Last minute person? by Gene Watson

Something my dad wrote for his grandpa’s newsletter. Kinda long, but worth the read.

   Some of my children (cannot mention names or my life is in jeopardy) are last minute assignment completing people in college – “all-nighters” are very common. I will still have three in college next year because my oldest, who is a schoolteacher is going for her Masters (another child will have graduated and be a missionary in Kenya) . I am a last minute person (don’t tell my kids) to the extreme also unless I am especially having some especially virtuous day (let’s see, perhaps one or two of those this month). My wife Mari was getting her Master’s degree in social work when she died, she had one course left to complete but she was too sick in her hospital stay. She was a great student, already accepted into that school’s doctorate program, and she always finished her assignments very early, but she was going blind her last couple of years and I had to type her assignment and post them online. She really had to get after me sometimes!!! She was a great student not only for doing things early, but also because as a student, she was a student. I mean she wasn’t a student for four hours on Sunday night to get her homework done (like I might do), she was a student every day, it was a part of her life that was widely spread out in the fabric of her life.   I was also last minute very often with important days in my house. More than a couple times on our anniversary (yesterday would have been our 27th) I was coming home from piano lessons late, or from a Publix grocery store late, or choir practice late, etc., and I while driving I would have this sudden epiphany – it is our anniversary – I had done no planning!!!! I will never forget scrounging around a Quick-Trip convenience store at 11:30 PM that day looking for SOMETHING remotely appropriate for an anniversary gift. Mari was an exceptional person, a loving and wonderful person, or she would have dumped me a long time ago!!!!!I think our Big Boss, Jesus, (EVEN bigger than my wife was) has a few things to say about last minute behaviors and people’s spiritual disciplines that are so fragmented that they can be barely noticeable. In his story of the ten virgins, we learn what can happen with “last minute people.” One day Jesus told a story about a wedding feast. Let’s learn something about Jewish traditions before we hear the story. The Jewish wedding took place in three stages, which might take a long time. The Engagement is said to either have been arranged by the young groom (especially in Jesus’ time), or some think that the parents arranged them even then. There was then a Betrothal ceremony at the bride’s house – they exchange vows and presents. This lasts often a year or two, with no “marriage” activity taking place, and they couple still lives apart. The Jewish marriage took place in three stages over a long period of time. When the couple was still very young, an Engagement was arranged by the parents, sometimes with the help of a “matchmaker”. Then a marriage supper happens, with the groom and his friends coming to the bride’s house. She would be wearing a thick veil. She and her friends would accompany the groom and his friends to his father’s house or maybe a larger hall where the festivities would take place. A contract was signed. After a little time together, the bride and groom would separate for seven days.

In the parable of the ten virgins, the ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom to come. It is nighttime and they have lamps burning brightly with oil while they wait. They fall asleep one by one, which is not criticized. Five girls had planned ahead with extra oil in their lamps, and they wouldn’t loan their oil to the other five who did not have extra oil. So while the five with no extra oil were out looking for more oil, the bridegroom’s arrival is loudly announced and he and the five girls and the rest of the bridal party goes inside. The five girls come back and they are locked out, and they are not let back in, because the bridegroom, says, “I don’t know you.”

This parable is interpreted many different ways, but most all agree it means we should live our life in such a way that we are always ready for the Lord’s return or our death, that we should be engaged in spiritual preparation for our life here and after our existence here. We should be engaged in spiritual disciplines that keep us in fellowship and touch with the bridegroom (Jesus) and our Heavenly Father – including the disciplines of having extra oil (staying filled with the Holy Spirit), prying without ceasing (not just at the 11:50 PM of our existence), rejoicing always, thanking God in all our circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), studying His Word daily (including times of meditating on those words), and the discipline of Hebrew 10:25, which is much more about not forsaking fellowshipping with one another than it is about coming to a church building (Ross Rohde translates the verse this way in historical and textual context – “Hey guys, it is great you are out turning the world upside down for Jesus, keep up the good work. However, some of you are so intent on doing good deeds for Jesus that you are in danger of drying up spiritually. You need each other, if nothing more, for the encouragement. Don’t stop meeting together, it isn’t good for your soul.”).

Make the kingdom of God the real center and focus of your life – don’t shove God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit into some small corner of your life “at the “last minute” every day/every week, etc. Like Mari was a real student, be a real disciple of Jesus Christ, enabled by God’s grace.

Note: In Matthew 25:1, many Greek texts have the bridegroom and the bride coming to the ten virgins – Bruce Metzger doesn’t think (in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament – United Bible Societies, 2nd edition, 1971) this destroys the traditional meaning of this parable that the bridegroom is coming is coming to fetch his bride, the church. The bringing of the bride by the bridegroom to his father’s home (or his) was very common in the ancient world. This is where the wedding would take place. A study of this parable, which this short article is not, is very profitable.