On our way home from the Dominican Republic, I found myself paying close attention to a message I had head several times before. American Airlines has a great way of displaying the mundane safety information in a way that is…captivating. Instead of the flight attendants pointing towards the nearest exits, I was entranced by a video on the screen. As it reached the point in the video of the “rare occasion” of needing oxygen, I made a note of something I know I have seen a hundred times. Maybe it was the woman speaking, the visual it brought to mind…but I heard it differently. “Make sure you put the mask on yourself before helping others.”
Before helping a child who may be freaked out and gasping for air, make sure you yourself are not gasping for air. Seems to make sense. Right? So then, why is it so difficult for us to remember this sometimes?
The past few years have been a spiral and mixture of adventure, travel and learning for Ryan and I. We have, along with many members of our team, traveled to some really crazy places, gotten sick, been hungry, have had so much, have not known what to do…the list goes on and on. It’s been a battle of us learning more and more as we have been stretched beyond words. God has been faithful through this time.
As December enters, I find myself in a new season. I don’t know how to adjust, but at the same time it is all too familiar. Logistically, we are in Orlando, Florida. We are with a small team working on new initiatives to raise up locals for more than a week or a month…but for life. To help Haitians and Dominicans take charge of their lives and become the light of the world in their own towns and villages and cities.
During a meeting last week, I was reminded of the oxygen mask video. The feeling of complete exhaustion that I felt (along with our team) as we left the island again. As we prepare to go out, I have realized that we are preparing to go out and put that oxygen mask on others. Of course, this begs to ask the question Have we already put the oxygen mask on ourselves?
There are a lot of ways to prepare for going into another country. There are a lot of ways to make sure that we are taken care of. We now have a place to call “home” for a season with our old dishes and oh-so-cute bedding I registered for when we first were married. We have food in our bellies and are able to meet and take notes on computers. We are taken care of in so many ways. Things that I used to feel guilty about are now noted necessity. But, is that really all it takes to go in and love with the love of God?
Houses. Dishes. Feeling like you’re “home”. These are all good things, but they are not what determines our readiness to help and love the world. They are needed, at times, for us to not loose our sanity. We don’t need to plan excessively for hours upon end, or for a year before we can go, though sometimes its nice. We need but one thing, as cliche as it sounds, Jesus.
To stretch this oxygen mask analogy out much longer than it should be, let me say this: I have been thinking that my “taking care of myself” needs before entering into a season of training and discipling people has been to make sure we have a house, a healthy lifestyle and our feet under us. And, that is very true. We need to be healthy and stable to minister to anyone else. Those, however, should be products of what we are seeking, not the things we are seeking. Before we go into Haiti and the Dominican, heck, before we walk out of our front door, we need Jesus. We need His love, His grace and most importantly perhaps, His perspective. As we walk into new areas of our lives, we need Him to show us who we are in Him as well as who the people are we are ministering to. We need Him. I need Him.
What better time than now to begin, in a new way, preparing my heart to receive the very basic necessity of Jesus? Before we go to any more places, rest in any more places, build any more projects or train any more people…we need to posture ourselves in front of the King and ready our hearts in front of Him, remembering that all the preparation we need before going into Haiti is to gain a heart like His.