The Second to Last Time

The second to last time, I put my Ipod computer connector in the right place.  I’m almost sure of it.

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I have to admit–I splurged.  My first day of summer vacation, I bought three audiobooks.  Three.

I got only unabridged, because I can’t stand abridged books.  It bothers me and makes my scalp itch the same way of when one M ‘n’ M out of the package falls on the floor.  It doesn’t matter if I wasn’t going to eat all the M ‘n’ M’s–the whole experience is ruined because I lost one.  In the same way, it doesn’t matter whether the book is tedious or not–I don’t want to lose a word.

But the books I bought were far from tedious–the kind of stuff I love: Max Lucado, Michael Card, and a new author for me, though I’ve heard of him, A.W. Tozer.

I was all set to tackle any boring spring-cleaning-postponed-to-summer projects.  I was ready for any car trips, and even laps around the gym I have to go to 12 times a month to get reimbursed through insurance and which I am barely going to make.  New books, new summer, ready to go.

I know for certain there have been times I have put my Ipod connector cord back in the wooden box that stores our television remote controls (when they are in the right place).  In fact, I put that Ipod connector cord back inside that wooden box very recently.  I remember.  I think it was the second to last time, in fact.

The second to last time, I am very nearly sure I put my connector cord right where it belongs.  And the second to last time, I was proud of myself and a wee bit gloatish at my sharp memory.

But the last time . . the last time . . . . .

I didn’t.

You have probably figured out how I know this.

Yes, I went to go get it.  You see, there is something I have learned about ipods that’s completely important to their use.  You cannot just tell the ipod what music you bought and expect it to believe you, and you cannot just hold it close to the computer and hope that they talk.

You have to have a connector cord.

But I don’t know where the connector cord is.

The second to last time, I put the cord in the right spot.

But last time, I don’t know what I did with it.

And now I don’t have it.

And Max Lucado, Michael Card, and A.W. Tozer did not spend the afternoon sharing their books with me.

I tried to find my ipod connector cord, but I didn’t try very hard, because I am not very good at finding things.

I tried to listen to my paid-for audio books on my computer, but my computer has only built-in speakers, and they are not very loud.  My comfort level with music is about 8 notches higher than most people’s, and my computer’s speakers, at full blast, are softer than most people like, meaning that, even if I press my head against my computer, I am not happy with the volume.  And, as you well know, a person can’t do laundry or run laps around a track (and certainly not drive) with their head pressed against a laptop computer.

I’m not too gloatishly proud for putting my ipod connector cord away the second to last time now.  Because now is the last time, and now, I have no way of listening to the new books I bought unless I invent a way to attach my laptop to my head.

The second to last time doesn’t matter when it’s the last time.

Jesus tells a parable about ten women who were on their way to a wedding party–they were something like what bridesmaids would be today.  They hadn’t been married yet themselves, so they were probably very young women.

They had to bring lamps with them.  There were no flashlights in their day, and they needed the lamps to welcome the bridegroom when he came.  Half of the women didn’t just bring lamps, they brought extra oil too–like bringing extra batteries for a flashlight today.  The other half of the women didn’t bother.  They’d brought the lamps; that seemed enough.

For the first part of the night, there wasn’t one perceivable bit of difference between the women.  They all had their lamps burning.  They were all ready to greet the bridegroom when he arrived.

But then something happened that they did not expect.  The wedding wasn’t over when they’d thought it would be.  They were sure the bridegroom should be there by now, but he wasn’t.  All of the women fell asleep waiting.  Not one of them stayed awake.

Have you ever been woken up in the middle of night and startled out of your wits?  That’s what happened to these women.  They woke up in the dark, probably confused and scared.  And they all remembered their lamps.

What hadn’t been perceivable now quickly became the most apparent thing about the women.  The ones who had brought the extra oil were ready to go.  Their light cut through the darkness, and they weren’t confused or scared anymore.  They were excited.  They could at last greet the bridegroom.

The women who hadn’t brought extra oil weren’t having the same experience.  They were frightened and worried with that sick worry of having done something they couldn’t make up.  Their thoughts darted through their heads as they tried to come up with a solution.

