I belong to an outfit (CRM/NieuCommunities) that develops people. We invite skeptics to consider; we encourage seekers to follow; and we coach followers to lead. We are called to help mentor people to be who they were created to be and to do what they were divinely designed to do. But there is an inherent risk in that pursuit. We can subtly and inadvertently begin to nurture a culture which unconsciously begins to act as if "it's all about me." We can even risk becoming a people who functionally behave as if our own well-being and personal development is paramount and the mission we have been invited into is collateral.
I often ask people if the things they are doing are "life-giving." The premise is that you've got to have a life to help give a life. The image that comes to mind is the flight attendant dutifully instructing parents that in case of emergency to put on their own oxygen masks first and then to put them on their children. Makes sense. You've got to be breathing to help anybody else get air.
Beyond just the pragmatics of prioritizing life-giving actions is a solid biblical foundation. Jesus himself said, "I came that you might have life and have it to the fullest." Scriptures seem to teach us that God wants us to be full of life. But scriptures also teach us that we will find life in ways we may not have counted on or hoped for. We find it in service. In simplicity. In sacrifice. In other-centeredness. Even in death. Jesus summed up this counter-cultural pathway to life when he said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Somehow in Jesus' economy life is found by giving it away. We take in food, drink, love, and counsel in the expectation of immediately sharing it with others. We live as we live on mission.
And so as we develop people we are right to instruct them to put on their oxygen masks first. But to that counsel we need to add to do it expeditiously and with your eyes fixed on those gasping for air because this actually is an emergency.