Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Put On Your Own Mask First

I assume most of you have travelled on an airline at some point in your lives.  At the beginning of every flight, they have a safety briefing.  As part of the briefing, the flight attendant demonstrates how the oxygen mask should be used in the event of cabin pressure failing.  They also indicate that you should put on your own mask before assisting others.

I remember feeling a bit put out about this when I was a child.  Why should I suffer needlessly in the event of an emergency?  Shouldn't my parents help me with my mask first?  It just didn't seem fair!

With age comes wisdom (hopefully).  I now understand why my parents would need to put their own mask on first.  If they failed to do so, they would risk their own safety, and would then be unable to help me or anyone else.

It is the same way in our own lives and in our marriages.  When I am tired and worn out from doing too much for too long with too little help, the last thing I feel like doing is being kind to my wife and children.  When I've been burning the candle at both ends, I am less effective at work, as well as less pleasant to be around.  When I've stayed up late for one too many nights, I don't particularly feel like going to church, or volunteering for the next service project.

I could go on, but I think I have made my point sufficiently clear.  One of my favorite sayings is, you can't draw water from an empty well.  It's also difficult to draw feeling from an empty emotional bank account.

Also, this energy can't come from outside of you.  It is something you need to develop on your own.  The parable of the Ten Virgins comes to mind:
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."  -Matthew 25:1-9
Usually, this parable is used to describe spiritual preparedness, but I feel that it applies equally well to emotional energy and self-care.  The five wise virgins were not being stingy with their oil.  Indeed, the kind of oil can't be shared.  How can you share experiences that renew you and fill you up?  How can you share the benefits of exercise, good nutrition, and adequate sleep?  Each must find this kind of emotional oil for themselves.

If you are like me, and are running low on oil, I challenge you to make some time now to do something about it.  Notice that I said make time, not take time.  If you wait for the time to come on your own, you will never do it.  You must make time for it.  And don't give me the excuse about it being "selfish".  As my wife's therapist says, "Taking care of yourself is not selfish.  It's smart!"

I will provide a few suggestions here.  Obviously, I don't know you, and I can't tell you what will bring renewal and refreshment for you.  But this can hopefully at least get you started thinking:
  • Get into nature.  There's something about God's great outdoors that is refreshing to the soul.
  • Play with a child.  Nothing can help refresh your viewpoint like seeing it through a child's eyes.  If you don't have your own children, borrow someone else's for an hour or two.
  • Spend some time on a favorite hobby, or develop a new one.
  • Listen to inspiring music, or play some if you are musically inclined.
  • Read
  • Go to bed early.  Really, it can be done!
  • Have a "no technology" day.  I did this for a whole week on a vacation earlier this year, and it was wonderfully freeing!
  • Get a massage
And above all, if you can't think of anything else, pray!  Heavenly Father and Jesus are concerned about you, and they want you to take good care of yourself.  The other people that you desire to serve will still be there when you get back from taking care of yourself.  And there will be more of you to give to them because you have taken good care of yourself.  Put your own mask on first, and then help others.

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