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Ten Virgins And Life In The Desert

May 5, 2014

I live in a desert. It’s a pretty desert,
but it’s a desert. And if you go out into the desert, you must respect it. If you don’t it just might kill you.

I also have lots of kids. My kids, both the boys and girls love to go hiking and camping. They understand what it means to be going out into the desert. Unfortunately, not everyone does.

And that nearly killed my second oldest daughter.

The Gospel of Saint Matthew Chapter 25 includes the following story.
(Yeah, I know it’s not a lamp, but it’s the closest I had.)

1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

I’ve read this story multiple times, but yesterday I finally understood what it means. Oh sure, I understand the Sunday School answers, but why couldn’t they share oil? That part I always struggled with. Yesterday my niece and her husband came to our house for dinner. He said something that made it very clear. Matthew was really talking about water. Or, he might have been.

My current job as an IT project manager requires that I balance resources across multiple projects. Every project has a list of deliverables and a deadline. Often my constraint is the resources, the people that I have available to throw at a project. If I do my job well, then I can move people from project to project and meet my deadlines.

If I do my job poorly, I’m likely to get stuck. And here’s how. I end up with two projects, both of which have a deadline and they both require the same resource.

Rodney, you’ve asked me to work on the whitelist for Conteso and you also asked me to reimage all the machines for Barcolm’s. I can only do one or the other by Friday. Which one is most important?

It’s a PM’s worst nightmare. Especially when both projects are mine. Half of me hates the other half for stealing my resource. (I think many PMs could use therapy, but that’s another post.)

I can’t “share” the oil between these projects if I don’t plan well. My poor planning won’t get anyone killed. But, that’s nearly what happened with my daughter.

In her defense, she did everything right. She understood the risks and dangers and planned accordingly. The problem was she was too nice.

The young women at church decided to take a weeklong summer trip to Southern Utah a few years ago. My daughter went with them. She was about 16 years old at the time.

All of Utah is a desert. Southern Utah is a HOT desert. They were going to an area near Goblin Valley. The average July temperature is 100 degrees. Even if it is a dry heat, that’s hot.

(Photo credit:

Mistake #1
A big event at girl’s camp is the five mile hike. The leaders decided they didn’t want to get up super early in morning. They had all day to make the hike, why not start at 11:00am?

They were going to be hiking during the hottest portion of the day.

Mistake #2
My daughter realized that this was going to be a grueling and hot hike. She took all the water she could carry. She had multiple bottles in her pockets and carried more in her hands.

She was the only one.

Oh sure, some girls grabbed a water bottle on their way out of camp. But, enough for 2-3 hours in the sun?

Mistake #3
It got hot on the hike and the girls got thirsty. . . really thirsty. Here’s where the scripture from Matthew really hit home.

Hey, Bliss. Share you water, won’t you?

What would you do? Even the leaders joined in, pressuring her to share the water she brought with the girls who were less prepared.

She shared. I can’t really blame her, but she condemned them all to suffer. And since she actually understood the water needs while hiking in the Southern Utah sun, she conserved. She didn’t drink as much as she should have.


Mistake #4
The end of the hike was at a glacier fed pool high in the mountains. It was over 100 degrees on the trail, and the water looked so inviting. It was probably about 40 degrees.

She jumped in. . . and went into shock.

Mistake #5
They got her off the mountain. They were primitive camping. No cell coverage. Pretty much on their own until they headed back to civilization. My daughter’s body simply wanted to sleep. And they let her.

The problem with heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke, is that your body starts to shut down. You quit sweating. You are no longer thirsty. You end up going to sleep, and then often you die.

The leaders put her in a trailer and let her sleep. . .for hours. Fortunately she didn’t die, but the following day when camp was over and she came home she was still suffering the effects.

So, what do these three stories have to do with each other?

The ten virgins
Overscheduled resources
My daughter’s hike

In each case, some people failed to properly prepare. While on the trail under a blistering sun, you WANT to share your water. But, at what cost? If the situation had been even slightly different, her decision to “share her oil” might have cost her her life.

I’m proud of my kids and my daughter. I’m proud she understood how to prepare. I’m even proud of her for sharing her water knowing it put her at risk. That’s what we do. I’m still, years later incredulous that leaders would, COULD make so many mistakes during a desert camp and hike.

Fail to respect the desert at your own peril. Make even one mistake and it could be the last mistake you ever make.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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  1. Shanna permalink

    What a great example your daughter is. Also, a great example of what not to be as a leader. I hope they all learned their lessons. So glad she survived, because my guess would be that the leaders would not have survived their own guilt had she not.

  2. Thanks, Shannon. Not surprisingly she’s the daughter who later joined the Army Reserves.

    My baby girl wears combat boots!

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