In the Book of Matthew, we catch a parable told by Jesus explaining what the Kingdom of God is like and how sudden and unexpected its arrival will be. He compares waiting for the kingdom to bridesmaids waiting for their groom. The ones who brought with them extra oil were able to respond to the bridegroom when he arrived unannounced. The others were out getting more oil for their lamps and missed the event entirely. The five “wise” bridesmaids were allowed into the wedding banquet with the door slammed and locked behind them leaving the “foolish” ones outside begging to come in. The bridegroom replies with a simple and startling, “I don’t know you.”
It’s interesting, Matthew says the 5 bridesmaids that got to go in were “wise”. We agree that they were wise but what fueled and shaped their “wisdom”? I would argue that the wise ones were motivated by “love”. Their love for the groom made them think, plan, and prepare. Their hope energized their preparation, their faith kept them awake. Whereas the lack of preparation on the part of the “foolish” ones exposed their carelessness and perhaps their lack of interest in the groom. The wise bridesmaids were the ones in love.
They loved him enough to prepare.
They believed he would return, hence they waited.
And though he tarried, he was worth the wait, so they endured.
These wise bridesmaids have taught us a valuable lesson.
Preparing, waiting, and enduring is hope, faith, and love... expressed.
You see, they were all waiting, but not all were waiting well.
Every day, every week, every year we are moved closer in time to the things we are waiting for. Whether it be for a job, a spouse, a promise, the kingdom. And by the sheer fact that it is not experienced today, we are by default in a waiting mode. But the question that remains is not, “how long shall we wait?”, instead it may be, “how then shall we wait?”
Tomorrow my daughter and I head out to the East Coast. We’ve been waiting a long time for this event. I’ve wanted to do a father/daughter trip for awhile now. I’ve always longed for the day when I would be able to spend one on one time with my kids without any distractions. A special time together highlighting the already adventurous life we find in our mundane days. So for our first annual father/daughter trip we are headed to New York City.
What moved me about this time (of waiting) is that for my daughter the trip had begun months ago. She would ask about the date of our departure. When she learned about the Statue of Liberty and that it was in New York, she would rehearse the lecture and have me reread the books. She is also fixated on Dylan’s Candy Bar as if it’s some national treasure we have to visit. (Thanks to some auntie at church who told her she must visit this dessert-mecca. Thanks church-auntie.)
The most obvious sign of her excitement was in her preparation. She began packing for this trip months in advance. Her mother and I would remind her that the trip was months away and that we had plenty of time to prepare. Our request for her to delay preparation fell on deaf ears. So, she got ready early and is now prepared to go at a moments notice. What’s interesting is that it will probably happen much like the parable Jesus told. You see, although she can tell time and that its now sooner than later, I doubt she can “anticipate” it’s arrival like we can. Our departure will feel like a sudden, quick, surprise for her.
But time is irrelevant now, she is prepared and ready. She has waited well.
How can we express our love for God? I believe preparation is one of the key ingredients to a maturing relationship with God and Others. What has God promised you, what is coming your way? Who is God bringing into your life? How are you preparing for this moment, this person, this job, this season?
"A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’" - John the Baptist
Here are some things I think we can practice in order to get better at the Art of Preparation and Waiting for the Lord (the art of having our “oil” ready for the arrival of the groom).
Prepare a meal for others.
Prepare a date with your special someone.
(Don’t be lazy and just arrive, meet, go grab a bit, and then go make out and fornicate back at her place. Instead, treat her with godly respect, and show her your love by preparing a date - yes, an actual date with flowers - this means you have to leave your parents' house early - dinner, a show, cafe and prepare to take her home in style and respect… walking her up to the door.) I kid, but not really.
Prepare for work the night before. Prepare for school the night before.
Prepare a draft.
Prepare for your meeting at work.
Prepare to meet someone by turning off your phone, getting in the zone to give your full attention to the person you are about to have coffee with, meeting with, discussion with.
Prepare for time with your kids.
Prepare finances for your future spouse, family, etc.
Prepare for Sabbath, the night before, so as to not rush to church on Sunday.
Prepare your tithe and offering the week or night before, prayerfully thanking God for his provisions.
Prepare "to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (see, 1 Peter 3: 15)
Prepare something to give to someone who probably can't give anything in return.
Prepare your heart.
God has expressed his love for us not only in what he has done via the cross and the resurrection. But in Christ we find God preparing.
He is preparing a place for us. If the love of God can be imagined in a linear fashion,
we would not only celebrate what we see on the left side of history (what he has done),
we would not only be fixated on the middle (what he is doing today),
but we would look with anticipation and hope,
inspired by what is to come on the right side
of this linear exploration
and study of his love (future hope).
The love of God goes beyond the borders of past sacrifices, he sacrifices and makes time today in all that he is preparing. Let this be the motivator, New York is coming, he will take us there.
“And since I'm going away to prepare a place for you, I'll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am.” - Jesus
What my daughter may not realize or may often forget is that I too am preparing. Buying tickets, planning where to visit, what to eat, the routes we will take, the clothes we'll need, the sun screen (mom's persistent request) we'll apply. But someday she'll realize that I too had my "oil" ready, that daddy was just as excited for the trip... and that daddy had packed for the trip way in advance as well.
Here's to waiting well, here's to preparation, here's to the God who prepares a place for us.
PS: I am so inspired by the many emails and messages that were sent to me recently informing me of the plans and strategy for prayer and fasting. Your preparation is part of the prayer and fasting church! Keep it up! I am praying with you.