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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Order Matters

Do you remember learning how to drive a car? Living in Hershey, Pennsylvania when I was a teen, my dad taught me how to drive at Hersheypark. Lots of parking lot room for an inexperienced driver in an old Chevy. The worst I could do was sideswipe a light pole.

Dad felt it was important that I learn how to drive a stick shift as well as an automatic transmission. This added a whole lot more steps to an already complicated process.

  • Put on your seatbelt (if you’re super short like me, you have to learn how to adjust the seat belt so it doesn’t choke you at the neck!)
  • Hands at 2 and 4 (or is it 12 and 8?)
  • Adjust the mirrors
  • Make sure there are no children, animals, or peers who would make fun anywhere near you
  • Wear a cute outfit just in case you get in an accident -- clean underwear, of course!
  • Turn the key in the ignition and let go of the key before the starter makes grinding noises
  • Spin your head around in every conceivable direction to make sure there is absolutely nothing you can inadvertently hit
  • Put the car in reverse and start backing out slowly
 And that list is just to get out of the driveway. There’s a whole other list to follow depending on where you’re driving, who’s in the car with you, and who you’re trying to impress!

I learned very quickly how important it was to follow my dad’s instructions. Over and over I'd repeat his instructions to myself.

  1. Left foot on the brake
  2. Right foot hovering over the gas pedal
  3. Move the left foot to push in the clutch
  4. Right hand shifts into 1st gear
  5. Ease up on the clutch while at the same time gently pressing on the gas
 Everything got all messed up if I got the order wrong. There'd be loud, grinding transmission noises, not to mention exasperated exclamations by my dad. Trying to shift gears without pushing in the clutch or attempting to accelerate to 50mph while still in 1st gear resulted in frustration and a trip to the mechanic. After much practice, the steps flowed in an orderly fashion allowing for a smooth drive. Parallel parking, however, is still a whole different subject!

Process is based on order. Driving, baking, playing an instrument, planting a garden, learning math -- anything that involves process requires orderly steps. I love reading Bible passages that set out the order in which we are to grow. When I wonder why I’m sitting in a ditch of despair or I’m frustrated because nothing is working out, I usually find I'm hitting the gas instead of the clutch!

One of those order passages is 2 Peter 1:5-8.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Are you feeling defeated and discouraged in your life despite working hard at all the right things? Take a good look at the order of these qualities to see if you're skipping ahead. Beating yourself about not feeling kind or loving towards someone? Maybe you need to go back and pursue goodness or self-control first. Every human being picks the quality he/she believes is the most important and starts there. But God gives us a specific order for a very good reason. He knows what we need each step along the way to successfully learn and grow in maturity to love ourselves and others well.

Take a look at the order in this passage. Peter assumes we have faith first, then we grow from there. But how do you define faith? How do you define knowledge or self-control? Many clients look at me like I’m deranged, but the definition we live out may not actually be the one God wants you to embrace. If your definition causes you to feel heavy and discouraged, you might want to have a conversation with God!

Before you can walk out the order, you need to be sure you and God are both looking at these qualities from the same viewpoint. Someone living an Outcome-based perspective looks at this list and immediately beats themselves up for not being able to live it out perfectly. But God is relational, and He gives us this list as a direction to follow, excited to reveal how each of us uniquely grow in goodness, perseverance, love, etc.

One of my clients this week brought this passage to my attention. As we talked about the order, he realized he’d put self-control at the beginning. He felt ashamed at not being able to reign in certain behaviors. When he understood God wanted him to follow these steps in this order, he was hopeful and encouraged. Understanding and living out faith, goodness, and knowledge will give him the tools necessary to move on to self-control. When I feel stuck, discouraged, and frustrated with how my life is going, I go back and ask God if He can give me another driving lesson!

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