“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.”
There is something about the song “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning” that makes me tired. Not just because I often hear its peppy tune on still-sleepy Sunday mornings, but also because I’m not so sure it would be a good thing to just keep burning all the time without a break.
It’s not that I don’t prepare; like the wise girls I am always over-prepared with everything I might possibly need for my trips. So I’m sure I would have enough oil in my backpack, ready to go even through a long night of waiting. But even with enough oil, I imagine myself getting angrier by the minute as that oil is used up, wondering what the delay was about and silently scorning those who didn’t think ahead as well as I did. With every second that went by, with every lick of oil on that flame, I would grow slightly less loving, slightly less gracious, slightly less alive.
Today I heard something on the pray-as-you-go podcast that encouraged me to think symbolically about the passage: what might the lighted lamp represent in my life? And what is the oil that will keep it burning?
Because of course the story isn’t about being prepared; it’s not about greed or getting high marks from the bridegroom for planning ahead. It’s about a different kind of oil, one that keeps you alive instead of consuming you.
What is the oil that keeps me going, that keeps my lamp alive, that keeps my soul from growing dark and dead and tired? Because whatever it is, this kind of oil—oil that flows down the beard of Aaron, oil that anoints my head, oil that brings gladness instead of morning—is not about scarcity at all, but abundance. And maybe with enough of that kind of oil, I can keep my heart alive and full of grace, burning, burning, burning till the break of day.