March 15, 2006

Oxygen Masks

nce, when I was flying from one small country to another, I had an experience with an airliner’s oxygen mask. Something in the plane was amiss, my head started to feel as if it would explode, and an oxygen mask was lowered from somewhere above me. I put it on and was able to breathe until we were back on the ground, even though my head was still under extreme pressure. But, in spite of the pressure and anxiety, it was comforting to know that I had a clear line to life-giving oxygen. Soon I was back on the ground where the oxygen level was natural--divinely balanced.
The memory of this experience was triggered when I read, “We are in great need of the pure, life-giving atmosphere that nurtures and invigorates the spiritual life.”1 If we are in need of such an atmosphere, then on this sinful earth this atmosphere must not be the thing that we breathe naturally. The natural atmosphere of this world must be an impure, death-producing one.
For a moment, let your imagination fly up and see what this world might look like from God’s perspective. I think He sees it covered with a gritty, black, coal-dust atmosphere of smog (the atmosphere of sin). Unlike us, His dear children, who see just another sunny day, with maybe a few shadows.
But we know that the end result of the great controversy between God and Satan is that God will end this state of emergency, this death-producing atmosphere that kills His children, with one mighty hurricane-force wind. Everyone who is not blown away will again be able to breathe naturally the pure, life-giving atmosphere of heaven.
So, what will keep us from being blown away?
Down come the oxygen masks--the means whereby we access the pure, life-giving atmosphere of heaven.
Even before the impure, death-producing atmosphere surrounded the world, God created oxygen masks and secured them safely in the compartment above us. They have been released and are now dangling there for our use. We accept the saving grace of these masks when we reach out and slip them over our noses and mouths and breathe again “the pure, life-giving atmosphere that nurtures and invigorates the spiritual life.”
In the real world of aircraft, I imagine you could reach up, pinch the plastic tubing, and cut off or slow the flow of oxygen. But once you started to pass out, your grip would relax and the flow of oxygen would begin again.
With the spiritual oxygen masks it seems that we often pinch the tubing, and instead of our grip relaxing as we pass out to spiritual things, our grip tightens all the more. And some of us are so accustomed to the coal-dust atmosphere that we think we can stand to breathe only a tiny trickle of the pure, life-giving air at a time. Perhaps we take only one deep breath every seven days (and hyperventilate on Sabbath), or at most, a tiny trickle every morning and evening.
How sad God must be to watch us suffocate ourselves.
In 1878 Edwin Hatch captured the importance of this life-giving atmosphere when he wrote:
“Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
“Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
“Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.”2
More recently singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith summed up this concept with the words:
 “This is the air I breathe/Your holy presence living in me.
. . . /And I, I’m desperate for You /And I’m lost without You.”3
            And, in “Mary’s Song,” Christian artists sing the prayer:
“Breath of Heaven/Hold me together/Be forever near me
. . ./For You are holy/Breath of heaven.” 4
So I ask myself, What is my song going to be?
How freely do I let flow the pure, life-giving atmosphere that nurtures and invigorates my spiritual life? After all, the flight attendants always close their safety demonstrations with these words: “Please secure your own oxygen mask before trying to assist others.”
1 Ellen G. White, Our Father Cares, p. 329.
2 The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, No. 265.
Kathy Beagles is editor of junior, earliteen, and youth Bible study guides for the General Conference Sabbath School Department.