Wisdom and Cleverness

WARNING: Don’t Forget Your Oxygen Mask First

On a flight with my children some years ago, my son was startled when the attendant announced that adults should put on their oxygen masks first, before helping their children.

“Why don’t you help the children first?” he asked.

“If I ran out of oxygen first, then I couldn’t help you with your oxygen mask,” I explained to his satisfaction.

My sister Bobbi knows the pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, the hero who was flying Southwest Airlines Flight #1380 in April 2018.

Shults is from our hometown of Boerne, Texas and was once a US Navy fighter jet pilot. When shrapnel hit an engine during the intended flight from New York to Dallas, she guided the plane to a safe landing in Philadelphia.

(The lesson from this photo is to cover your mouth AND YOUR NOSE should you ever find yourself in this situation).

I’ve easily flown over 2,000 times in my lifetime, and over the years paid less attention to the preflight safety directions. (On two occasions, during storms, oxygen masks were released.) But on every flight I brought my children along, I always listened and read the instructions.

“If needed, four oxygen masks will drop from the compartment overhead. To activate the flow of oxygen, pull down on the mask until the plastic tubing is fully extended. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.

“Secure the mask with the elastic strap. Although oxygen will be flowing, the plastic bag may not inflate. Continue wearing the mask until otherwise notified by a crew member. If you are traveling with children or anyone needing special assistance, put on your mask first.”

This important rule of airplane survival is a great metaphor for many people who spend their time attending to everything and everyone else except themselves.

Just as we must give a tug on the cord to start the flow of oxygen, as our source for life, it’s important to keep connected to God through constant prayer.

He is the source of my strength and peace. A strong prayer life is not just speaking to God but listening to Him by prayerfully reading the Bible. The tugging of our fervent, effectual prayers will avail much.

For the mask to work, you have to put the mask’s cup over both your mouth and nose. If you leave your nose out of the mask, you won’t be getting enough oxygen because the nose is actually the main pathway to the lungs.  

In my heart, it’s the same for God. We have to be “all in” and be covered completely as our only source for life-giving breath.

We can’t hold back on certain parts of our lives as “our own.” We have to surrender everything, or we will be leaving parts of ourselves vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.

It’s easy to not pay attention to the airline safety warnings. It’s also natural for some to get wrapped up in our own troubles and drama, that we forget others are suffering and could use our help. By focusing our eyes on Christ and staying connected to God in prayer, we can take that peace and strength He gives and turn our focus outward instead of inward. 

The inevitable results of not taking care of yourself first is stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, burnout, and fatigue. Does this sound familiar?

A firefighter can’t go into a blazing building without the correct equipment. He would soon turn into a detriment and require rescue too. Chemical suits are used to protect against biological and chemical agents. You’re a target for contamination if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Here are some ways to “put your oxygen mask on first” by:

  • Go on a stress reducing walk.
  • Take a nap and get plenty of rest.
  • Make a list of what you are grateful for.
  • Making sure your meal is balanced with at least half veggies and fruit.
  • Schedule a physical exam.
  • Read something enjoyable to escape.
  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Write in your journal.
  • Go see a comedy. Laugh.
  • Try something totally new.
  • Dance in front of the mirror.
  • Read Cleverjourneys.com.

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