Should You Care About Your Past?

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Step 4: Do Your Past And Present Circumstances Matter?

How much weight should you place on the things that have happened to you in your past? How should you pay attention to your physical body and your particular vulnerabilities? What does your brain have to do with change?

Consider the following people:

Tom was born with a photographic memory but struggles in social settings. He tends to miss social cues and can say things that seem awkward.

Susan grew up in a very volatile home, never feeling safe. She was also in an abusive relationship while in college. She struggles to feel safe around other people and is on edge when she is in a large crowd or strangers.

Mike was the youngest of 5 siblings and has never experienced a day where he felt unsafe. He has always succeeded in whatever he does. Some say that he can be insensitive to others who are struggling.

Johann was raised in a very strict, legalistic, religious home. Whenever he would fail to live up to certain standards, he experienced guilt and shame. Whenever he crosses paths with a religious person, he becomes very angry and agitated.

These are just a few examples of past circumstances that have shaped these individuals. One of the most critical things in the change process is knowing your story and being aware of the good and difficult things that have happened to you. In chapter 4 of my book, Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change That Lasts, I provide some basic but essential categories for understanding your own story as well as the story of those you are called to care for. Here they are:

You

You

You

This category includes your physical body, your brain and your gender. Every person is utterly unique. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we all experience life through our own perceptions.

Your Baggage

Your Baggage

Your Baggage

This captures all the things that have happened to you throughout your life—both blessing and suffering. Every person has their own story to tell. We all have unique events in our lives as well as relationships with other people that have been good and bad. Where did you grow up? How often did you move? What political/cultural/socio-economic context shaped you? What kind of exposure to religion was present in your life? How has your ethnicity impacted you for good or ill? It is important to consider these things as you seek to grow and change.

The Terrain

The Terrain

The Terrain

The terrain are the things that are currently happening in your life—your present big-picture situation. This can include things like your age and stage of life. As you age, loss becomes a greater reality. Loss of loved ones. Loss of a career. Loss of health. It also includes your work and family life. What unique larger blessings and sufferings are currently at play in your life at the present moment?

The Weather

The Weather

The Weather

These are the small micro-moments of daily life, which change throughout any given day and affect your mood. These little moments are often called “triggers.” They trigger us to respond in the present but often with a past history that is connected to the experience. If I grew up in a very critical home, I may be more sensitive and react disproportionately when I perceive that someone has been critical of me.

So What Do You Do With all of This Information?

There are two wrong ways to handle this information: 1. Ignore it completely as if it doesn’t matter. 2. Consider them as the determining cause of your responses to life and conclude that you can never change.

The wise, compassionate and helpful way to handle this information is to acknowledge the things that have happened to you and realize that you have been shaped by many good and difficult things in your life. While these things matter, they are not your identity. This view opens the door to experience the compassion of Jesus in your sufferings and have hope that he can and will help you to grow in grace. If you listen to someone else’s story and look for these details, it will make you more compassionate as you seek to support and encourage them.

You can read a more thorough explanation of these in Chapter 4 of Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change That Lasts.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Finding Grace in Loss and Transition

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Recently, I had the great opportunity to share time with Corey Pelton of FishFoodMedia to discuss grief and how God has helped me in seasons of transition and loss of loved ones. In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the comfort he received from Christ as though it belonged not just to him but others. This is the economy of God in seasons of trial. His desire is for you to find deep comfort in the grace and mercy of Jesus. As that grace and mercy is experienced, it then becomes a gift that we can offer to others.

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (J. B. Phillips)

Listen to the episode here:

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Thoughts on a Funeral at Christmas

In the midst of a season of the anticipated appearing of the Son of God, I attended a funeral where we reflected upon the sudden disappearing of a minister and friend. These two feel juxtaposed. But maybe not. Maybe the two are connected in some glorious way.

This funeral was unique in its apparent tragedy. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 64, just as he was retiring from pastoral ministry to begin a new season of mentoring young church planters. This was his true passion. Why now?

While the family mourned the loss of their husband, father, and grandfather, I left sorrowful yet deeply edified at the same time. That may seem a bit insensitive, considering what the family was experiencing. But I think a good funeral should do exactly that. And, knowing the family, I suspect that they might be encouraged by the impact of the funeral on non-family attendees. I am confident, as this pastor watched on with that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, he was heartened as well.

What stood out?

1.     The auditorium the church rented was filled to capacity with hundreds of people, many who did not attend the church he pastored. His ministry reached far beyond the four walls of the local church he led.

2.     On the Friday night, just after his death on Thursday, I was one of several hundred members of the local church who gathered to mourn and share some thoughts about his ministry. What struck me was who came forward to share. To a person, they shared how this man made them feel welcomed and loved. It was eerily Christ-like in the way he ministered to all people without favoritism.

3.     The local church he poured his life into mobilized the care team to provide meals and childcare, plan a glorious funeral and host a large reception in a short few days. In addition, other churches provided volunteers so those who were members of this pastor's church could attend the funeral.

4.     The participants on stage were made up of a dozen younger pastors who said they had entered ministry because of him. These young men were just a representation of many more pastors and church planters who were in ministry because of this pastor but were not able to attend.

5.     The service began with hope, moved through moments of grief, punctuated by humor, and then ended with comfort, hope, and renewed tenacity to be about the work of the kingdom.

6.     The pastor and his legacy were rightly celebrated but everyone connected this legacy to someone other than the pastor. This someone was this pastor’s Redeemer and King. We had an opportunity to get a glimpse of Jesus through the life of this man.

7.     At least 2 of the funeral participants confessed that they had been unkind to this pastor and went on to speak of how he had offered forgiveness and grace.

8.     In the midst of the celebration, the pastor’s foibles, sins and weaknesses were mentioned appropriately but not in a way that overshadowed God’s gracious work in his life. I left sensing that he was a normal human being, not a super saint that was beyond reach.

As a pastor, I have officiated many funerals and attended even more. For the reasons above, I left strengthened in my faith instead of questioning why God would take a pastor in his prime. I woke up the next day thinking about areas in my life where I need to personally grow in grace and how I might best use the gifts God has given me to point others to Christ.

5 Comments

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.