As I write this I am on an airplane. The flight attendant just told us that in the unexpected loss of cabin pressure, we should put on our own mask before assisting others. Of course, I’ve heard that countless times, but I still remember the first time I heard it and WOW did it strike me as wrong. I would even say offensive.
There is no way I am going to put my mask on before helping my kids! A mother puts her children first. A good Christian puts others before themselves. A captain goes down with the ship. So that oxygen mask will have to just swing there until I get other people taken care first.
With more careful consideration, and I must add, life experience, I now realize there is good reason we are instructed to put our mask on first. You see, people who lack oxygen and pass out are not much good when it comes to helping others. Period.
That statement may seem obvious, but we tend to think it won’t happen to us. We will be fine! Until we begin to get lightheaded and end up on the floor. We may be doing what we think is right, sacrificing to help someone else, but all the while becoming more and more depleted of oxygen. Growing dangerously weaker and less capable, and before you know it, you are both in trouble.
So today, I offer you this vital encouragement to put your own oxygen mask on first. And not just on a plane! If you truly desire to help others, if you want to be used by God, you must have the breath, energy, and strength to do it!
In a non-airplane environment, that means we must make it a priority to care for ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. To take the time—and that sometimes mean taking the time away from helping others. In the real world, that oxygen mask is God’s word. We must draw our strength directly from him, to be filled with the truth in the Bible and God’s Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. We need to plug in regularly for our own sake and for the sake of everyone around us.
John 15:5 says, “You are the vine…apart from you, I can do nothing.” We may know this, but do we apply it? I can get so busy doing, that I’m no longer being—in the wake of all that life is demanding of me in this minute, it is far too easy to lose the value of being in God’s presence and developing the person he wants me to become.
Parents – put your own mask on first. You may have felt as I did; that this is backward and selfish, but your children need a healthy you. They deserve your strength, patience, and love at full force.
Leaders – put your own mask on first. I’ve been there—working so hard to set a good example, trying to have all the answers, and leading the charge with vision and creativity that I was completely spent. Feed yourself intellectually and spiritually so you are equipped to lead others well.
Caregivers – put your own mask on first. You can’t be so depleted yourself that you are no longer able to serve those who depend on you.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 says that we are blessed when we trust in the Lord. We will be like a tree planted by a stream of water whose roots grow deep and who bears good fruit in season. When I am overcommitted or over working, my trust is in myself. I need to draw that refreshment from God and make sure those roots are deep. People who burnout or are exhausted have little of value left to give.
Give yourself permission to lie beside that stream and delight in God’s wonder. We all need rest. We need margin in our lives. We need to laugh and dream. Doing this is as much for the good of others as it is for ourselves. It is healthy, it is scriptural, and God promises that doing this will help us to bear good fruit.
Your physical health, mental health, and spiritual health matters. It matters to God, and it should matter to you. You need to feed yourself well. What you take in, how you feed all these areas, provides the fuel you need, as well as the longevity required to continue doing it for a long time.
So, like a good flight attendant, I encourage you to put on your own mask before helping others. Fight against those misconceptions that are tell you otherwise, and fuel up to do everything God has planned for you!
– love, Ginger