In a recent sermon, I said that Lent is a time for transformation, a time to draw near to God, a time to reflect on our lives and our relationship with the Lord. I wonder if it is also a time to reflect on our relationships with one another as well.
Recently, I posted (on my old blog) about some struggles I was having with the church, the church universal. I was talking about how I think sometimes we are missing the boat in certain areas. I thought I was talking in general terms (though specific examples) but I think some people took it very personal for which I am truly sorry. Funny thing is, they didn’t know the whole story but thought they did. It breaks my heart that I hurt them or anyone else. It was not my intention.
I think I mentioned in my first post that I’ve been taking a lot of classes for Lay Servant Ministries and Lay Speaker Designation. The classes have really got me thinking. Some of it I already thought and it just gave confirmation and others it really brought things to light.
One of these is accountability. It’s not something I’m particularly fond of but I’m learning that it’s important. I used to think, “It’s none of anyone’s business, it’s just between me and God.” It didn’t matter what it was: giving, reading my Bible, going to church, praying, exercising, my diet, housework and so on, it was just between me and God. But I’m learning that there are great reasons for accountability.
Accountability can make us better people. It can make us think before we do something or it can deter us from NOT doing something. It can help us to eat better, to exercise more, to be less lazy in my case. It can keep us growing spiritually as well. It can keep our spiritual lives from becoming stagnant.
Accountability can be an encourager. It can be what encourages us to be better. It can be what keeps us on the right path. It can be something to help us grow in our relationship with Christ and with one another.
Now, I’m not talking about in your face mean accountability, though sometimes that is what is needed. I’m talking about gentle nudges.
In the United Methodist Church there has been a rise in getting back to accountability groups. Groups where we hold one another accountable. We confess our faults to one another, we pray for each other and “stir up one another to love and good works”. It’s not a place where we condemn one another or a place where we make one another feel bad, but a place where we encourage one another and be a reminder of “Oh yeah, I need to be in prayer or in the scriptures or serving others daily.”
In my post, I talked of ways we are pushing people away from the church by not being as intentional as we should. I may have been a little “in your face” but I was upset and sometimes we can get that way. (I’m confessing a fault here.) Sometimes we get in a place of complacency and we forget to look around us and see needs that are right there. I know I’m totally guilty of this! Sometimes we get so focused in one area of mission or work that we miss another one that is just as important, that is right in front of us screaming for attention but we just can’t hear it. Then when we do hear it and we are called accountable for it we get upset and hurt. We don’t want to see it because it would cause us to feel guilt. There is no reason for that. Guilt is not productive. Instead we should be glad we finally heard the scream and then get busy to help with it. Get busy to be in mission!
Accountability isn’t about guilt. It’s not about feeling bad. It’s not about beating each other up for our shortcomings or our busy schedule. It’s about encouraging one another, helping one another to grow and become the people God calls us to be, a people in relationship with him and one another.
I bet some pretty awesome relationships can be developed through this. Real, true, genuine relationships that are healthy and productive, relationships that grow and lead us to grow in every good way.
We need each other. We need to be in relationship with one another. God created Eve because he didn’t want Adam to be alone. He knew Adam needed a companion. We all need companions, friends – true friends.
That’s a lesson it took me a long time to learn. You can read about that here and here. Friends can hold each other accountable. Friends can be that voice of reason, or of reminder, or of love and support. All of that is part of good accountability and we all need that.
Accountability IS good. Yes, it can make us feel bad if we find that we are lacking but instead of letting it get us down, let it lift us up! Lift us into action, into picking things up a bit, into being who we are called to be.