“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling … Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” If you’ve done much travel by air, you’ve heard these words plenty of times – and probably tuned them out! I’m grateful that I’ve never been on an airplane when oxygen masks became necessary. Perhaps some of you have experienced this.
Your altruistic side might question why you should take care of yourself before you assist your loved ones and neighbors in the seats next to you on the plane, but you also realize that you won’t be of much use to anyone if you’re oxygen deprived and unconscious!
I’ve heard these words used sometimes as a spiritual illustration. So how does a Christian secure his or her “oxygen mask” before assisting others?
It’s easy for servant-hearted Christians to come early and stay late, volunteer for multiple roles, and generally spread themselves too thin. Maybe that describes you.
Being a task-oriented person by nature, I recognize my own tendency to push myself beyond my capacity.
Jesus’ friend, Martha, certainly had a servant heart. When Jesus came to visit, she had lots do to: perhaps garden vegetables to harvest, bread to bake, and a guest room to prepare. She was doing all of these things to assist her guests and her family, but Jesus reprimanded her!
Martha’s sister, Mary, on the other hand, was placidly sitting at the feet of Jesus. There were dust bunnies and unfolded laundry and unpaid bills (or the first century equivalents) all around her, but she set them aside to be with Jesus. Mary put on her oxygen mask. There would be time later for those other tasks. She saw what was truly necessary:
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
I’m also reminded of a reference to Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John, early in church history. These two men are having to defend their faith and their public witness to Christ before the religious council in Jerusalem. Luke tells us, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
By simply watching and listening to Peter and John, others could tell that they had been with Jesus.
While others won’t always recognize it as easily as they did with Peter and John, if you want your life to reflect Jesus (albeit, imperfectly), you need to be with Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus isn’t far away! He’s as close as own words in Scripture. He’s as close as His own body and blood given for you at the Lord’s Table. He’s as close as the cleansing waters of your baptism. And He’s as close as your fellow members of His body, the church.
This season of Lent is a great time to be with Jesus, to put on your oxygen mask in your faith through devotions and prayer, and to be renewed by God’s Spirit for all those “Martha tasks” on your plate.
Holy Spirit, breathe fresh life into my faith in Christ through Your means of grace. Amen.