During the pre-flight protocol, flight attendants demonstrate a series of procedures that must be followed for your safety and the safety of others. One key instruction is given: “Put on your own oxygen mask first.” In the event that oxygen masks are deployed, you should put your own oxygen mask on before helping a child seated next to you. But what about “women and children first”? While that’s a good, chivalrous policy, it’s a terrible idea in this situation. If you put your child’s mask on first, you may pass out before getting your own mask on. If you put yours on first, then you will be conscious and able to assist the child beside you.
Your kids are important. Treat them with love and care. But they should not be your top priority. Your parents are important. Treat them with honor and love. But they should not be your top priority. The same goes for your extended family, your friends, your neighbors, and anyone else in your circle. Serving these people and honoring them is important, but should be a distant third on your list of priorities (yes, even your children).
Marriage is your most important earthly relationship. When you marry, the two of you become “one flesh.” If you starve your marriage, you starve yourself. Nourishing your relationship and prioritizing your mate is one of the most important things you can do each day. The only thing more important is your relationship with God.
“Put on your own oxygen mask first.” This principle is realized through two supreme priorities. First, daily seek peace through an authentic walk with your Heavenly Father. Second, deepen and enrich your marriage.
Priority #1 – Your Spiritual Walk
If you don’t eat, you won’t have energy. If you don’t fill up your car with gas, you can’t drive it. Batteries run down. Fuel gets used up. Reserves get depleted. Energy of all kinds must be replenished. Your heart is no different.
Your ability to love your spouse and treat him or her with kindness and gentleness, or with any of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) depends upon the quality and consistency of your spiritual life. If you do not regularly seek refreshment from your Heavenly Father, then your internal reserves will eventually run dry.
Your spouse is going to disappoint you. Miscommunication will happen and your needs will go unmet from time to time. When your spouse inevitably falls short of expectations, you can nag and complain or take your concerns to the Lord through prayer. Guess which one will be more successful for you? Your connection with God provides the oxygen you need to care for your spouse and for others. Prioritize accordingly.
Priority #2 – Your Relationship with your Spouse
Your second priority is not your kids. It’s not your job, your social club, or your hobby. Your extended family was critically important in shaping who you are, but they aren’t your second priority either. Your spouse – the person you pledged to love for the rest of your life – tops the list, second only to your Heavenly Father.
That might seem simple on the surface, but it comes down to time and choices. Honestly answer the following:
• In a given week, how often do you spend dedicated, one-on-one time with your spouse?
• Does your hobby take precedence over your mate?
• If you have the choice between what is convenient for you and what is convenient for your spouse, which do you tend to choose?
• Do you invest more energy in being successful at work or more energy in being a successful partner in your marriage?
• If you had to choose between doing something that blesses your mate vs doing something that blesses one of your kiddos or a close friend, which are you more likely to choose?
Every day, your choices reflect the priority you give your marriage. Like seasons, your circle of friends will change over time. Jobs will come and go. Your children will grow up and eventually move out (hopefully). Through it all, your husband or wife will be by your side. Don’t take that for granted. Pursue your partner’s heart with purpose and intensity.
Priority #3 – Your Family, Friends, and Everything Else
While relegating your children to third place may seem odd, this is actually the best gift you can give them. Their parents’ healthy relationship and a strong marriage will impact every other relationship they have throughout their lives, including their own marriages.
The health of your marriage has a profound impact on your children. If you model respectful communication and conflict resolution with honor, your children will have more successful relationships. A strong marriage provides kids with confidence, comfort, and security. Perhaps most importantly, they need to know the proper order in the home. Have you ever met a child who has been raised to believe he is the center of his parent’s world? Such a child has no perspective and no balance. Children need to know their parents’ marriage is more important than catering to their every interest or whim.
Similarly, extended family must experience what Scripture describes as “leaving father and mother” and “cleaving” to your mate (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31). Leaving and cleaving expresses God’s desire for the two of you to bond and create “one flesh.” Your family of origin is important (“Honor your father and mother” – Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2), but when you marry, you must detach from your original family and bond with your mate to create a new family.
Friends, church members, co-workers, and neighbors all fall into this third category. Loving them, investing in them, and even sacrificing for them is noble and encouraged. Yet connecting with these extended relationships must never take precedence over your marriage or your walk with God.
This is an excerpt from The Phoenix Marriage by Kyle Gabhart. Copyright ©2014 by Kyle Gabhart . Published by Equip Your Marriage Ministries. Used by permission.