The past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew's Gospel. It's such a cool story that is so thick with the culture of the 1st Century Hebrew people, it is filled with beautiful imagery, and deep spiritual applications. The biggest appeal about it to me right now? It's a common story for Advent and it's all about waiting.
Click here to read the whole passage.
As I've marinated in this story, 3 points/views worth thinking through have surfaced.
#1: The cultural context of this story. In this culture, the wedding party was a huge feast and not something you'd want to miss out on. The groom would journey from his house to the bride's home and would spend the day and evening parading around the city in celebration. It was the role of the bridesmaids to wait at the gate of the groom's home for them to return so they could enter the wedding feast all together. This was a feast that lasted for days at the groom's home. It was important for the bridesmaids to have a lit lamp when the bridegroom came because it identified them with the wedding party. If they were without a lamp, they risked the chance of being seen as a party crasher or even someone there to stir up trouble. If the 5 virgins with extra oil would've shared theirs, they would've ran the risk of running out of oil before the bridegroom returned and jeopardized their place at the banquet.
So with all that in mind, I was wondering to myself, "what temptations in my life are asking for my oil?" Is it my calendar? Am I giving away my oil, or maybe better put, my heart that belongs to God? While I'm here waiting, am I willing to hold out hope that, even if it's a long wait, I will stay undivided in my heart for Christ returning?
#2: My friend Mary is very wise. One day we were talking about life as single young women of God. She encouraged me that waiting can be difficult, but she referenced this parable and explained that waiting is a time to collect oil. I love that. I realize that there are always going to be struggles and times when I don't have things figured out, but to see that there are areas that God is really working on me right now and that will be beneficial down the road for a relationship, for ministry, for life. This season of my life, especially this Advent, has been a great time of oil collecting. I am grateful for that and to have eyes for how God is preparing and working on me.
#3: A wise friend of mine shared a great insight with me about this parable yesterday that I have been milling over ever since. He said that it was passed on to him that this story isn't even necessarily about running out of oil or being prepared, even though those are valuable things, most certainly. The truth in it all is that if the 5 women who ran out of oil wouldn't have left, they would've probably still been welcomed. Instead, they ran away trying to cover up their inefficiencies.
Even when we see that sin and idolatry is draining our oil, even as we collect oil for this season of waiting, we are going to come up short. It's not enough. We aren't going to have everything figured out. We will always be a work in progress until Jesus comes back. Admitting the failure and living a life that is broken is going to be difficult, but we watch with anticipation, stay put, and own up to where we lack. Christ followers are merely the women without oil, kneeling at the feet of the coming Bridegroom saying "We ran out of oil. We have failed you." He smiles with compassion and simply ushers us through the door and gives us a seat at the wedding feast.
Now there's something worth the wait.