“Relationships aren’t the best thing, if you ask me. People can be quite untrustworthy, and the more you get to know them—by that I mean the more you let somebody know who you really are—the more it feels as though something is at stake. And that makes me nervous. It takes me a million years to get to know anybody pretty well, and even then the slightest thing will set me off. I feel it in my chest, this desire to dissociate. I don’t mean to be a jerk about it, but that is how I am wired. I say this because it makes complete sense to me that we would rather have a formula religion than a relational religion. If I could, I probably would have formula friends because they would be safe.” Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
I had an accountability partner in high school. We met at summer camp, and she lived in another town. Since we were far away, we wrote letters and prayed for each other. We reported our quiet times, worked on Scripture memory, and felt good about our special friendship that lasted about two months.
During my time in college, I went through several different accountability partners–the most serious one being a dear friend who had me commit to memorizing the entire book of James. I think we finished Chapter 1, but since I couldn’t quote it to you now, I’m pretty sure it’s not hidden in my heart.
Last year, I started meeting with three girlfriends for weekly accountability. We made a commitment from the outset that we would make our meeting times a priority, and we would be completely transparent and vulnerable. I had visions of us truly being known by each other and all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that accompany a deep, abiding love for best friends.
What I didn’t account for was how difficult true accountability can be. My visions of a sisterhood of rainbows and butterflies (or pedicures and road trips) was completely void of the ugliness of sin and our humanity.
Listening to other people assess my less-than-holy motivations or point out the destructive patterns that have developed in my life over time is not exactly what I originally had in mind. I mean, I expected that we would deal with tough subjects, but those would be subjects that were brought up at my discretion and based upon my willingness to share. Surely it would be a very long time, if ever, before I truly aired all of my dirty laundry with these girls.
Periodically, I think each of the four of us have been able to relate to Miller’s “desire to dissociate.” It would have been so much easier to quit it all and just go back to surface-level friendships. But when we started our times together, we made a hard and fast rule that none of us were going anywhere. We were in it for the long haul–nothing that we could say or do would cause anyone to leave–and we were going to resist the urge to avoid conflict when our feelings were hurt. True friendship and accountability both gives and receives grace; it doesn’t run when things get difficult.
I am a perfectionist to the core, and I can’t stand to do something wrong. (It’s ridiculous, I know. I do things incorrectly all of the time!) But they love me through it. They don’t let me dwell in the depths of my self-loathing, but they also don’t let me live in the lie that I have to be perfect. God is refining me through those three girls and showing me that His grace alone makes me worthy, not what I do.
A year later, we’re still working through what the accountability process looks like for us. Sometimes we’d rather forgo the serious talk and watch the World Series instead–and honestly, sometimes we do just that. It’s a beautiful mess, but so are we. Our lives were never meant to be lived in a safe and orderly fashion, but more importantly, the Christian life was never meant to be lived alone.