The Oxygen Mask Analogy

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Dear Friends,
Attend to your oxygen mask first

Jason and I have recently returned from a short break away in Morocco. We travelled by plane and if you've ever flown then you'll be familiar with the safety talk given at the start of each flight. The part of the talk which always stands out for me is when they mention that if oxygen masks are needed in the event of an emergency, you are to attend to your own oxygen mask first, before assisting your child with theirs. The principle here is that if you don't first take care of yourself, you will not be able to help anyone else.

For me, this behaviour is the opposite of what I learned growing up in an evangelical church setting. Through teaching and example, I learned that others and their needs came way ahead of mine. I grew up believing that as a Christian I should serve and minister to others and that my needs were to be at the bottom of the list. 

Perhaps you grew up with similar teaching. You may have been taught the acronym:
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last

Whilst the Bible teaches us to love and serve one another, it does not tell us to do so at the expense of ourselves. But this is what happened in my life. It was an unhealthy way for me to live and eventually, my health and well-being suffered. 

I had poured myself out for others, doing all the things I believed a "good" Christian girl should do. Saying "no" to anyone was just not an option for me. I spent so much time and energy on others, that at the end of the day there was nothing left for me. I don't believe now that this is how God would have any of us live.

Eventually, I ran dry. My body and mind could not continue to live this way. I broke. The result was M.E (or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). When my health was at it's worst, I was unable to do simple things for myself, such as wash my hair. And walking up the stairs to bed, was like climbing a mountain. At this point, I could not take care of myself, let alone anyone else.

God taught me so much during those first few difficult years of illness. He spent time just loving me and being with me. In return, I gained a closeness to him that came from just being with him. I couldn't "do" many things, but I could "be". This was God's gift to me - just to be.

During this time, God renewed my mind. He took my faulty thinking and replaced it with truth. He took me on a journey of transformation (a journey which is still ongoing today).

God showed me that my relationship with him was what truly mattered. My relationship with him was key, whilst a religion of rules, regulations and doing was not. He taught me the value of rest and balance.

God has given me my life - my body, my mind and my soul - and I needed to care for it and not mistreat it as I had been doing. Unintentionally I had been abusing his gift to me. (There are more ways we can abuse our mind and bodies than just with drugs, alcohol and sex.)

The Bible tells us that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit and we should treat it as such.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? ... God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)

We need to treat our bodies with care, recognising when we need sleep, rest, relaxation and time-out. Because we are whole beings, when one part of our being (our body, for example,) suffers, then the rest of our being also suffers - our mind, which encompasses our thoughts and our emotions, and our spirit/soul, which is our relationship with God.

Taking care of ourselves does not mean we ignore others or don't love them. In fact, I believe, quite the opposite is true. When our body, mind and spirit are healthy then we are in a far better place to really think about others, to care about them and do the things God has called us to do.

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

I think it's easy to misread or misinterpret this verse and think that we are to look out for the interests of others but ignore our own. Actually, this verse tells us that as well as taking care of ourselves we are to also take care of others. This is not an either/or command, rather it relates to taking care of ourselves and others.

Our service and ministry flow from a spirit that has been refreshed by having spent time in the presence of God. He pours into us so we are then filled to pour out into others. He gives us the resources, including our bodies, so we can do his will. As our minds are renewed in his presence, what we do comes from a right attitude and motives. We don't serve or minister to others because of a sense of duty, we don't do it resentfully or from ulterior motives. We do it because of the love we have first received from God - because we love him and because we desire to please and glorify him.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NLT)

Other translations say we are to love our neighbour in the same way we love ourselves. I believe that the depth of our love for God and how good we are at loving and taking care of ourselves will determine the quality of our love and care for others.

Will you choose to take the necessary time to attend to your own oxygen mask before you assist others with theirs?

To Think About:
Have you been so busy taking care of others and their needs that you have neglected your own well-being? Have you neglected your relationship with God?

Do you believe that you are in a better place to serve and minister to others once you have taken care of yourself (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically)?

What do you think God wants you to do about addressing the neglect of your body, mind and spirit?

Starting today, what things can you begin to put into practice that will nurture you spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally? 


If what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon, on Kindle or in paperback. (Its content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:


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