IT was five o'clock in the morning, and I'd already been worrying for two hours about a man who owed me money and was two months late with his payments. That wasn't all I had to fret about: a relative I was caring for had lost an important item, and I'd have the bother of getting a replacement. To top it off, I wasn't feeling well.
I was halfway downstairs, mulling over these troubles, when I suddenly thought, "What if the bridegroom comes today? I was familiar with Christ Jesus' Biblical parable that represented spiritual preparedness in terms of the members of a wedding party who were awaiting the bridegroom. So the question wasn't quite as strange as it sounds at first. In this parable, Matthew's Gospel records, the ten people were to attend a wedding. Five of them wisely brought extra oil for their lamps. But when the bridegroo m arrived, the five who weren't prepared missed the marriage. So what I was really asking myself was, Would I be ready for some wonderful thing to happen today?
I couldn't honestly say that I would be! But I did know what to do. So instead of continuing to rehearse all that seemed wrong, I began to pray, affirming and rejoicing in my real being as a child of God, just as He created me.
When our thoughts get all tangled up with worry and anxiety, we're really not ready to seize opportunities that are at hand. Jesus' parable is such a clear illustration of this. While the five who came unprepared are rushing around trying to buy oil for their lamps at midnight, the bridegroom arrives, and the wise ones, whose lamps are ready and full of oil, go with him to the marriage. At the end of the parable Jesus sums up the message: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein
the Son of man cometh.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, has this to say about Jesus' parable in her book Miscellaneous Writings: "We learn from this parable that neither the cares of this world nor the so-called pleasures and pains of material sense are adequate to plead for the neglect of spiritual light, that must be tended to keep aglow the flame of devotion whereby to enter into the joy of divine Science demonstrated.
I prayed not to neglect the spiritual light of my true, spiritual being. When we accept our real identity as God's children, we can be certain that God gives us nothing but good. It was helpful for me that morning to look again at what Mrs. Eddy writes about the spiritual significance of oil in this parable. This is what I read in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Oil. Consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration.
I didn't have to worry about someone making his payments. I needed instead to consecrate my own thoughts and actions to serving God, to being a better reflection of Him. And what seemed the dreary chore of helping out my relative could be transformed by the opportunity to express charity and gentleness. And as for not feeling well, I knew from having proved it many times before in my study of Christian Science that when we turn to God with the firm expectation of good and our thoughts become filled with gratitude for our true selfhood as God's image and likeness, the body can't help responding by being restored to its natural state of health.
In II Corinthians we read: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
All that day I made a conscious effort to bring every thought into "the obedience of Christ--to the spiritual purity and goodness that are the true essence of each one of us.
The results were that the man who was late with his payments came over with a check for three months, which put him ahead; I found the item my relative thought he had lost; and the illness vanished.
How grateful we can be that when human circumstances seem beyond us and concerns loom too large--when it seems we're out of oil for our lamps--there's something practical we can do. We can pray to see ourselves more clearly as the complete and spiritual ideas of God. As we keep our lives filled with this spiritual understanding we won't be found wanting. Instead, when we hear the joyful cry "The bridegroom cometh, we'll be ready, having faithfully kept aglow that "flame of devotion whereby we can enter i nto the joy of proving that God's love and law govern our lives.
It is your Father's good pleasure
to give you the kingdom. . . .
Let your loins be girded about,
and your lights burning;
and ye yourselves like unto men
that wait for their lord . . . .
Blessed are those servants,
whom the lord when he cometh
shall find watching.
Luke 12:32, 35-37