If only the bridegroom had come at dusk, or even a little after.  They were ready then.  But now, they had nothing.  They couldn’t greet him with dead lamps.

They asked if they could borrow some oil from the women who’d brought the extra oil.  But this wasn’t the right time to share.  You see, the women who’d brought the extra oil didn’t have any they could give away.  It turned out, they had just what they needed.  They knew the only place the other women could get oil for themselves would be the market.

The market, in the middle of the night?  But the other women would try it.  They rushed off and, amazingly, found some peddler to sell them oil on that black hour.

But it wasn’t the right oil.  The right oil was the oil that had been available yesterday afternoon and all through the night while they’d been sleeping.  This oil–this oil came too late.

They got back, but the door to the party was shut and even locked.  They could hear all the laughing and warmth and good conversation going on inside–but they couldn’t get there.  So they knocked, thinking the bridegroom would know them.

But he didn’t.  They hadn’t been there to greet him, and he didn’t know them.  They weren’t invited in.  And it didn’t matter how brightly their lamp had shone at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon–right now, their lamps were empty.  And it was dark.

“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 ones, 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.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

(Jesus, quoted in Mathew 25:1-13, NIV)

Where we think we stood with God five years ago or even five days ago isn’t going to matter when Christ comes back, or we die, and it’s today.  If you or I aren’t sure we follow Jesus, referencing a time in history when we thought we were isn’t any good for now.  There will be no salvation to ask for after we die, and no chance to meet Jesus once He comes back to the sound of the trumpet.  The time to get right with the Lord is now, because, once now is up, it isn’t going to matter what we thought we had yesterday or fifty years ago, or the aisle we walked down, or what prayer we recited.  All that will matter is whether we know God right now.

It doesn’t do me much good to reminisce about the time I put my ipod connector cord in the right place, does it?  What matters is that I find where it is right now.

It’s encouraging to me that none of the women are expecting the bridegroom to come at that hour, but five get to go in anyway.  Why is that?  The five who go in don’t go in because they were better dressed or had more hors d’oeurvres.  They go in because they still had oil.  They hadn’t just got lamps.  They made sure their lamps were filled.

In the same way, we can’t just get a “salvation experience”.  We have to make sure we know Christ.  He is the flame that lights our lives forever.  Without Him, we have only the dying, dim light of this world and a useless lamp to hold it in.

The opportunity we have to receive Him in every moment of our lives isn’t going to help us if we don’t take it.  What we could have chosen isn’t going to help us once the door is closed.  What will determine where we go for all eternity is what we choose do before the door closes, not after.

Dear Jesus,

You are the only one who knows what is in my lamp, and You are the only one who can reveal to me what is there.  Show me whether I have real light or false light–whether my lamp is filled with the life only You can give, or filled only with the nearly-empty pleasures of this world.

I pray for Your Salvation.  Not a moment of following You, but a lifetime.  I know it’s not about my perfection.  I fall asleep to the temptations of this world plenty of times instead of staying alert to what You want me to do.  It isn’t about my shortcomings; it’s about whether or not I am filled with You.

My salvation isn’t made by how I look to others, or how my lamp compares to another’s lamp, or how ready I thought I was for You yesterday.  My salvation is the fulfillment of punishment You gave for my sin.  I want You to fill me, because You are the only Light that never ends.

Give me what is so readily available anywhere I am, whatever I’ve done, whoever I am: Your Salvation.  I want Your Presence before it’s too late.

It isn’t the bridesmaid in the most elegant dress who makes it through the door, but the one who holds before her the lamp of Your Life.  The girl in dirty rags, up from the sewers, fleeing from prison, too poor to buy from any dress shop, cast out of all parties, banned from all fine neighborhoods . . . who holds out the lamp of Your Presence . . . will find You at the doors of the great feast . . . . . . . . holding them open.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!
(Jesus, quoted in Mark 13:33, NLT)

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

(Isaiah 60:1, NIV)

the people living in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.

(Matthew 4:16, fulfilled from Isaiah 9:2, NIV)

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Photograph by langfordw, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/24375810@N06/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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