Why You Must Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

Boarding an airplane is a bit like herding cattle. There are a bazillion people juggling babies, bottles, and bags that must be seated, settled, or stored in spaces the size of leftover Tupperware containers.

Then, in the midst of all the chaos, the lovely flight attendant begins the “Emergency Oxygen Mask” speech. It’s something like:

  • “In case there is a sudden drop in cabin pressure . . .”
  • “In the event of an emergency . . .” (AKA, “When all hell breaks loose . . .”)
  • “Put on your oxygen mask FIRST, then help those who may need assistance . . .”

I recently heard this speech as my husband and I left for our second just-the-two-of-us vacation in six years of marriage. We were a bit overdue for time away.

The cattle were herded, boarded, and informed on emergency procedures, and things quieted down. About an hour into our ten-hour flight, the plane cabin was nearly silent.

Surrounded by stillness, I felt increasingly restless.

A Journal Entry

After mulling through mindless magazines and munching on snacks, my mind continued to rattle with relentless, countless worries.

I decided to journal—a practice I did daily years ago but somehow had fallen through the cracks. I wrote:

I don’t like what I’m feeling right now . . . restlessness, irritation, and a lack of focus. I’m not “in the moment” at all. I used to love silence, stillness, the soft look my husband-to-be offered as we were falling in love. When was the last time I slowed down to look deeply into his eyes? When was the last time I slowed down to look deeply at anything? Why am I always in a hurry—even now when I feel lost? That’s it: I feel lost.

Demands and duties are endless. Responsibilities and reasons to remain busy are constant. I blame myself for everything—pathetic. I don’t want to be a victim of circumstances. I tire of carrying the load—to where? I feel like I’m running in circles and becoming more lost. How did I get so far off-course? Worry consumes me. I worry about things I have no control over: about my son, about my work, about how to find balance, about where to find the time for the endless doctor appointments, and about daily deadlines.

Lord, life is too heavy. I need You to show me how to give You the weight (Psalm 55:22; Matthew 11:29). I can’t keep on like this.

I received no grand illumination of wisdom right after I put down my pen. I looked out the plane window and saw nestled below me fluffy clouds of nursery room colors—baby blue, soft yellow, a touch of lilac, pink blush—all painted by my sovereign and creative Lord. A sliver of hope broke through the stillness.

Pure Oxygen

After we arrived at our destination, I continued to journal throughout the week. Two main themes repeatedly showed up in my writing: worry and weakness. I felt like God had put on my oxygen mask, reminding me that I hadn’t breathed pure “oxygen” in quite some time.

One evening, these words poured onto my journal page—no doubt, a Colleen-ized version of Matthew 11:28–30:

See, Colleen, when you finally get out of the way, it’s a win-win for both you and Me. You will feel better; your heart will not be burdened because you will know I have already made a way for you and those you love. I know Jon can’t make it on his own. Neither can you. When did you forget that in your weakness—and in Jon’s—you are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)? This world is not yours; it’s Mine, so let Me take care of it as only I can do. I have allowed pain, and yes, pain will continue. You will not always have the answers, but when you come to Me, I will comfort you and give you peace. You are longing for peace, not just answers, anyway. Answers don’t satisfy a restless spirit; My peace and presence are the only things that will soften your soul (John 14:27).

Ahhh, the oxygen was flowing fully by week’s end.

By Unsplash.com (Free Image use)
By Unsplash.com

However, upon return home, the load of life landed upon my shoulders with full force. I started to panic, then remembered:

  • “In case there is a sudden drop in cabin pressure . . .”
  • “In the event of an emergency . . .” (AKA, “When all hell breaks loose . . .”)
  • “Put on your oxygen mask FIRST, then help those who may need assistance . . .”

Let Me Hear from You

How’s the pressure around you lately? Has the oxygen level dropped, making it difficult to breathe? Are there some issues you can’t figure out, but you’re determined to chase until you run out of air?

What may seem like an emergency to you isn’t an emergency to our Lord. Running faster in the wrong direction will leave you breathless and exhausted.

How about choosing one or two areas of life where you can use an oxygen mask—God’s presence for comfort.

Let’s take time to breathe in His truths and find rest in His care.

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