I had seen the airline safety demonstration countless times: “Fasten your seat belt by inserting the metal tip into the buckle…” But something made me pay attention this time as the flight attendant pulled down the oxygen masks.
The recorded voice over the intercom continued, “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting small children or others around you.”
That phrase really bothered me. It seemed so selfish and counter-intuitive. Take care of myself before helping others, even an infant or an elderly person?
Lack of Self Care
I was reminded of a conversation with my brother during my fourth year of teaching English in Asia. The stress and isolation of living in a culture very different from my own, far from the support of family and friends, left me physically, spiritually, and emotionally depleted. For months I dragged myself out of bed every day, pushing on through my depression. I would snap at my co-workers, blow up at my students, and burst into tears at the slightest provocation. I was a wreck.
Several co-workers and friends were concerned and gently encouraged me to take a break, but I kept insisting I was fine. Finally my brother sat me down and told me firmly, “We don’t need you here. You’re no good to anyone else if you’re a mess yourself. Go home.”
His words came as a shock, but they were exactly what I needed to hear. I took my brother’s advice and returned to the U.S. for a season of rest. My stubbornness in forcing myself to continue when I had nothing left to give was causing more harm than good to myself and those I was trying to serve. In trying to put on everyone else’s oxygen masks before I had secured my own, we were all suffocating!
Go to Jesus
Are you struggling to help everyone secure their oxygen mask before your own? Did you know that even Jesus took time away from the crowds to be with His Father? “While it was still night, way before dawn, He got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed” (Mark 1:35, the Message).
Just like Jesus, we need to first get plugged into the Source. THEN, He will give us the grace to serve those around us.