiny toddlers. It would be tempting to say, “I need a self-care day. I need alone time. I need a manicure. I need a shopping trip. I need silence. I need a bubble bath.”
As nice as those things sound, I need more. I need a walk with my Savior that is so deep, so rich, so necessary, that it carries me through the tumultuous emotion of life and into truth. No one else can do this for you. The wise virgins could not give oil to the foolish five. There is a level of personal responsibility in your walk with Christ.
May He return to find me with my lamp deeply soaked in Him. May my thoughts, my prayers, and my time always turn towards Him. Only I can do this. Only I can tend my lamp in the midst of bean suppers and mosquito bites. Only I (with the essential aid of the Holy Spirit) can make sure I’m ready when the Bridegroom appears. I must actively, continually, steadfastly seek to grow closer to Him. This is what I need more than grocery runs, bubble baths, or mosquito repellent… Him.