Give Me Oil In My Lamp?
Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning...
That very familiar song from my early youth has suddenly encountered a roadblock whenever it has come to my mind in the last few days. Not that I suddenly think it has been discovered to have some hidden heresy in it or that I no longer believe that I need oil in my lamp. But in my Spirit-guided research into the parable of the ten virgins over the past few weeks my attention has suddenly been riveted to the reality of just where the oil is needed even more than in a lamp.
I have come to realize that the lamp in this parable specifically refers to the Bible, which certainly needs the symbolic oil in it to bring the true light out of it properly. I am still working on detailing from the Word itself about what all the oil represents, but what I am certain of at this point is that the lamp is not my own life as this familiar chorus suggests. The Bible seems clear that the lamp is the Word of God itself, so the extra containers for carrying backup oil in this parable of Jesus have to represent something different than the lamp which is the Word of God.
With some help from friends I have come to believe quite strongly that this extra curved flask for carrying the oil is my own mind, specifically the right brain pre-frontal cortex which is where what we call our heart emotionally carries on most of its activities. The right side of the brain is the main control center for all of the brains thinking activities, both conscious and subconscious and I believe is where God primarily wants to communicate with all who are willing to listen.
I have had some doubts about finding strong support from Scripture for the popular assumption that the oil in this parable represents primarily the Holy Spirit. In my study of this topic it seems to be much more clear that the oil represents joy, at least it seems to be more clearly supported by the Scriptures than any direct references to the Holy Spirit. But with that said, in my current study of the fruit of the Spirit I have noticed what seems to be a strong link between joy and the Holy Spirit.
From what I have learned about the joy/peace cycle in the brain I see a very close link with all the associated elements listed in Galatians 5:22, 23 that our church is studying for three months right now. The joy-building activities that are so vital to the growth of the pre-frontal cortex has clued me in as to the real meaning of what needs to take place in our lives when we talk about getting prepared for Jesus to come. I am coming to realize that instead of filling our hearts with foreboding and trepidation about coming events in our world as a supposed way to scare ourselves into living a righteous life, I am now coming under strong conviction that quite the opposite is what really has to happen if any of us hope to have what it takes internally to endure the times ahead of us and be ready to meet Jesus in the clouds of glory.
As we went over the lesson last week in church studying the attribute of peace from the list of the fruit of the Spirit, I suddenly noticed that there is a very specific sequence in which these attributes are listed that correlates to how the brain functions. I have not taken the time to follow it all the way to the end of the list, but just looking at the first four attributes it is very clear that they need to be experienced sequentially to have the optimum effect on the brain.
Love must be the very first thing that has to be encountered before any real healing or maturing can take place. For joy to be experienced – which is what the brain needs most to develop the 'banana', or the vital pre-frontal cortex – we must encounter someone who is genuinely glad to be with us and deeply cares about us personally. So it makes perfect sense that love is going to be the very first thing in this list of attributes of the Spirit of God who is love Himself.
The next two things on the list are actually the two facets of the joy/peace cycle that the brain uses to grow its 'banana' or cortex. Joy could be considered in this list as the more active, exciting part of the cycle where bonding takes place between two minds with higher energy and peace is the other part of that cycle where bonding continues to take place in quiet together times. When this cycle is enjoyed repeatedly by the brain, or the heart as we often call this part of the brain, literal, physical growth is accelerated in the very part of the brain where the 'oil of joy' is stored up. This part of the brain actually has a curved shape that looks very much like a banana and fascinatingly the Greek word for the containers used by the wise virgins to hold their extra oil includes the definition of something which is curved like a banana.
This very same part of the brain is what is vitally essential for a person to be able to process bad or painful events that happen in our lives. The very part of our mind that must be grown by joy exercises is the same part that allows us to handle trauma and pain without forgetting how to act like our true selves or suffer severe mental breakdown. Thus the very next attribute on the list is patience or the ability to remain at peace in the midst of very disturbing or painful experiences going on all around us.
I will look later at the rest of the list and see how it all fits in, but for now I have seen enough to realize that the very same God who designed our brain in the first place and knew what it literally looked like long before any of us discovered its shape and functions – this God who loves us and knows us perfectly and is the only one who can really bring healing and wholeness into our lives reveals the attributes of His Spirit in words that describe just what our brains were designed to need in order to heal, thrive and mature.
So with the Scriptures telling me that the oil explicitly stands for joy, the very thing most needed to prepare me for trials and problems and pain and what Jesus focused on just before His trial and all the pain and suffering He endured in the events around His death, the listing of joy as one of the key attributes of the Spirit of God also tells me that I must have the presence of His Spirit within me to fully experience the healing effects that joy is meant to have on my heart and mind and soul.
So maybe I need to alter the words of that song a bit to make them more reflective of the real need that all of us have in light of what we now know about the way God created us and how He knows best what will bring us life and healing and hope.
Give me oil in my heart, keep me bonding...