Emotions and Growth in Grace

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Step 3, Part 2: Understanding and Managing Emotions

What is the role of emotions in the Christian life? What are you to make of your emotional world? Is the Christian life a life of emotions or should we avoid them? Before we answer these very important questions, we must start with a more basic question; "What are Emotions?"

In his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ (1995), Daniel Goleman defines emotions this way:

All emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us. The very root of the word emotion is motere, the Latin verb “to move,” plus the prefix “e-” to connote “move away,” suggesting that a tendency to act is implicit in every emotion (p.6)

A word about what I refer to under the rubric emotion, a term whose precise meaning psychologists and philosophers have quibbled over for more than a century. In its most literal sense, The Oxford English Dictionary defines emotion as “any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, passion: any vehement or excited mental state.” I take emotion to refer to a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act. There are hundreds of emotions, along with their blends, variations, mutations, and nuances. Indeed, there are many more subtleties of emotion than we have words for (p.289).

In other words, emotions are what propel us into action. They are a vital part of what it means to be human. Without emotion, we would cease to act. While Goleman says that the nuances of emotions are endless, there are a variety of "families" of emotions that we are able to identify. Here are 10:

1. Anger: fury, outrage, resentment, wrath, exasperation, indignation, vexation, acrimony, animosity, annoyance, irritability, hostility, and, perhaps at the extreme, pathological hatred and violence.

2. Sadness: grief, sorrow, cheerlessness, gloom, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, dejection, despair, and, when pathological, severe depression.

3. Fear: anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, concern, consternation, misgiving, wariness, qualm, edginess, dread, fright, terror (phobia and panic).

4. Enjoyment: happiness, joy, relief, contentment, bliss, delight, amusement, pride, sensual pleasure, thrill, rapture, gratification, satisfaction, euphoria, whimsy, ecstasy (mania).

5. Love: acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affinity, devotion, adoration, infatuation, agape.

6. Surprise: shock, astonishment, amazement, wonder.

7. Disgust: contempt, disdain, scorn, abhorrence, aversion, distaste, revulsion.

8. Shame: guilt, embarrassment, chagrin, remorse, humiliation, regret, mortification, and contrition.

9. Inadequacy: helpless, inferior, powerless, incompetent, useless, inept, mediocre.

10. Confusion: distracted, rattled, baffled, bewildered, mystified, flustered, perplexed, jarred, puzzled, jolted.

According to research, you have to be able to identify and name emotions when you experience them. As you do this, you are more able to manage your emotions and empathize with others.

Emotions and Your Brain

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Emotions are formed in the limbic region of the brain. This is the mid-region. Decision-making happens in the neocortex. The goal is to regulate one’s emotions so that the limbic region can work in tandem with the neocortex. When this happens, one is exercising what is often referred to as “wise mind.”

The challenge for anyone is the fact that you are feeling before you are thinking. Because of that, we are very susceptible to an “emotional high-jacking.” If you don’t know what that is, just take a moment to remember the last time you did or said something and later asked, “Why did I do that?” The goal, therefore, is to slow down and become more mindful of your emotions so that you can manage them well.

Scripture is a book that is very much at home with emotions. The Psalms are the most obvious place to look for them. You will see most if not all of the 10 listed above. All of them can be expressed in helpful and wise ways or unhelpful and unwise ways. They can be expressed in such a way that builds others up or tears someone down. The challenge is managing them wisely. Notice how the Psalmist expresses a negative emotion like sadness and loneliness in Psalm 88:18,

You have taken from me friend and neighbor—-darkness is my closest friend.

Immediately after that Psalm ends, Psalm 89:1 begins with a positive emotion of joy,

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.

What a profound shift from negative to positive and both are expressed in wise, helpful and godly ways. The Christian life is not a life of rational stoicism nor is it one where we are simply led by our emotions. God has made us with a brain that does both. And we see this in our very human Savior, Jesus. He was acquainted with deep anguish and grief throughout his short life. He was also one to celebrate and enjoy a party as is seen at the wedding in Cana (John 2).

How are you doing with identifying emotions in your life? Perhaps you could be more mindful of them as you go throughout your day. As you do, take moments to record your emotions and identify them as carefully as possible. This is a very important aspect of growing in wisdom and grace.

