There is something very eloquent about a table being set. Behind the scenes, it is a mixture of adrenaline and cortisol caused from the plans and preparations that have been a precursor to the event. It is a momentary feeling of dread and excitement as the clock ticks down. I have been both the host and the guest where, either way, emotions can run high.
This month is about unexpected surprises ... and endings and beginnings, all wrapped up into one. My faith has been tested as praise, gratitude and hope mingle to conjure a melting pot of a journey unfolding. There is a related passage of scripture that brings into light the urgency of paying attention to details:
At the time my coming draws near, heaven's kingdom realm can be compared to ten maidens who took their oil lamps and went outside to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Five of them were foolish and ill-prepared, for they took no extra oil for their lamps. Five of them were wise and sensible, for they took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. When the bridegroom didn't come when they expected, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, they were awakened by the shout, "get up. The bridegroom is here! Come out and have an encounter with him. So all the girls got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones were running out of oil, so they said to the five wise ones, share your oil with us, because our lamps are going out. We can't they replied, We don't have enough for all of us. You'll have to go and buy some for yourselves. While the five girls were out buying oil, the bridegroom appeared. Those who were ready and waiting were escorted inside with him and the wedding party to enjoy the feast. And then the door was locked. Later, the five foolish girls came running up to the door and pleaded, Lord, Lord, let us come in. But he called back, Go away. Do I even know you? I can assure you, I don't even know you. That is the reason you should always stay awake and alert, because you don't know when the day or hour when the Bridegroom will appear. Matthew 25: 1-13 from the Passion Translation.
This scripture holds both personal and biblical relevance to me. Why had the girls not been prepared? Were they distracted, busy or uncaring? We do not know exactly. Like other scripture, it is held in the interpretation of the holy spirit (the oil) to reveal it to us. More importantly, how does this passage of scripture apply to us today?
The one word that comes to mind is TRUST. The ones that were prepared had to trust the importance of being ready. They had to trust the truth of the good news. They had to trust in something they could not see. Faith was built in the details; hope grew out of obedience and in the end, a relationship was held together in love.
I began this month's post with a surprise party ... so let's begin there.
I received an email invitation to a surprise 50th wedding anniversary; I responded with a resounding, yes and set in motion the details of a gift. I had plans for a one-of-a-kind gift but was was delayed in following through so when the final weekend came, I was in a scramble.
Time was running out because I did not realize the importance of being prepared. I made plans and even followed through on them but lost the gift on a metro train. I was distracted and talking to strangers; I was absorbed in the unfolding story and tried with humble obedience to follow what I believed was the important steps of faith: being available, trusting in His plan and being open to the changing of my character.
I arrived empty handed to church. And, to be honest, I had put no attention, detail or thought into the party. The only thing I remember about the invitation was not to be late. It was embedded into my mind - do not be late!
Empty handed in church – there was something very symbolic about the humility that comes with failed attempts. A chiseling away of pride until my bones were frail and brittle. Through the doors – with no expectations, I entered a church past a sign that read, "all are welcome here".
I was not too late. It was perfect timing! As I walked through the front doors, my first impression exceeded my momentary imagination. It was shear beauty; the excitement of a surprise was in the air. There were tiny paper doves, streamers and sunflowers down the center isle. The sound of the best gospel band I had ever heard trumpeted through the cathedral ceilings of fine wood. The pews were filled with people dressed up for a party; the guest of honor didn't know what awaited her. The groom had planned, in detail, with his son the festivities of a renewed wedding vow and I was invited to the event.
As we sat in a packed church, the gospel band played loudly with the best dance music I've heard. There was a light breeze coming through the open side doors but more than the setting, the inside of my heart burst with an unexplained joy ... I belonged. I had shed tears, laughed and been encouraged by the recipient of this gift and there is no-one I could think of who deserved it more. She had had her share of heartache and wore it with humility. I was grateful I had not been too busy or distracted through the years.
This moment, sitting in a packed church with a gospel band as beautiful and intimately tangible as it was, also existed with a profoundly deep and sorrowful feeling as I carried with me the simple sadness and regret of not having said good-bye to a dear friend that recently passed away. It was in the microcosm of thought where Jesus dwelled through the holy spirit in music and people as I sat in church fully and completely raw and present. Through faith, I intellectually scanned large pieces of my life through the remnants of years and experiences, and for just a few seconds, tears spilled onto a page as grief and love and church blended into the evaporation of time and I smiled and cried ... and loved, all at once.
The fabric of so many lives intertwined through love and community - strangers and friends gathered; the cross was the only thing that came to mind. Gratitude spilled out everywhere - it must have been a glimpse of heaven ... and then the gospel sound danced like a melody across pews out into the breathe of the air that penetrated darkness into light and I was glad.
In the scripture verses: when the bridegroom hadn't come when they expected, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. I believe it is a metaphor for discouragement and the long journey. My faith falters too. I don't have the answers when I see those I care about sitting in deep sadness I cannot explain or systematic division and hatred in a divided and privileged country or poverty and violence across the globe or isle and I, too, grow drowsy with the weight of it all and "fall asleep" in my ability to hang on to faith and hope. That is precisely when I pray and call upon the holy spirit to be the oil that continues to lubricate a hardened heart, mine. I choose, instead, not to remain in doubt looking for the holes where the nails once pierced but rather inch forward into stillness where no words are necessary and into the light of belief.
That is what the girls with oil had done in preparation for the risen King. They believed and acted upon that belief through their faith in the details. They were prepared. Equally important was their ability to not be distracted in what the other girls did not have. They had a quiet confidence in the value of the oil.
When the time came, they were escorted in and the doors closed behind them. It is not by accident that you stumbled upon this website or took the time to read this month's post. I carefully and sincerely pray for each and every person that happenstance across this website. It is not too late; God has perfect timing!
Believe Jesus is the son of God, that he was crucified onto death, was buried but rose from the grave three days later. He has prepared a way for you and me; you only need to confess your sin and accept his free grace. It is important too, that you find community. Pray and seek and you will find.
... But, fear does not have the final word; love does. I am grateful I am a planner and an organizer because I have seen and felt the good effects of being prepared and doing the tough work beforehand. I know the value of seeing through small and big details. I pray and I work hard and leave the rest up to God. Yes, fear and doubt can and do distract me but I continue to pray forward through it all.
For the girls that were prepared, their efforts were heaven-worthy.
At the time my coming draws near, heaven's kingdom realm can be compared to ten maidens who took their oil lamps and went outside to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Five of them were foolish and ill-prepared, for they took no extra oil for their lamps. Five of them were wise and sensible, for they took flasks of olive oil with their lamps.
Faith is believing and preparing for the coming of the risen king.
This month is about an ending ... where memories flood the forefront of my heart and it is about beginnings, where people get second and third chances to become the story of a redeemed and transformed people in the midst of chaos, and finally, it is about unexpected surprises where a story is unfolding - yours. Will you take the chance?
As I sat in a beautifully small and intimate church with cathedral ceilings and the fragrance of a gospel band, I thought of the expensive oil poured out on Jesus; it is in the extravagance of a gift where hope and faith are born.
Scripture found in the Passion Translation of the Bible. Pictures purchased through Adobe, stories uniquely my own, post inspired by those I love. Copyright 2019.
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.