Oxygen for Your Soul, First!

We hear the instructions every time we fly, the flight attendant explaining the oxygen masks that will deploy in an emergency. If we’re traveling with a child, we’re told to first put on our oxygen mask before we help the child put on theirs. For only the first time and then for only an instant, the instructions seem wrong. Of course, it makes total sense; you can’t help the child if you’ve already passed out from oxygen deprivation!

By God’s grace we pastors/preachers provide a breath of fresh air every Sunday, and oftentimes the days in between, for our parishioners. We’re conduits of sorts of the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit. Our calling is to be used of the Lord to breathe greater spiritual life into those under our pastoral care.

We all need oxygen for the soul, those of us who pastor and those we pastor. Oxygenating souls, increasing the spiritual metabolic rate, moving people beyond spiritual lethargy, helping to prevent Holy Spirit deprivation is what we’re about as pastors. We’re even called upon to resuscitate those who are drifting dangerously close to being unresponsive to God or unconscious of God.

The reality is that we can end up so exhausted and winded ourselves, our own souls being Holy Breath deprived, that we’re little good for helping others take in the Breath of God. We need to apply the instructions of the flight attendant to our ministry!

It may seem like proper Biblical sacrifice to allow ourselves to be winded and soul-depleted of the Holy Breath of God’s Spirit for the benefit of others, but it’s not. Any scripture about self-sacrifice we might attempt to use is bad exegesis, using it as a proof text to back up our misguided efforts. Even Jesus took time away from the crowds and from His disciples too, spending much time alone in prayer. Not surprising that it’s been said prayer is oxygen for the soul; Jesus lived the principle. We do well if we do the same.

Taking time off, days off, vacations, study leaves, taking time each day to be alone with God to pray, even more than once a day, all are ways to catch our breath, the Breath of the Holy Spirit. The flight attendants have it right. We should inhale the oxygen of the soul for ourselves first, then we’ll be in a good position to help provide oxygen for the soul to those God has providentially placed around us.

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