The Dilemma of the Oxygen Mask

The Dilemma of the Oxygen Mask

If you’ve ever paid attention to the safety speech on an airplane (we all do, right?) you’ve no doubt heard them reference the oxygen masks. You know, they’ll fall from the ceiling, won’t necessarily inflate, etc. But the interesting thing to me has always been the very last part of the oxygen mask speech. That’s where they instruct you to put on your mask first before helping those around you. The logic is simple: you aren’t much help to others when you yourself are passed out on the floor.

This has become a sort of running joke with Michelle and me. She’s never been great with setting up personal boundaries for herself. She’s a type A person with an unbelievable drive for life and for the amount of things she thinks she can accomplish each day. As a result, this causes her to experience burnout moments of exhaustion. As her husband, there have been times when I need to lovingly coach (or when that doesn’t work, strategically convince) her that she needs to slow it down a bit to take care of herself.

If we go out of town together I usually have to help her the night before set a bedtime—literally a cutoff point—where she will shut down the preparations and go to sleep. As we all know, there’s always more to do. My selfishness allows me to navigate the oxygen mask easier than my wife. I’ll pack my bag first and then ask her what I can help with around the house. By that point she’s already done a lot of it and we usually get into what we affectionately know as the “oxygen mask conversation.” I’ll defend my actions by explaining that I’ve first put my mask on so that now I can help. At least one of us was listening on the plane. She doesn’t see it this way.

I think we both tend to err on the opposite extremes. I can be so focused on what I personally need to get done (my oxygen mask) that I neglect to appropriately value the needs of my wife and kids (their oxygen masks). My wife can be so focused on the needs of our family (their oxygen mask) that she neglects to have anything left herself (to put on her mask). While it can be humorous at times, this dilemma presents a very real challenge for the way in which we live.

This will always be a tension for kingdom people. We must live the Gospel for others but also be healthy enough to have something to give. [Click here to tweet this]

I think of Paul’s instructions to the church at Ephesus: “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). We work so that we have something to give others. We can err by working just for us and not sharing, or for only focusing on sharing and therefore have nothing to give.

Kingdom people lean into this tension. We daily live for the needs of others while also acknowledging the state we are in as well. There may be times you need to have a “selfish” moment in order have something left to give. Pastor John Ortberg says that sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap. I’ve found this to be pure wisdom on numerous occassions. But there also may be times to acknowledge that we’ve become too self absorbed and to challenge ourselves in sacrifice for others. There is no way to solve this dilemma. We must manage the tension through the grace of God and His Spirit.

Question: Which side do you naturally lean on? Your oxygen mask first or the mask of others?

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co. https://linktr.ee/JeremyJernigan