They said to bring a Bible, something I must have packed in the same box with my old Billy Joel cassettes that I haven’t seen since my last move, so I had to buy one. Honestly, I was the last person who wanted to go on a singles’ retreat—people I figured were such losers they had to form their own club. But I was desperate for something new. I didn’t want to fall back to old habits and old relationships. So, I reluctantly signed up for the weekend retreat.
That first night we split into small groups after the speaker talked. The leader asked if we wanted to share something that was going on in our lives so the group could pray for us. I panicked and began scrambling for something I could say. Somehow I thought that “Please pray for me because I really, really want a drink right now” probably wouldn’t go over well.
As people started opening up to each other, I was shocked. They weren’t asking for prayer about trivial items. These people were real. Some of them were going through almost the exact same things I was experiencing. One guy shared that he and his girlfriend were struggling with sexual temptation. Another girl asked us to pray about some old friends from the party scene who were calling her again. When another person shared about being a recovering alcoholic, I was floored. When it came my turn, I eked out something lame about my job. I wasn’t ready to open up just yet, but I believed them when they said they’d pray for me.
I’ve tried to live my life on my own, but I found out that I wasn’t able to hold myself to much of anything for very long. The only person I had been answering to was myself. If I wanted to party until 3:00 a.m. and go to work hung over the next day, I did. If I saw a pair of stilettos, and it wasn’t even close to payday, I charged them and wore them home from the store. I swore a million times that I was going to get out of debt, stop drinking so much, get to bed at a decent hour and maybe even go to church this Easter.
In reality, I couldn’t even talk myself out of eating half a box of chocolate éclairs. I was out of control.
At this retreat, I realized that answering to myself just wasn’t working. I was on course to self-destruct. Being accountable to other Christians was my first step on a long journey back to God.
Thinking you can be accountable to yourself is like trying to kiss your own elbow. It’s impossible to do. (Tried it, didn’t you?) We may try calling the shots, but we aren’t equipped to handle the responsibility of running our own lives. Life is not designed to work that way.
Accountable to God
Giving control over to God is to work ourselves out of a job. It means we begin to operate with one simple understanding: God is God; we are not. As the Israelites had to learn (and relearn), deciding to be accountable to God and answer to him makes life much less complicated. The Creator made us and even wrote the owner’s manual for how our lives “run” best.
Accountable to Each Other
Knowing there will be many times when we want to squirm back onto the throne of our lives, our Creator also made us accountable to each other to help us do the right things. It’s called community. Christians are instructed to “carry each other’s burdens” and, by doing that, to build one another’s resolve to remain under Christ’s control (Galatians 6:2).
“Women’s participation in small groups that met during the week for the purpose of prayer, Bible study or spiritual fellowship has risen to 26% in 2006, compared to 19% in 1996.”
—Barna Research Group (2006)
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”