For more on the role of emotions in the Christian life, purchase the 5 session video workshop as an online course by following this link: ONLINE COURSES

Comment

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.

Personality Assessments: Are They Helpful?

As we continue to think about the change process, one step that is often overlooked is someone’s personality. It is important to understand your own as well as other’s because there are certain things that do not change. In fact, growth in grace will take shape along the contours of your distinct personality. This is where personality assessments can be helpful. Consider the following example:

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Step 3, Part 1: Understanding Personality

Joseph and Stuart

Joseph and Stuart were business partners. Stuart was great at sales and Joseph handled all the systems to keep up with the data: the clients, income, expenses, and profit. The two of them worked well together for the first five years and business was booming.

But something started to change. Whereas they used to always have each other’s back, over time the relationship began to crumble. Little resentments and frustrations became more and more pronounced. Joseph would get frustrated with Stuart because he didn’t appreciate all the hard work Joseph was doing in the office. Stuart began to get frustrated with Joseph because he never seemed very excited when Stuart landed a new client. Stuart was loud and funny, and the life of the party, while Joseph was more reserved and would often go unnoticed. Resentment grew. Several years later, Joseph tried to push Stuart out of the business and they eventually wound up in a lawsuit.

Do you see what was happening? Joseph and Stuart have different strengths that add value to the business and make it successful. But the problem comes when each person over-values their own strengths and under-values the other person’s strengths. Then they start to see the other person’s strengths as weaknesses. This leads to uncharitable attitudes, which lead to broken relationships.

What personality assessments seek to do is to make an individual aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and also the strengths and weaknesses of others so that they can work better together. Understanding leads to harmony, while misunderstanding leads to hurtful and potentially destructive conflict.

Most personality assessments are essentially measuring similar things. For example:

  • Are you an introvert or extrovert?

  • Do you prefer accomplishing tasks with people or being with people to accomplish a task?

  • How do you relate to others in groups and one on one?

  • How quickly do you make decision?

  • Are you a very structured person?

  • How are you motivated?

  • What is your style of conflict?

  • What kinds of things are you interested in?

  • How do you relax and recharge?

These assessments can be used wisely by Christians to understand themselves and others better. After all, our personality and emotional makeup are part of the unique and wonderful way that we have been created by God. As such, much of our personality and emotional makeup is present from birth, but they can also be shaped as we grow up.

The Bible celebrates personality by painting pictures of very unique individuals. Consider the apostle Peter. Whenever Jesus asks a question, Peter is often the one who speaks up. He’s the first disciple to blurt out that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16 v 13-20). He’s the only disciple who initially refuses to let Jesus wash his feet (John 13 v 6-9). In the Garden of Gethsemane, he’s adamant that he will lay down his life for Jesus—but it turns out he’s all talk (v 31-38). Through all his faults and failings, we get the distinct impression from the Gospel accounts that Peter is an expressive, outgoing guy!

Understanding personality could have helped Joseph and Stuart

Joseph and Stuart are very different. Joseph is an introvert and needs time to focus so that he can get his work done. Stuart, on the other hand, is an extrovert and is drawn to people. These differences made their business successful. Stuart left the office and spent time with people selling the product, while Joseph stayed in the office and kept up with the details. Joseph and Stuart are stronger and weaker at different things, but there is nothing inherently sinful in the way that they get things done.

However, at some point Joseph and Stuart started being critical of each other’s weaknesses, and feeling like their strengths weren’t being appreciated by the other. Their differences led to misunderstanding, which led to uncharitable perceptions and attitudes, and in turn led to sinful pride, criticism and defensiveness. Had Joseph and Stuart known how their differences were a good thing, they could have avoided the conflict.

Now, if Joseph and Stuart were going to continue to work together, they would need to admit and confess their sinful attitudes and actions towards each other and forgive one another. But they would also need to understand their different personalities, strengths and ways of getting things done in order to move forward.

The truth is that sometimes we are too quick to go on a sin hunt in another person’s life when what we are dealing with are simple but important differences. We’ve all been uniquely wired by God. Understanding our own and other people's personalities will help us to remain humble and grateful for one another. It can also remind us that growth in grace will take shape along the contours of your distinct personality.

For more on personality and emotional intelligence, purchase the 5 session video workshop as an online course by following this link: ONLINE COURSES

Comment

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.

