Totem Poles

“Remember, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can put it on anyone else.” This was the second text I received from a very dear red-haired friend, moments after I updated her on Brewer’s condition just two weeks ago after he suffered a stroke. I am always grateful for WISE friends that God has placed in my life to encourage me and offer healthy advice in “life storms.” She knew good and well, if I didn’t take care of myself, then I could not take care of anyone else. Let me share the importance of this advice as it relates to our spiritual health.

When I first started going to Christian counseling, I felt as though I needed oxygen. Getting “air” for myself had become very hard. On my second counseling visit, I was asked to create my personal “totem pole”. This was, essentially, a list of my priorities from greatest to least importance. So easy, I thought, just six spots to fill. It went something like this…

1. God
2. Bill
3. The Kids
4. Family
5. Friends
6. Church

As I looked at the totem pole sketched onto the counselor’s dry erase board, that list that I had just created, I had to confess that my kids and my husband were really in the SAME spot. They shared second place in my list of greatest priorities. After talking with my counselor, Steve, he shared that Biblically my totem pole was 80% correct. However, after talking with me a while and listening to the things I was sharing, he suggested that it probably looked a little more like this…

1. Bill/The Kids
2. God
3. Family
4. Friends
5. Church

He then said, “There are two things very wrong on this totem pole. First, if God is second, He may as well be last. Secondly, YOU ARE NOT ON HERE AT ALL!” He asked me to take some time on my own to ask God if this was correct. He advised me to take what he saw from what I had written and shared, and filter it through God’s hands by praying about it. As I left the counselor’s office, I didn’t feel like I even needed to pray. I knew immediately that he had made the correct diagnosis. This “darkness” that prevailed in my life was because God was second and my immediate family was first. I also remember being very surprised to hear that I was supposed to be on my own totem pole, as one of my greatest priorities.

The next week when I returned to counseling, I said, ”It is very clear to me now that God was second, but where in the heck am I suppose to be?” He laughed and said, “You are supposed to be “#2!” I was shocked. I would never have guessed that I should be on there at all, let alone in second place. He proceeded to share that in life, it has to be God first and then me. I started to understand…just like my red-headed friend was saying..”put the oxygen mask on yourself first…” So it is with God, I need to be second connecting directly with God for “His oxygen to receive His wisdom,will, and direction.” That’s God desire for everyone not just me. He explained that no other human being or thing should come between my relationship with God, even my husband. He said, “Stop and think, your husband and kids are human, not God. They are as capable of sin as you are. God has to have first place. He is holy and He will never tell you to sin against your family. He will never tell you to do wrong. You must first and foremost hear from God and allow Him to direct you in all things. By connecting directly with God, I am able to give my best to all others down the “totem pole,” just like the oxygen mask..If I am breathing well, then I am healthy enough to help others.

I was diagnosed as a “people pleaser”, also known as an enabler! I was allowing the voices of others to be louder than the voice of God. That is where the darkness was creeping into my life. I was so far away from the “light!” As counseling continued for me, I realized that “hearing” God had become so distant because I was not even on the “pole”. I knew I had a lot of work to do. I was in a major “deficit”. I was “smothering” from a lack of God! Working hard at being a “recovering people pleaser” and making sure God is first, has been a long road. It has required me to spend exorbitant amounts of quiet time with the Lord in order to oxidize myself with HIM. Learning to resist the “urge” to please people and do exactly what God is telling me to do has not always been easy. It was so NOT me! It was contradictory to how I had lived a great portion of my life thus far.

I have had to become “comfortable being uncomfortable” – in a MAJOR way. Often times, it has required me to do the exact opposite of my “old nature”. Since I have been obedient, even when it was the most difficult, I have experienced God in the most refreshing and assuring ways. He has SHOWN UP and SHOWN OUT to me. He has encouraged me. He has confirmed to me, over and over again, that it was indeed Him that I had heard…even when I was going against the desires of the people I love the most! He will do the same for you! I haven’t been perfect as I have traveled this road, and I have bumped and stumbled along the way, but God has been faithful to continue His work in me. The best thing I have done in the past decade of my life was go to Christian counseling and do two things… put God first on my “totem pole” and put myself second!

My relationship with God has sky-rocketed! My thirst for HIM and to obey HIM is STRONG! It’s so strong, in fact, that the “voice” of others is now “muffled” in comparison to God’s voice. The frowns of others, the rejection, or even the exclusion by some doesn’t phase me like it used to! Being able to “distinguish” God’s voice above others and above our enemy, Satan, is what I crave the most. If that keeps me in my “quiet time chair” longer or a “state of constant prayer” all day everyday, then I am willing to continue to listen. I am a sinner. I sin everyday, but my deepest desire is to please God first and foremost. The restructuring of the placement of my priorities on my “totem pole” allows me to recognize sin quicker and repent because HIS voice is CLEAR! HIs love unconditional and HIs ways are perfect!

Point of the post:

God is a jealous God. He says in His word…

”To have no other God’s before Him” (Exodus 20:3)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.” (Deut 6:5)
” No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.“ (Matt. 6:24)

IF you are experiencing “darkness” in your life, or a lack of “oxygen”, you could be like me. God could be second, you might not be on your own “totem pole”, or both could be true. I had no clue! Ask God today, and filter it through HIS hands by praying about it, “What does my “totem” pole look like?” It could bring amazing “Oxygen” TO YOUR LIFE and Your breathing will be steady and not labored.

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