Wise and Foolish Virgins
As we journey towards Christmas, I have continued to think about how this season beckons us to wake up spiritually. It make us aware of how we are, or are not, making Christ the center of our lives. I cannot help but thinking of the parable of the Ten Virgins:
Then 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, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, "Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out." But the wise ones replied, "No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves." While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, "Lord, Lord, open the door for us!" But he said in reply, "Amen, I say to you, I do not know you." Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Even though it is a legitimate struggle for many of us to stay awake during class, work, or prayer, I don't think this is the type of "awake" He is talking about here. This parables depicts two modes of living. The first is of the wise virgins who are eager and ready for the coming of the Bridegroom. Their daily activities revolve around this relationship. Although I would like to think I am definitely among this group, I find it is easy to slip into the second. What is the fault of the foolish virgins? It doesn't say that they don't believe in the Bridegroom, but that they simply aren't ready. They have put off preparations and have become drowsy.
There is a renowned Theologian who talks about modern culture as being spiritually "disenchanted." The world around us is not concerned with keeping it's lamp trimmed or flask filled, and has become drowsy, if not asleep. We know all too well that spirituality is no where near the top of the list of priorities in our culture. Rather, our attention is constantly drawn to career goals, athletic accomplishments, and of course the daily battle between our closet and the mirror. The Culture hands you a list of priorities that is usually out of order if your goal is heaven. Each of us we have a daily battle to engage with the world while keeping our relationship with Christ central. Christ wants to be our compass and companion on the journey home.
We are created to remain rooted in Him, to be like trees planted by streams of living water. To flourish in this way, we need to consider what nurtures our spiritual lives. This is to remain vigilant and awake. This is the opportunity of this season. How do we welcome Christ more into our daily lives? How do I grow in my relationship with Him? In what ways do I need pruning in order to bear new fruit?
Here are some practices we can observe to enter more intentionally into this season:
- SILENCE: Allowing for periods of silence creates space to encounter yourself (your thoughts, feelings, desires) and the world around you. It gives you time to simply be aware of what you are experiencing. It helps you be experience both God's providence and your own poverty- to notice the blessings of God, and also to feel the pain of suffering or simply our human limitations.
- I am not suggesting silently sitting in a dark room all day, but within your daily pattern finding ways to have more silence. This could mean refraining from music, TV, or social media.
- FASTING: Fasting is an act of faith. It gives us opportunity to depend on God's grace more than worldly comforts. It is an important way to intercede for the intentions dear to our hearts; fasting is trusting God's blessing will come not by my might, but by His grace. It is also important for our personal relationships with God. It is an act of acknowledging and experiencing our limited, frail human nature and enthroning Him as King. These physical expressions help us grow spiritually because of our faith in God's loving providence.
- There can be many ways to fast, but the goal is to seek and opportunity to need God and to rely on His grace. Some examples could be to refrain from treats, snacks, caffeine, alcohol, or sleep.
- PRAYER: Spend more time in prayer. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in prayer and your relationship with God. Let Him be the fountain of life. Now is the perfect time to focus on building a daily prayer life and/or going deeper. This is a rich season of grace and God has many blessings to share, but we need to give Him the space.
- Practically this will look different for everyone, but some examples could be extending your prayer time, adding extra time in prayer for silence, or reading a book about preparing for Christmas/Nativity.
- CHRISTMAS GRACE: This is a bonus! Several years ago I was advised to ask Jesus for a Christmas grace, and I have done it every year since. Take time to pray about what you desire most- this could be something spiritual (conversion, relationships, healing, new gifts of the Holy Spirit), or something practical/material. Entrust that desire to Jesus everyday and be surprised how He answers your prayer! If you have a list that is okay too (I do this year!).
Trying to observe some of these practices will more or less difficult depending on our personality and experience with prayer. If this is your first go at it, I would recommend starting by choosing one thing from each category. The main goal is to create space to receive His love.
May this be a rich season of grace for you!