Once upon a time, as a brand-spankin’ new Christian, I was invited to an “Accountability Group.” There were accountability groups offered for all makes and models throughout the congregation – it was just something you did.
(I think at my peak I belonged to about, um, seven, at once. I was pretty accountable back then.)
They usually met in somebody’s home, either at the crack of early for those who work, midday for the stay-at-homes or in the evening for the night owls.
The idea was to participate in a small Bible study with like-minded believers who, like an AA group on steroidal antabuse, would make certain you were walking a straight path.
This was accomplished by weekly assignments, perhaps a devotional with fill-in-the-blanks to prompt us into doing our homework and to keep us in God’s word.
This is a great concept – I really can’t think of a better way to stay on a healthy path than having a built-in buddy system. It was kind of like a religious Weight Watchers, except you weigh in with your two cents about the topic of the week. People stay off your back (except for a pat on the back) so long as you show up, weigh in and walk the walk.
Who doesn’t need a mentor when running a race? My marathon mentor, in the two years it took me to train for a marathon, rode me like a hound every chance she got. She was a French Canadian with a chihuahua personality, and I couldn’t have done it without her.
As a single, baby Christian being perceived with suspect intentions, I was evidently deemed unaccountable. Therefore, a group of older, supposedly wiser, married women
railroaded took me in under their wings.
These were “nice” ladies – they all married young (I was already slightly over the hill by the time I showed up on the scene), they all were chaste, discreet and all held uppity, esteemed positions in their respective roles in the church and community. And their husbands did, too.
These chicks guarded the gates with their perfect makeup and hair. Collectively, they could have finally put Beth Moore and her coffee cups to pasture, once and for all.
Yes indeedy-Bob, these were the ladies of Proverbs 31.
They were seasoned in the church. I was seasoned in the streets. Well, sort of, comparatively speaking.
Never mind that I had pieces of paper from prestigious places – I didn’t have the pieces of paper that mattered to them.
I was an outsider, and that was all the glaring reality that counted. I was worldly. I was like a man from Mars, these women were from Venus. And my being from Mars probably frightened them most since their men were also from Mars. Color me Martian.
One Christmas they held a Dirty Santa Christmas Tea. This sounded like an oxymoron to me, since I had trouble wrapping my head around anything but Jesus at the time – Santa was off my Christmas list, and I was perplexed why these upstanding ladies would honor Santa on Jesus’ clock, much less a game hellbent on greed, deceit, spite and theft.
Nonetheless, I obediently participated, good sport as I am. Basically, in this game, everybody gets to pick a gift but you run the risk of somebody who gets to pick after you, swiping your chosen gift.
In this case, I was one of the last to go and had my eye on this cobalt blue teapot. Only because it happened to match my cobalt blue canisters and other kitchen kitsch.
Little did I know, this miniscule teapot which barely holds a teabag, much less a cup of tea, was the pièce de resistance. I was supposed to graciously defer to one of the older ladies who initially refused to pry her bony little fingers off the dang pot in order to fork it over to me.
I was only playing by the rules of the game. I was too naïve to realize that it would have been the gracious thing for me to settle for the cheesy bookmark with some Bible verse on it, or the tacky jalapeño napkin holders that had obviously been regifted.
(Hey, I work with little children – the me/mine population, so I tend to take things a little concretely and often miss the unspoken conventional social rules)
In my efforts to fit in and please, I just thought I was doing what they told me to do in the first place.
Somehow, though, a stale hush fell over the group as I read their expressions. I back pedaled and quickly offered, “Really, I don’t want it, I was just playing – I really had my eye on Mrs. Potiphar‘s crocheted potholder…”
But the damage was done, I was too late and had not played by their unwritten rules, and they made sure to see me off with the too-tiny-teapot I’d never use as a teapot. I think I heard someone quietly sniffing into her embroidered, monogrammed hankie in the corner as they bid me farewell.
(I never did check to see if the blue pot had someone’s ashes in it…)
(Just a sec…)
(nope, it didn’t)
(wait…is that dust, or…)
(or was there supposed to be a genie in there?)
Coming up next, the sequel in which Southern Sea Muse discovers there is no St. Frederick’s of Hollywood in the Bible…nor is St. Frederick’s allowed in the accountability group, for that matter. Heh heh heh…