Airplane oxygen masks are a two-step process

I’m not a huge fan of airplane travel, mainly because it’s far less expensive to drive, but sometimes you have to fly. Like when I went to Ireland a few weeks ago. I couldn’t drive to Ireland (well, I could try, but I don’t think I would succeed).

As I sat and listened to the flight attendants run through their little spiel about airplane safety, I smiled when they got to the place about securing your own oxygen mask first. I was traveling with two other people on the way to Ireland, and I had laughingly joked with my sister-in-law that I’d need to make sure one of my travel buddies had her oxygen mask on if we crashed.

That’s the rule with oxygen masks

First, you secure your own and make sure that you are breathing. Then, you help the people around you, children, the elderly, or generally distracted (but totally adorable) traveling companions. It’s a two-step process. First, take care of yourself. Then, take care of those around you.

Exodus 18:17-18 Always PeachyThe problem I usually have (when I’m not flying on an airplane) is that I skip ahead to step two without doing step one. I tend to want to take care of everyone around me first before seeing to my own needs. I want to help people, and I don’t want myself to get in the way. But it’s too much for one person to do alone, and I exhaust myself. (Exodus 18:14-18)

I’ve spent years telling myself this fact over and over again, but only recently did a new way to think about it occur to me. Using airplane oxygen masks correctly is a process.

A two-step process for an airplane

In an emergency situation on an airplane, you can’t just randomly try to help everyone around you. You’ll be in the way of people who are trained for that situation, and you’ll do more damage than you prevent. You’re supposed to stay seated. The best way for you to help those around you is to first take care of yourself.

That goes against my personal programming, but if I don’t first make sure that my thoughts are clear, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be of help to anyone. The truth is, if I don’t take care of my own needs first in that sort of situation, I won’t be able to help anyone around me.

If we accept that concept on an airplane, why can’t we accept it in our everyday lives?

A two-step process for life

Instagram Airplane MasksI’m talking to myself here. I run myself ragged for the benefit of others. I wear myself down and work my immune system to its lowest point for the sake of those around me. It’s how I’m wired. But I need to start looking at taking care of people as a two-step process.

If I want to help others, I need to take care of myself first. I need to sleep, to eat properly, and take care of my physical and spiritual needs first. Granted, that doesn’t mean I completely ignore people who need help, but before I work myself to exhaustion helping the helpless, first I need to make sure I’m strong enough to be of service. And this isn’t just something I’m making up. This is a biblical principle! (Ephesians 5:29-30)

As Christ-followers, we are called to serve others but not at the cost of our relationship with God or our physical health. Life is a balance between being a good steward of what God has given us and giving sacrificially so that others can share our blessings.

Wearing yourself out helping others may be a noble concept, but it’s not practical or healthy. And it’s not what God intended for us. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) If you really want to help others to the best of your ability, first take the time to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Paying rent on a broken-down tent

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

It’s really easy for me to forget that my body doesn’t belong to me. Does anybody else struggle with that? You know, I just forget sometimes because I live in it. I know I take it for granted. And I know it frustrates me intensely.

One thing I don’t understand at all is why the Holy Spirit would want to make my body His temple? I mean, my body doesn’t really work very well. I need a new set of lungs to replace these beaten-up asthmatic ones, and my metabolism is slower than a rock. I’ve been blinder than a bat since high school, and I’m allergic to just about everything on the planet that walks and talks and creeps and crawls. And my blood sugar can’t regulate itself correctly.

And the Holy Spirit still wants to live in me? Sometimes I wonder if He is a glutton for punishment. It’s like a Bill Gates moving to Oaklawn.

But whether I understand it or not isn’t the issue. The fact is, the Bible says that once we accept Christ and decide to follow Him, the Holy Spirit does come to live in us. Our bodies belong to God to begin with, though, whether we choose to follow Him or not. God created everything, so everything belongs to Him. But those of us who have chosen to follow Christ know that our bodies belong to God.

So why do we continue to use them in ways that aren’t pleasing to Him?

Many Christians worship their own bodies, I think. And I can understand how it happens. After all, our bodies are our homes. So it’s easy to get into a rut thinking that our bodies are going to last forever–at least, it’s easy until you get older. When I was 18, I could stay up till Midnight and help a friend move into their house the next day, moving heavy furniture and everything. Well, 11 years later, I can try to do that and for the most part I can succeed, but it takes me longer to recover . . . Lol . . . like a week.

And I know I’m not old, but my body will get there eventually. The older we get, the more we realize that our bodies will begin to fail us. So I think it’s more normal for “older” folks to realize that there’s something more to life than how we look. But how awesome would it be for a young person to grasp that concept? Imagine what a young person can accomplish for God while they’re still young.

Today’s verse says that we don’t belong to ourselves. Christians, if we really believe that, we need to get our eyes off what our bodies look like and start focusing on what really matters. Serving God. Loving others.

It’s so easy to spend money and time making our bodies look nice. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all as long as the motivation stays God-centered. But spending hours and hours primping and grooming in front of a mirror for the sole purpose of attracting attention? I don’t think that honors God. . . . But I’ve been wrong before. And as I’ve said on many occasions, I can’t see peoples’ hearts. So I can’t (and won’t) judge because that’s not my job.

Either way, our bodies are just temporary. And not only are they temporary, they’re a gift from God. God gave us the bodies He wanted us to have. Now, it escapes me why He gave me a body with asthmatic lungs and blood sugar issues. But it’s not up to me to understand why. It’s my job to be thankful for what He’s given me and use it to bring glory to Him.

I gave my life to Christ when I was seven years old. But before I knew who He was, He knew me. And He had already bought and paid for me, a ridiculous sum that I could never pay back. This body belongs to Him, and He is gracious enough to let me live here for a little while.

So I have no right to criticize my body, how it looks or how it functions. And I need to use it in a way that honors Him. It should bring glory to Him and not me. It should work to accomplish things for God’s purpose on earth and not for my own crazy schemes. And I need to take care of it but not to the point where it becomes the most important thing in my life.

There’s a reason for everything God does. So there’s a reason He chose to allow me to have worn out lungs and blood sugar problems. Maybe it’s to teach me patience. Maybe it’s to teach me to rely on Him. Maybe it’s to help me remember not to be so proud all the time and to ask for help once in a while.

In any case, my body belongs to Him. But it’s up to me how I use it.