The Accidental Counselor

Pastor Tim: The Accidental Counselor

Imagine that it is Sunday morning and you have just finished preaching a sermon. You have spent countless hours preparing all week to teach for 30-40 minutes. As you stand at the back of the church and greet people, someone approaches you and thanks you for your teaching. You thank them for saying so and you move on to the next person. The only problem is that the person who just thanked you isn’t moving. They say something like this:

What you taught today was very helpful for me. But I still have so many questions. Can we get together sometime this week so we can talk further?

At that point, you begin to panic on the inside. You are a bit baffled that the sermon did not answer all of the person’s questions but you agree to meet with them. As the meeting draws near, you begin to get a little nervous. You wonder what questions will be asked and you struggle to know what you will say if you don’t have good answers to their questions.

And then the appointed time to meet arrives. In walks your congregant and out come the questions.

Pastor Tim, I really enjoyed your sermon on worry this past Sunday! Thank you for your preparation and careful exegesis. Your sermon caused me to think more carefully about my lifelong struggle with anxiety. Over the past several months, my struggle has intensified and I don’t know what to do. I have recently started having panic attacks and find myself getting very agitated when I am around large groups of people. I have even started avoiding events where I know there will be a large crowd. I wonder if you can help me?

With the questions now on the table, you begin to emphasize your three points from your sermon hoping that a reminder will do the trick. It doesn’t! Your friendly congregant has actually taken notes and can almost preach your sermon for you! They start probing for more detail. I know your points from your sermon but can you help me more with my struggle with anxiety? The issue could be a number of other struggles: depression, anger, addiction, marriage, parenting, being single or single again.

Deer In Headlights

With that one question, you feel like a deer in headlights. You don’t know what to do. You maintain a calm exterior while inside you are struggling with your own anxiety. Once again, you recite the passage you preached hoping that will make things better. Once again, your congregant cuts you off in mid sentence to let you know that they remember the passage but it still seems too difficult to apply to the specifics of their struggle with worry.

Why I Wrote Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts

The illustration above was repeated many times in my own life as a pastor. I would preach a sermon that was relatively helpful for someone and they would approach me asking for more guidance. Like you, I would get nervous because I did not know what else to do. This is precisely why I wrote Unstuck: A Nine Step Journey to Change that Lasts. I wanted to provide a pathway for the pastor or a friend to walk down with the person who is struggling.

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Hope and Direction

In the book, there are 9 steps that are essential for change to take place in your life. The 9 steps take you on a journey towards greater Self-Awareness, Gospel-Awareness and Other-Awareness. Each chapter ends with a practical application. Here you can see the diagram that illustrates the path to change.

Step One—Get Grounded: In Christ

Whenever you are struggling with a temptation or some experience of suffering, the tendency is to make the struggle your fundamental identity. For example; My name is Dave and I am a divorced person. Or, My name is Olivia and I am a depressed or anxious person. If that is your starting point, it will lead to a distorted identity and impact your ability to move forward due to the guilt and shame associated with those issues. Instead, Dave and Olivia are both children of the living God, in Christ, forgiven, loved, empowered by the Spirit, a new creation in Christ…..who struggle with anxiety or have been through the challenging experience of divorce.

Grounding your identity in Christ is the first step on the journey to change. It has been true in my own life and in the lives of those I counsel. As you reflect on this first step along the pathway to change, take a moment to give thanks that your mis-steps, sins, weaknesses, and sufferings do not define who you are, the risen Christ does!

2 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.

"Unstuck" Available for Pre-Order!

This book has been brewing in my mind for over a decade.

The ideas were forming as I counseled, traveled and spoke to churches across the globe. My primary goal was to find a way to encourage people that change was possible and what they needed was a way of connecting the lines between their daily struggles and their relationship with God.

In the fall or 2016, I was invited to teach a class on worry at Carriage Lane Presbyterian Church. Near the middle of the class, I had been mulling over Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and the thought occurred to give the class “steps” they could take to grow in grace. Soon after that class, a series of blogs began to take form that eventually shaped this book.

In late 2017, the final stage came as I reconnected with The Good Book Company and pitched the idea of a book on change that was short, accessible yet nuanced enough to capture more complex struggles. They accepted and provided an excellent editor, Rachel Jones, who gave wise feedback through every iteration of each chapter.

