Amber Wackford writes a three-part series on friendship, accountability, and the Fruit of the Spirit. If accountability is unique to spiritual friendship, then it must reflect or bring out the fruit of the Spirit. If it is not kind, it is not accountability. If it is not gentle, it is not accountability. If it does not promote peace or inspire faithfulness, it is not accountability. Because the point in anything we do in the community of the Church is to get each other closer to God.
This Part 3 of a three part series on accountability in friendship. Access the rest of the series here:
My friend Danielle is one of my loudest cheerleaders. She believes deeply that God has called me to the work of writing, and she’s the kind of friend who dreams big dreams for me. As someone accustomed to playing it safe, it’s really a gift of God to have loud voices in my corner that aren’t shaken by my doubts or hampered by my neuroses. Instead, what I have in Danielle is someone who consistently counters my doubts and neuroses. She loves me a lot like Jesus does, which is why I pay attention when she has something to tell me.
The other night on the phone, in the middle of a conversation about dating and marriage and the grass always seeming greener in someone else’s yard, she said, “Listen, I don’t know how you’re going to feel about this, but here’s what I think: you don’t need the distraction right now.” She told me she was confident in what God was doing in my life in this season and that they were good things that deserved my whole attention, and she told me that I wasn’t allowed to trade those things in for a relationship that likely wouldn’t be God’s best for me. She told me to have faith that God was at work and aware of the desires of my heart. Then she said, “Stay the course, friend. God’s doing big things.”
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24–25)
The older I get, the more I value those people, like my friend Danielle, who don’t let me give up. I suppose because grown-up life starts to get peppered with events that suck the joy right out of it. Death, divorce, unemployment, cancer, addictions, mortgages, and the like make even the strongest of us want to throw up our hands in surrender. We can’t keep going in our own strength, and we were never supposed to. This much we already know.
I’m grateful that one of the ways God combats these ugly, adult things is with our friends.
We need each other to survive the funerals, and the break ups, and the layoffs. We need kind words and casseroles, and people to show up and give us a hug when we feel at our worst. We need wise friends who know when to say, “It’s going to be okay” and when to say, “It’s time to do something.” To get through this life well, we need encouragement and accountability in equal parts.
The kicker in getting this kind of friendship, the kind that spurs you on to love and good deeds, is that you earn it in the hard places. You don’t get to give up on each other. Danielle and I, for example, have been friends for ten years. In that time, we have both lost grandparents; her mom had a cancer scare; my dad retired from the Air Force and has been in a long season of unemployment; she met and married a wonderful guy, but not before dating a guy who wasn’t very nice to her; I have dated and broken up with my share of not-nice guys; I left the church I grew up in under nasty circumstances; and she had a flare up of Lyme disease a few years ago that almost killed her. This is all to say that we have been through some ugly, adult stuff. We have seen each other at our worst. We have each at different times felt like walking away from faith and God and each other.
The thing that gets me, though, is that we never did. And I can’t help but think this is part of God’s saving grace.
Because in the moments that one of us was weak, the other one was strong. In moments when one of us lacked faith, the other prayed all the harder. In moments when one of us doubted what God was doing, the other has always said, “Stay the course, friend. God’s doing something.”
I can’t help but wonder if this is accountability at its best. Because it’s not just about behavior modification or changing one sinful behavior, although that has its place; it’s about encouraging each other to keep chasing after God.
So maybe when we think about accountability, when we think about being a really good friend, it’s best to think of the words of Hebrews: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”