Jesus told a story about missing out.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” [from Matthew 25]
It’s an awful story. The metaphor is pretty clear. The door is closed. The ones who used up their oil have been shut out of the kingdom.
But I don’t think Jesus is teaching a parable of exclusion—of those who will be knocking at the door, trying to get in but God says “No! You’re too late!”
My modern ears believe we’re hearing a warning about regret.
We have so many opportunities to do things right, and to undo things we’ve done wrong. You have heard it said that no one on his death bed wishes he’d spent more time at the office, or regrets not having done more laundry. The things we regret are estrangement from family, friends, and God. We regret not having taken more moments for pure joy, more time for prayer and reflection. We regret moving too fast through life and not savoring the time we’ve been given, not appreciating the people we love, not exploring the deeper places in our souls. We burn up all our oil on things that don’t matter and then don’t have anything left for the things that do.
Be ready and watchful then, says Jesus. You’ll want to be paying attention when the moment presents itself, when a friend needs an ear, when a family member needs your time, when God needs your heart, when the important (not just the urgent) is waiting. Don’t be left outside because you were too preoccupied.
Life is happening on the other side of the door.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2011