When I was a young Christian we were taught this acronym: J.O.Y. (Jesus, Others, You) spells JOY. Jesus should be first in your life; then put others ahead of yourself and last, but not least (well, maybe least) you. Do this and you will have joy in your life. “Joy, deep in your heart…Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, deep”… well, you get the picture. It works well as an acronym and a campfire song but not one that I necessarily agree with any more.
I remember sitting in an airplane many years ago and listening to the safety instructions that are part of every preflight ritual. When they came to the instructions regarding the use of the oxygen masks I had a negative reaction. The flight attendant said that in event of an emergency the masks will fall from the compartment up above and that we should immediately strap it on to our face and begin breathing the oxygen that was being pumped into it. My thought was: “How selfish! Shouldn’t we think of others first and give our masks to them in order to let them take in whatever air they could get to help them to live? We should be giving our oxygen mask to other people and help them at the expense of our own lives. It’s better for me to die and let them live.”..It may not be so joyful for me at that point but it does live out the J.O.Y. acronym! But then I began to understand why you put the oxygen mask on yourself: So that you can actually be useful and helpful in not only taking care of yourself but assisting others who may be in distress. Its better for everyone if you take care of yourself first so that you are not taking help away from someone who actually needs it. I learned, that on the plane the law of the land (or air) was really Jesus, then you and then others (J.Y.O.)
J.Y.O actually works best in our lives, not just on airplanes. Jesus comes first and worshipping Him and seeking His kingdom is our highest priority. It keeps everything in life in perspective and our motivations pure. But after Jesus, who is next? I have begun to realize that I need to focus on caring for myself before I can effectively serve others. I need to be spending time with God in prayer and in His Word; I need to be having times of quietness, reflection and solitude. I need to be able to set boundaries, to be honest and genuine and be free to express my wants and needs. I need to rest my body, take Sabbath, make sure I am eating well and exercising on a regular basis. I need to be investing in my spouse and my family, in the relationships that bring me life. If I do those things well then I will be spiritually, emotionally and physically fit to serve others. People will be getting my best, not my leftovers. They will be receiving from a well that is overflowing rather than one that is running dry. They will have someone whose relationship with Christ is current, whose mind is sharp, who has energy to spend and who is able to be attentive and present and able to give their best.
It seems that most of society feels overworked, overstressed and barely hanging on. They don’t have time and barely have energy. Yet they are still giving, sharing, serving and extending themselves. But the crash is coming. It will come emotionally, it will come physically, it will come spiritually. Don’t be mistaken…the crash, sooner or later, will come. Unless we begin to change our priorities. It seems paradoxical but the better we take care of ourselves the more effective we will be for others. And the more joy we will experience.
Maybe the best way to spell joy is J.Y.O. (Jesus, You, Others).
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?