Being there

         Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom....
                  —Matthew 25.1

Jesus tells a story: bridesmaids await a groom who is delayed. Some run out of oil. The others won't give up their oil, so those who are short go out to buy more. When the groom comes, they're off at the hardware store. They return to the party too late to be admitted.

We think the maidens are “foolish” because they didn't plan for the groom's long delay (as if that's a spiritual issue). And we suppose they had no choice but to dash off to get oil, and, sadly, they miss the groom. But is that really the point? Were they really just the lighting crew? Does it occur to them (or us) that maybe they could just run out of oil, and the groom will be glad to see them because he'd rather have their company than their flashlights? Their purpose is to meet the groom—but right when he needs them most, they're off taking care of their own worries. They aren't there for him.

But they're not alone. Everybody in the story fails to be there for each other. The “wise” maidens could have shared. It wouldn't have killed them. But they make their sisters go shopping at midnight— and are happy to go to the party without them. They're not willing to be there for the others.

And the groom—in what way is he not a jerk? He won't let his friends come to the party—because they're late? After he himself has made them wait all fracking night?? And on top of that he insults them, saying, “I don't know you!” He vaporizes his friendship over tardiness? Wow. What a prince of selfishness.

So what's Jesus up to in this story? I think he's setting us up. We're so anxious to “get” the story, to believe something pious about it, to judge between wise and foolish, we miss the actual relationships—like the maidens out buying moral-of-the-story oil instead of just being there. Life is about relationships, not lamps. It really doesn't matter what we think, or how much “oil in our lamps” we have, or how well others meet our expectations. What matters is that we're there for each other.

Pray that you might run out of oil, having given it away to be there for someone in need. Trust the Bridegroom will be happy for you to be there.

   —November 7, 2017