Airplanes, oxygen masks, and solitude

I’ve had three experiences with airplanes in my life, and all three were quite unique.

The first time I ever went on an airplane, I was 10-years old. My family was going to Disney World for a week, and I was ecstatic. For those of you who have known me for quite some time, it’s probably not a surprise to you that I was really sick that morning. So as my family was trying to enjoy our flight to Florida, I was throwing up in those convenient little white bags from the seat in front of me. I can vividly remember the flight attendant that kept offering me cranberry juice to help, and me thinking to myself, “dude, no. Just, no.”

The second time was when I went on a mission trip to Puerto Rico after I graduated from high school. The flight to Puerto Rico wasn’t the challenge; rather, it was the return trip. Again, I woke up sick the morning that we were returning home. With the distraction that I call my stomach, I eventually discovered I had lost my boarding pass right before entering the plane.

Enter mass chaos as my youth pastor and I ran back and forth across the whole airport in search of the boarding pass that I had somehow misplaced. Spoiler alert: I made it home to the U.S.. You can read how God worked in incredible ways during this trip here.

The last time I went on an airplane was this past summer, as I was flying by myself for the first time. I had an internship in Colorado for the summer, and surprisingly, everything went smoothly that time.

The reason I began this post with airplane stories is because of a safety measure. Should an incident occur while you’re flying and oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you must put your own mask on first. People’s instincts are to first assist their children or whoever they may be sitting by, yet this is dangerous. As oxygen levels drop due to the plane’s altitude change, passengers can lose consciousness quickly. And if you pass out because you didn’t put your mask on first, you won’t be of much help in assisting others.

To some extent, I can’t help but compare that to our lives as Christians. Have you ever become so focused on serving others, that you realize you’ve been neglecting your personal time in communion with God?

Don’t get me wrong, serving others is important. Whether it’s volunteering at your church, through a Christian organization, going on a mission trip, personally serving those within your community, or boldly sharing the Good News, God can use these measures in incredible ways. Yet, our desire to serve others can unintentionally lead us to forget that we need to be renewed by His Word. Although God can use us in any way, how much more productive we can be for the Kingdom if we take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually!

I can’t think of a better example of this than Jesus himself. We can see this in different places throughout the New Testament, but I want to highlight these particular passages:

Mark 6: 45-46 “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.”

Luke 4:42 – “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place…”

Luke 5: 15-16: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sickness. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 6: 12 – “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

I don’t believe these passages need further explanation. Simply, Jesus sought solitude to spend time in prayer. And if Jesus, the Savior of the world (who is perfect) needed time in solitude, then how much more do we need that time with God?

Seek those moments of solitude for prayer. Determine when your Sabbath is, and stick with it. Read the Bible. Not only will you draw closer to God during these times of fellowship, but you will feel refreshed. And with the ministry that you’ve been pouring so much of yourself into, you will be renewed and able to serve to the fullest of your abilities.

Hard work and service are important. But so is rest.

To my fellow workaholics: we can do this. It will be hard to stop the busyness of our lives while we watch our “To Do” lists grow. But if we can follow Christ’s example, then how much more rewarding will our times of service be! Just like oxygen masks in an airplane, in order to most-effectively help others, we must first ensure that we are helping ourselves.

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