I enjoyed a great privilege this week: the mirror only a true friend can hold. Last week's post was originally emotional and overwrought. Thanks to the faithful words of a friend, I went back and adjusted a few things. My goal has never been to exploit you, the reader, or make this a public confessional. My hope is that we will all be encouraged and changed. If I can contribute to your growth through my own life and applying the Word of God, it's a small price for holiness.
That was the gift from one friend among many. Perhaps you, like me, could name the
- person you call with off-the-wall prayer requests, knowing she will keep it in strictest confidence,
- person who is beyond you in life and experience, but willingly shares from her own walk with God,
- person who is fun, who laughs with you and for you,
- person who calls you on your mistakes and loves you anyway.
Each one is treasure. Two years ago I stopped to chat with a couple of older saints in a golf cart and received an amazing gift toward building friendships: a vision for accountability.
Up to that point, I had avoided all references to accountability. It didn't speak, "friend" as much as "foe." It felt like those asking wanted to swap responsibility--yours for mine. Nope. Not interested.
One of the women in the golf cart shared a model for accountability she was actively using and it sounded wonderful. A small group of women (three-ish) met for an hour, once a week. There was no Bible study, no book or curriculum, just life sharing. Each person needed to be willing to change and willing to challenge others.
After mulling it over, I prayed and did research. Online articles by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir pointed to biblical examples and directives for interpersonal discipleship. There is a measure of discernment needed in sharing our lives, especially as it relates to others, but we are also called to open ourselves and allow others to speak truth. It's part of the one-another's of Scripture.
In a true accountability group, "others" ask hard questions, follow up on things I'd rather forget, and encourage me to endure. They don't assume responsibility for my choices, but they care, they ask and they apply specific Scripture. I listen to their struggles and victories and ask questions, seeking to keep Christ at the center. The hardest part is the group size--making and keeping it small. We want to include everyone and exclude no one, but it's best not to, just for this time. Jesus's intimate group included Peter, James and John. He exposed Himself to them as He did to no one else, He rebuked them, asked them hard questions, and allowed them the privilege of doing the same.
We began more than a year ago and decided to memorize the New Testament book of James as a jumping off point each week. We haven't finished, but we're making progress. It's an extremely good, rich, deep time of fellowship. 6:15a.m. comes early, but it's worth the yawns. As we drink coffee and take notes we share laughter, sometimes tears, but God is there, directing and using us, for His glory and our good.
And it isn't just us--our husbands, children, local church, co-workers, and people whose lives we touch benefit because we're not in it for ourselves, we're in it for the glory of God.
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace....
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:1-6,11-16 NKJV).