The gospel is one eternal round with principles intersecting and connecting in simplicity and beauty. The Lord’s teachings have been woven into a beautiful tapestry of insight as I have contemplated Come, Follow Me, our annual course of study. The parable of the ten virgins, the feeding of the five thousand, the question in Isaiah, “Whom shall I send,” have been interwoven for me into the simple message: Be in the right place at the right time and the Lord will work His miracles to move His kingdom forward.
The ten virgins
The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25) begins with ten virgins gathered together to welcome a bridal party. The bridegroom was delayed and five of the virgins discovered that their supply of oil was depleted. While the unfortunate five were seeking oil for their lamps, the bridegroom arrived and upon their return they were denied entry to the feast.
We generally talk about the five virgins who left as being unprepared, but I believe pondering about their leaving could be fruitful. They left when they should have stayed. Sometimes we don’t show up because we are tired, preoccupied, not confident, unwell, unprepared, or not at our best. In other words, not having enough oil. Perhaps showing up and being in the right place at the right time is sufficient.
When teaching of His Second Coming, the Saviour taught: “If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43).
The house owner would have protected his home if he knew the right time to be there, an example of being in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the five virgins could have waited that extra minute and been there when the bridegroom arrived. Just another way to consider this parable.
The loaves and fishes
We read in John:
“There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
“And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
“And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
“When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
“Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten” (John 6:9-13).
We focus on the miracle that occurred but what about the boy who had the basket? The Lord took what he had and made it more. Who caught the fish? Who made the loaves? Did the boy’s father catch the fish? Did the boy’s mother bake the loaves and pack the basket for him? Someone did his or her part and sent the boy with food.
The Lord then multiplied their efforts to feed the five thousand. Twelve baskets were filled with the remnants of the five loaves. That’s what the Lord can do with our efforts if we show up with our offering, no matter how small. The Lord also demonstrated the importance of not wasting as He had them gather up the remainder.
For me this connects with the five virgins who left in search of oil. What miracle could have been wrought by the Bridegroom (the Saviour as understood in this parable) if they had stayed and waited? If they were in the right place at the right time? The boy with the loaves was in the right place at the right time. It looked like he did not have enough but the Lord made it enough.
We often feel that we do not have enough: enough knowledge, enough words, enough skills, enough energy, the list is endless, but what we do have the Lord can use as we become instruments in His hands. This is faith. It is knowing our efforts are insufficient but still trusting the Lord with our offering.
Whom shall I send?
The great Old Testament prophet Isaiah instructs us still.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
The fisherman who caught the fish. The person who made the loaves. The lad who brought the basket of food. They all answered the question, “Whom shall I send?” with “send me.” That is our challenge.
Did the fisherman, the baker, and the young boy know they were going to participate in a miracle? They simply did their part. We are often inspired to do seemingly insignificant or mundane things, but the Lord can use our efforts to gather His sheep, build His kingdom, and give succour to His beloved children, our neighbours and strangers. He can achieve His work and His glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
I showed up
I remember being asked to visit a woman in the Calgary Foothills Hospital. I did not know her or how to help, but I showed up. I was sincere in my desire to be helpful.
I have been showing up again and again, often in-over-my-head, but willing. I showed up for a sister with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who had no idea who I was or why I was there. She told me she had been waiting all day and the baskets were waiting by the door. I went and listened as best I could.
I sat beside the bedside of a sister who was ill and held her hand so she would know she was not alone. I have faith my efforts, like the lad with the loaves, had been serving some purpose in the Lord’s plan for all those people, and for me.
Right place at the right time
Like the widow of Zarephath who fed the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17), or the people at the temple when the resurrected Lord appeared (3 Nephi 11), the scriptures are replete with examples of people being in the right place at the right time.
I have faith that as we follow our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, and learn to #HearHim and allow God to prevail in our lives, we will be instruments in the hands of the Lord.
We might not see the miracle, but like the loaves and fishes our efforts will be magnified as we stand forth and say “send me.”