My hope is that this short book would be read by individuals, couples, families and churches. But I would also love to see it used in one-on-one discipleship relationships, as well as a foundational supplement for counselors as you seek to help others grow in grace.

Thank you to each and every person who had a shaping influence on this book.

Tim Lane

Comment

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.

How to Grow in Grace: Step Eight

Let me refresh your memory so that you know where we are in this series on change. Here are the steps that have been posted so far:

  1. Look to Christ
  2. Look for Evidence of the Spirit’s Work in Your Life
  3. Rightly Pay Attention to Your Circumstances
  4. Identify Unproductive Coping Strategies and Ungodly Responses
  5. Ask the “Why?” and “What?” Questions
  6. Remember Change is All About Relationship
  7. Experience Internal Transformation

Step eight focuses on how internal transformation produces noticeable fruit in your life that is the exact opposite of sinful and unproductive behaviors. But before we go there, we have to return to where I left off!

In the last blog, I used an illustration of how internal change happens as you relate to God at a very personal and practical level. “God, I am struggling with this again and I need your grace, power and wisdom to respond differently.” That is the practical cry of faith and repentance that begins the change process, which evidences itself in new and different responses to the pressures of life. It is a critical pivot that is intensely relational. It is more than a technique or a mind trick. It is relating to God based upon what Father, Son and Spirit have done and are doing in our behalf to bring about real change.

Last Blog

Here is the end of the story I was recounting in the last blog. It is a true story of me stomping up the stairs to confront my daughter in anger but slowly experiencing internal change in light of God’s grace:

As I was relating to God on the basis of I Corinthians 1:30, something began to happen. The allure of earthly peace, comfort and respect began to lose its attractiveness and charm. Instead, Jesus in all of his grace and power began to loom larger on the horizon of my gaze. New things began to fill my heart and I found myself worshiping and thanking God for his kindness to me. The irritation and anger began to dissipate. It was being replaced with joy, gratitude, patience, empathy and love. You might argue that I was experiencing deep renewal at the heart level as I engaged in deep repentance (turning away from peace, comfort and respect) and faith (turning to Christ and his loving-kindness).

As I turned the corner, I found myself walking calmly up the second flight of stairs! The grace of Jesus was changing my behavior at the level of how I used my legs and feet to walk up a flight of stairs! Another miraculous thing happened as I approached my daughter’s door. Rather than using my fist to firmly hit the door in anger, I was able to pivot my hand and simply tap on the door with my knuckles.

This simple illustration from my own life represents the micro-moments of change. It is in these seemingly simple moments of life where change, growth in grace, and our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit must become real. If we can’t relate to God in the more mundane moments of life, we will not relate to him when the more significant moments arise.

The process of internal change is a mystery at one level and something that we clearly participate in at another. In my next blog, I will tell you what transpired right after I tapped on my daughter’s door…...

So What Happened Next?

Step Eight: Move Out in New Obedience and Service

Immediately after tapping on my daughter’s door I was able to say in a calm voice, “How are you doing and would you like to talk?” An amazing change had transpired in me. My body language, tone of voice, choice of words and how I knocked on the door had been radically altered. The drama of redemption had played out in my life and my daughter had no idea that she was being rescued from me because I was being rescued from myself…by God’s gracious help!

There are so many other options that could have played out that day. I could have easily remained offended and angry, even using Bible verses to justify my unrighteous anger. It could have sounded like this,

  • Angry comment #1: “Children should obey their parents in the Lord! That’s what Ephesians 6:1 says. Open this door right now!”
  • Angry comment #2: “Have you forgotten the 5th commandment that says you are to honor your parents? If you don’t open this door right now, there will be serious consequences!”
  • Angry comment #3: “How dare you slam doors and stomp up stairs in this house. I work hard to provide a roof over your head and a comfortable place to live. You need to think about that the next time you come in this house upset at me!”
  • Angry comment #4: “Don’t you ever enter this house again and dismiss my kind gestures and greetings. That is completely inappropriate and will not be tolerated going forward! Do you hear me!”

Have you ever found yourself thinking and saying things like this? You can tell that I have! These are manipulative, ungodly statements. Only the grace and kindness of God can melt a proud parent’s heart and utterly change their speech. Thankfully, that is what happened on this occasion and continues to happen on many occasions.

