This is Texas, for crying out loud!! Who would have expected something like this to happen to us? But isn’t life like that sometimes. The unexpected happens and we are forced to deal with it. Having grown up in New England, a storm of this magnitude would have hardly upset the normal rhythm of life, but New Englanders are prepared for things like this. In Texoma there's a meager supply of plows, salt, and shovels. In our Massachusetts home, we were ready. We had a ample resources of rock salt, we had shovels, we had sleds, we were ready for the winter storms. Living in Texoma, I am not prepared and when you're not prepared disaster strikes. Preparation is critical!
This lack of preparation reminds me of one of Jesus' stories, his story of the ten virgins waiting for a wedding banquet to begin. (Matthew 25) A wedding was a spectacular event in those days. It was a highlight of an otherwise tedious life. Weddings were the events you didn’t want to miss out on. There were ten women all waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. I've heard that this is in keeping with the custom of the day. People knew the groom was going to come, but no one knew precisely when that would be. He would have some pre-wedding business to take care of and would show up when that was completed. In Jesus' story five virgins were prepared. They had extra oil for their lamps so they were prepared in the event the groom came later than expected. The other five had a limited supply of oil and when the announcement of the bridegroom's arrival came, they were out. They had to run to the nearest oil supply shop and while they were gone the bridegroom arrived and they were left behind. They missed out because they were not prepared. The five who missed out, whom Jesus calls "foolish", never expected something like this to happen. The five who were prepared, whom Jesus calls "wise", anticipated that sometimes the unexpected happens.
We can’t possible anticipate all the unexpected events of life, but how can we be more prepared? Here are some thoughts:
1. Learn things even though you think you may never need that knowledge. In college, my degree was in Bible. I wanted to preach and so I prepared myself for that future. Circumstances allowed for me to get a minor as well. I enjoyed chemistry so I decided to take a few extra classes to achieve a minor. After graduation, I was unable to land a ministry job but there was a Christian school that needed someone to teach some science and math. I was lucky enough to get that job and for three years worked in that Christian school and was so blessed by the interaction I had with those kids and made friends that have lasted my lifetime. I was prepared and an opportunity presented itself. I love this definition of luck - when opportunity meets preparation. Although you may never use some of the knowledge you obtain, the more you learn the more prepared you will be!
2. Get some things you think you may never use. This, of course, could be an endless and foolish investment, but make some calculated purchases that may prepare you for unlikely events. During this ice storm I was able to pull out my waterproof, insulated boots that many winters sit in my closet untouched. Even though they get used only occasionally, they sure come in handy. That also goes for my ice scraper. Many winters it gets buried in my glove compartment, but his week it has been a close friend! Winter coats, hats, and gloves -- even though sparingly used -- have prepared me for this weather! Use this unforeseen storm to consider some emergency items you need to have in stock.
Jesus, of course, had more important things in mind than jobs and cold weather when he told this story. So let's make some spiritual application to Iceageddon.
1. Read the Bible and study the Bible even when it appears there is no or very little value in that knowledge. Having Scripture embedded in your mind can and often does serve us well when the unexpected happens. Jesus used Scripture to combat the temptations of Satan. (Matthew 4) Paul encouraged the young minster Timothy to "be prepared in season and out of season" knowing that unexpected times will arise when spiritual depth is necessary to survive (2 Timothy 4:2). Peter urges Christians to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15). Tough times often come. Tough questions are often posed. Unique opportunities often present themselves. Those who weather the storms and seize the opportunities are those who are prepared. Never underestimate the power of Biblical knowledge and the advantages of having Scripture embedded in your heart!
2. Be ready for the long haul by faithful service. This recent storm was well predicted and people began to prepare by getting groceries ion the event that they were iced-in. Fortunately, I had gone to Sams a few days before the storm and bought those supersized servings of some frozen meals. They came in handy when we could pop some frozen dishes in the oven instead of having to risk the icy roads. Perhaps this is Jesus' primary teaching in this story - be prepared for the long haul. You never know when he'll come back, so stock up on oil so you will prepared. How do we do that? How do we keep a generous supply of oil? After the story of the ten virgins, Jesus tells two other stories - the story of the talents and the story of the sheep and the goats. Read them in Matthew 25. Both stories emphasize the necessity of working, of using the talents we have, of serving people even in small ways. Maybe that's how we keep the supply of oil for our lamps - by using what God has given us and by seeking ways to serve. Perhaps our spiritual preparedness is self-perpetuated by spiritual service. Maybe the oil for our lamps is resupplied as we work in God's kingdom and serve the needy. Perhaps true service doesn’t deplete our supplies, but actually adds to our supply. So, keep working. Don’t get lazy. Serve when service seems useless. Keep the oil flowing!
Iceageddon will soon be a memory, a story we will retell in years to come. But hopefully even in the coldness of this storm we can emerge as better people, more prepared than ever before!
Questions for discussion:
1. What have been some advantages of these recent days as we have been forced to slow down and stay home?
2. How did you prepare for this storm? What do you wish you had done, but didn't?
3. When have you been prepared when others were not?
4. What are some emergency items you have around the house "just in case"?
5. How would you summarize in a sentence what Jesus is trying to teach us in the parable of the ten virgins?
6. What opportunities have you missed out on that you now regret?
7. How do you keep your spiritual oil well stocked?