Monday, February 6, 2012

listening

     “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
     “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
     “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
     “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
     “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
     “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’
     “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
     “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)


It’s funny how you can read a passage of scripture a thousand times and then, all of the sudden, notice something brand new.  With me it probably has something to do with the fact that I am a sentence finisher.  I know; it’s a tough thing to admit.  But I’m sure my wife can attest to the fact that oftentimes I think I know what someone is going to say before they have completed their thought.  It is a terrible habit that can be quite frustrating to others, especially those you love—you know, the ones that really desire (and deserve) you to listen attentively to them.  And it’s particularly unhelpful in relationships; because it means that, since you know what is coming, you have already stopped listening completely…and often have begun your response before their sentence is even completed.  It is also a terrible habit when it comes to God, and His Word.  You know, the Word that says stuff like: Hear O Israel and He who has ears, let him hear.  Being a sentence finisher with God means that frequently, as I come to a particular scripture, I stop reading—or at least listening—altogether, because I already know what it says.

Well, on the particular day in question, I did that exact thing.  The scripture for the day was Matthew 25:1-13…you know, the parable about the 10 virgins, and the lamps, and the oil, and yada, yada, yada, ”Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Of course.  I’ve read it a thousand times.  As a matter of fact, I think I read it in one of the readings from last week.  And, all of the sudden, low and behold, I’ve stopped listening.  Well the only good thing about me being a sentence finisher is that at least I know I struggle with that affliction.  So quite often I am able to catch myself in mid-finish, repent, and start all over again.  And usually, as I was on this particular day, I am so glad I did.

Because when I went back to the passage I was drawn by the Spirit to something I’d never really spent much time thinking about before…the oil.  Seems like a pretty significant part of the story, huh?  I know, I know, I’m really slow sometimes.  And as I began to think about the oil, God met me in such a sweet and rich and wonderful way.  “How is your oil level these days?  What is it within you that offers fuel to the flame of my Spirit; that causes you to burn with holy longing (zeal) for a deep and rich life with Me?  How is the life within you—that life that comes up from your very depths and shines through your eyes and face and very being, like a beacon in this dark and desperate world?  Like Moses when he came down from the mountaintop?  What is it that burns within you in such a beautiful way that those in this world are automatically drawn to its light, as a moth to a flame?  Are you nurturing this life of God within you?  Are you staying full of me?  Do you have enough oil in your heart and soul to shine on indefinitely?  What does it look like for you to make sure you have enough?  How are you nurturing and caring for this life of Mine within you?  Take extra special care, my beloved child, to do just that; for then you will live every second of your life in readiness—readiness for my coming.”

Now that’s the way to finish a sentence.  Thanks be to God!!!

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