A New Situation!

As soon as those calm words came out of my mouth my daughter responded in a way that might surprise and frustrate you. She said, “Go away! I don’t want to talk to anyone, not even you!”

Wow! Now I was faced with a new situation. How would I respond to her response? Would I become self-righteous on the heels of my transformation? “How can she act that way towards me, especially after I was so godly!” It almost sounds funny, doesn’t it? Thankfully, I was able to respond in a quiet manner with these words: “That’s fine, if you want to talk, I’ll be downstairs. Dinner will be ready in about an hour.”

I then proceeded to calmly and quietly walk down the stairs and help my wife with dinner. At this point, it felt like everything was over, but it wasn’t. About one hour later, my daughter came down the stairs and joined us for dinner. She seemed to be in a better place, herself. After dinner, as we were cleaning up, I was able to ask her about her day at school.

As she shared with me, I began to understand why she had entered the house earlier that day in an agitated, angry way. She began to tell me about a few friends who had said some harsh things about her that hurt her feelings. In other words, she had a “mean girl” day at school. In addition, I was aware that she was very self-conscious about her skin. She was experiencing normal changes, but the result was frustration and insecurity about her appearance. These two things alone were enough to help me see what was going on.

Practical Ministry/Service Options

In the practical context of relationships, the apostle Paul says this in I Thessalonians 5:14,

And we urge you to warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak.

In this short verse, Paul outlines three ministry options that are based upon the needs of the other person.

  1. Warn the idle: Warning is needed when someone is in clear disobedience to one of God’s clear commands. In Paul’s context, it was probably those who were not going to work because they believed Jesus was coming back any day and soon. If you read Paul’s letter, he kindly but firmly instructs them to go to work. See 4:11.
  2. Encourage the timid: Encouragement is needed when someone is fearful or anxious. In Paul’s context, these are people who have lost loved ones and they are anxious about them. Paul encourages them by teaching them about what will happen to Christians who die. He calms their fears by encouraging them. See 4:13-18.
  3. Help the weak: Help is needed for those who are struggling in significant ways with their past addictions. In Paul’s context, these were believers who had come out of sexually promiscuous lifestyles and were struggling to break completely free from their past. They needed someone to walk with them on a daily basis. The word “help” literally means “cling to them.” Put your arms around them and help them on a daily basis. See 4:1-8.

In light of these three ministry options, which 1 or 2 did my daughter most need? If you think 2 and 3, you are right. She needed encouragement and help. In this case, her dismissal of me when she came in the door and her lack of interest in talking with me once I reached the top of the stairs were not expressions of high-handed sin that needed confrontation. Rather, they were expressions of fear and weakness. It would be easy to miss this and move into confrontation and warning. That would not be serving according to the person’s need.

A Larger Perspective

You may be thinking that this is a nice story, but what’s the big deal? We all struggle with anger and impatience. But let me help you examine that thought.

Imagine if my daughter grew up in a family where her father was always dropping the hammer. For 18 years! Imagine, though, if she grew up in a family where her father was growing in grace and showing humility and patience, albeit imperfectly. For 18 years! These little moments may seem inconsequential, but not when you view them within the larger perspective of months and years. These two father/daughter relationships may not look that different early on, but they look radically different over the course of many years. That is the larger perspective we need to have when we consider the process of growth in grace. Every little moment counts!

Conclusion

This blog series has ended in a very practical place. How does a renewed love for God translate into the way a father treats his daughter? You could apply that beyond this specific relationship to all relationships. At the end of the day, change gets into the nitty gritty micro-moments of life where attitudes and actions occur.

So, as you can see, change is a very personal and practical dynamic. It is personal because in the context of a Christian vision, it grows out of a very personal relationship with God. It also happens within an interpersonal context with other people. If you are a Christian, it happens within the body of Christ.

It is also practical. Since sin and disobedience are very specific and concrete attitudes and actions, growth in grace must be as specific and concrete. In other words, grace based change will always be very visible because it changes the way you live your life in your body within the context of your relationships.

Jesus said that we are to love God and neighbor. I hope this series of blogs has put meat on those gracious commands and helped you get a sense of how knowing and relating to God based upon his grace for you can translate into how you live your life on a daily basis.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy S. Lane

How to Grow in Grace

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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.