On a whim, I ran a couple loads of laundry, filled the bathtub and topped my largest kettle with even more water last Sunday night just before going to bed. The following morning, like roughly 400-thousand other Mainers, I awoke to the rush of wind and complete darkness.
The fierceness of last week’s storm, known as a ‘bomb cyclone,’ — and how long my family would be without electricity (six days!) — caught me largely unprepared. I doubted we’d lose power at all, let alone for nearly a week. As my children, husband, and I huddled around an emergency candle at the kitchen table that first night, I shared what I’d been reading in my Bible that weekend – the story of the ten virgins.
In Matthew 25, Jesus spoke of ten young women who were waiting for the arrival of their groom. Unsure when he would appear, each carried an oil lamp but only half brought enough oil. Soon, all fell asleep. At midnight, they awoke to a shout announcing the groom. Panicked, the unprepared women asked the others to lend them oil, but there was not enough. While the foolish women raced to buy more, the bridegroom appeared and ushered those who were ready to the wedding banquet, shutting the door behind them.
Monday morning, with much of Maine without power, the doors of many gas stations, grocery stores and many other suppliers were shut tight. One neighbor waited 40 minutes for gasoline only to have the pump run dry. Thankfully, she found some elsewhere and eagerly shared with the rest of us, knocking on doors to make sure everyone was OK. Despite our lack of preparedness, we were.
But how tragic to be unprepared for the return of Jesus, to which this parable refers. In a traditional Jewish wedding, after a public engagement, the groom went away to prepare a place for his bride. Similarly, Jesus told his followers that he must go away to prepare a place for them. He also told them to be ready and watch for his return. That job – watching and waiting – now falls to us.
While many have speculated, no one knows when Jesus, the groom in this story, will return for his bride, the church, and usher his followers into what Scripture calls “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” That day too will catch many unprepared. As Jesus’s bride, we are told to keep ourselves separate from the world and its desires so that we might be ready.
Doubtful? So was I when I heard that a quick autumn squall was about to clobber New England. But when that other day comes, there will be no second chances. The time to prepare is now, lest we too find ourselves unprepared and awake to complete darkness.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.