“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”
A pretty common clause these days. You hear it recited by airline personnel. You read it as a plane prepares for take-off. Recently, it has become a pop-up in various articles that want to stress taking care of self so that you can take care of others from a much better place. Thus today, when it popped up on my son’s FB feed, I wasn’t too surprised. He’s been reading and self-educating himself a lot over the past few years. You have to love it when your children love education as much as you do.
I made a swift comment about taking it more than at face value and moved on to the next thing on my agenda – the Grandson. Loving on the Grands is always a special blessing, especially when the Grandson comes running and jumps in my arms as I’m leaving and says, “I’m glad Redding took Mama’s shoe outside because I get to kiss you bye.” Now if that doesn’t melt your heart – you definitely are having a bad day.
But today, that simple sentence about a silly oxygen mask kept popping back up to the forefront of my mind and right behind it was another more complicated sentence. “And Jehovah God formeth the man — dust from the ground, and breatheth into his nostrils breath of life, and the man becometh a living creature.” Genesis 2:7
Anytime these words ricochet around my head, there are always notes attached to them. In 1947, Aaron Copeland wrote a 16 minute long choral piece called, “In the Beginning”. It starts with an alto solo weaving in and out of the choral group, building intensity until the climactic ending:. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul, and man became a living soul – a living soul.”It is not a very popular choral piece to perform. It is complicated and full of dissonance for the performers. But – for many reasons – this choral piece has become the voice in my head many times throughout my life. It is one of the treasures that sits in my music crates. All my penciled notations and circled notes intact. I look at it and still can see the place my instructor looked right at me as he nailed me for a missed note or shocked me by telling me to understudy the soloist part.
Perhaps it became the wind that gave my voice life because he believed in my voice when I didn’t, and he taught me more about life than just music. Maybe it was because my mom was an alto and my role model. Maybe it was because I learned it shortly after my father died. Maybe it was because of all the stories in the Old Testament, this one has always struck a chord with me.
Whatever It was – it is my oxygen mask. It is the breath that sustains me
through all things. It is the life that Jehovah God provided to this particular pile of dust by breathing into my nostrils on day 65 years ago. It is the mask that I must continually put on before I can even contemplate helping others. So many times I think that is where we get into trouble. We think we have the oxygen mask in place. We think we don’t have to check it and make sure the oxygen is flowing. We think we’ve got it handled. But a mask without the oxygen attached isn’t much good to anyone. Not to me – and certainly – not to others I come in contact with during my daily journeys.
When I take time to read the WORD every day, I am putting my oxygen mask in place. I am breathing in the pure breath of the One who first breathed life into a pile of dust. That is the oxygen mask that I’ve been thinking about all day. That is the oxygen mask that popped into my mind as I wrote my son this morning. That is the oxygen mask that the world needs. And if you have 16 minutes I hope you will enjoy some of the oxygen below.