“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.” (Matt 25:1-10 NIV)
September 14, 1855 was a special day for Lizzie Bourne. She was going to climb Mount Washington. At twenty-three years of age, she was full of energy and she couldn’t wait for her adventure to start. Her uncle, George Bourne, and her cousin, Lucy Bourne, were joining the party, and the three climbers left around two in the afternoon. It was a bit late, but at least everyone in the party was ready. Or so they thought …
One thing they forgot is that the weather on top of Mount Washington is quite erratic. It can be sunny one moment, and the next it can be undergoing a heavy storm. Snowstorms can hit this mountain every month of the year, with an average of 311 inches of snow (7.9 m) per year! Mount Washington also has the world record of the highest wind speed: 231 mph (372 km/h), and fog is also a regular visitor.
After climbing above the tree line, Lizzy’s party eventually hit fog, and then, a storm they weren’t prepared for. They got lost in the blowing snow, and poor Lizzie died during the night. She is suspected to have succumbed to hypothermia, as a result of the cold, wet and windy conditions.
The next morning, after the fog lifted, the survivors realized that if they had persisted through the storm for just a few more meters (less than a 100!), they would have reached the summit, as well as a simple, accommodating hotel located there.
Too often we go through life as ill-prepared as this climbing expedition. The storms of life hit us unexpectantly and we cower in our own little corner, completely unprepared.
One day Jesus will return, and on that day, we may not be as well prepared as we need to be. Matthew 25 indicates that our lights can easily run out of oil and go out. A sad fact, as the unsaved in the world depend on seeing our lights in order to be saved! Didn’t Jesus clearly tell us, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14 NIV)?
For a light to burn in Jesus’ days, it needed oil. In our day and age it needs a battery or electricity. In the Bible, oil is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit (See 1 Samuel 16:13). Just like electricity brings our electric devices to live, He is the One who makes us alive. He is the One who can make us shine brightly. Without Him, we cannot expect to shine.
Not only is He our source of energy, He is also our guide and counselor in all things (See John 16:13). But how often do we rely on Him when making decisions? Has He truly become a part of our lives, or are we considering Him as just a convenience, that we can easily discard when we have used up His usefulness?
The sad fact is that all ten of the virgins lacked oil, and all their lamps eventually went out. Five of them had some oil in reserve, just enough to get the lamps to burn again for the coming of the bride. Are we ready for His coming?
Lizzie was so close to reaching her goal, but the storm hindered her from realizing it. She died at 23 years of age, a tragic accident that could have been prevented.
We can still do something about our situation. It’s not too late. May we start by getting to know the One who lives in us, and may His love make us shine beyond the dark recesses that surround us.
(To access the entire “Awake!” devotional series, please click here.)