Oxygen Mask by Patty LaRoche

I confess, as much as I fly, I pay no attention to the safety message given at the beginning of the flight. If I’ve heard it a thousand times, I’ve heard it once…or something like that. Anyway, the opposite happens when I fly Southwest where many of the flight attendants have perfected comedic routines instead of the boring ones we are accustomed to hearing. One attendant delivered an oxygen mask warning that, had we not been buckled in our seats, would have received a standing ovation. “If you are traveling with a small child or someone needing help (like your husband), you are to put your mask over your nose and mouth before tending to the other person…unless, of course, your spouse has ticked you off that day. In that case, just take care of you.” Even the husbands laughed.

The warning seems silly. An unconscious person cannot help anyone else. Still, the warning is necessary. Jesus spoke words of similar refrain when listing the second-most important commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In order to love someone else, we must love ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.

One of my best gal-pals in Mazatlán is “Clair” whose husband, “Duane,” is the winningest (Yes, that is a word) high school basketball coach in Oregon’s history. The other day she shared about the counseling they needed a few years into their marriage because no matter what time of day or night, Duane felt responsible for allowing phone calls from parents or home visits from his players. Clair said the counselor’s advice saved their marriage. “You must set boundaries. You must take care of yourselves first. The players come later.”

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Our connection with God is a limitless oxygen tank. Being dependent on Him is necessary for us to breathe physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Physically: We must take care of our bodies, the “temple of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 6:19). Eating well (Congratulations to you whose Thanksgiving feast ended with only one piece of pumpkin pie) and exercising daily (No, lifting that piece of pumpkin pie to your mouth does not qualify) are critical if we are going to have the energy to help someone else. Getting enough sleep, drinking water and striving to become healthy also are necessary to our well-being. No surprises there.

Emotionally: God gave us emotions. He gave us feelings, but He never said we are to be controlled by them. I sometimes get angry with Dave, especially when he complains relentlessly about how my weaving in and out of traffic at high rates of speed bothers him. My anger does not give me the right, however, to stop the car in the middle of the Dallas freeway, get out and demand he drive (although the idea, in all honesty, has crossed my mind). Jesus got angry. And yes, I realize that his was righteous anger and mine was…well, not, but surely we all can agree that anger is an emotion, right? The point is, we need to yield our emotions to God’s will and not our own.

Spiritually: The life-line linking our oxygen mask with God must remain unclogged. Our worldly frets and preoccupations can easily entangle us in matters that are easily solved if we just keep that connection open. Flight attendants always add one more oxygen mask tidbit: “To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you.” Get that? Allowing the mask to hang limply is useless; we must do our part and engage the mask by pulling it towards us. Some call it prayer. I call it conversation with God. Taking my cares and concerns to Him. The difference between the days I do that and the days I don’t is indescribable.

Actually, it’s the only reason I’m not parked in the middle of the Dallas freeway.

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