Posts Tagged ‘Accountability Groups’

In case you missed Part I,, I was recounting how I blackballed myself right out of an uppity Bible study. Swiping the coveted blue teapot in a cutthroat game of Dirty Santa was just the beginning.

Later that year, I got engaged to my husband. I was told they would hold a bridal shower and that it was going to focus on “personal” things. I was told to (wink-wink!) scour the catalogs (implying I should not be seen shopping around for such things in our community). This, also, seemed to contradict the goal of accountability, but, good sport I am, I ran the race.

Okay, so I was a virgin when it came to Passion Parties, and this was a good decade before the Passion of Christ was released. But, y’know, I’m a pretty passionate person, and flexible, so…let’s roll. I was on fire for the Lord, why not be on fire for my marriage?

I implicitly trusted these elder women to steer me in the right direction. After all, hadn’t they invited me so they could keep a sharp eye on me in the first place? Wouldn’t they want to steer me closer to my husband-to-be and away from their husbands or their sons or whomever they foolishly feared this femme fatale might devour, or whatever they thought I was?

One day as the shower approached I mentioned something Christian-like such as a religious candle for the wedding ceremony. Oh, no, they chirped – we want to give you things you wouldn’t dare buy yourself! Isn’t there some nice lingerie or bedding you’d like instead? This is a LADIES’ GROUP!

Oooookaaaay…so I went home and rifled through some catalogs I’d recently received and stumbled on a Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog. Hmmm…

I browsed and dog-eared the pages. I considered the crotchless underwear, something, like they said, I’d never buy for myself. Leather corsets and bras with neat circles where the nipples should be, oh geez!


Exhibit A, the catalog, along with the beautiful butterfly thang I got from the French Quarter on my own dime 15 years later…with my husband present, thank you very much! If that isn’t the epitome of accountable…

The next Bible study, the leader asked for my catalog choices and I forked over a fistful of ideas, Frederick’s carefully stuffed in the middle.

Next week, on the day of the shower, I was greeted with a room full of blushing matrons and a hushed study. The air was so thick with shifty, uncomfortable fake politeness you could slice it with nothing less than the very sword of the Lord.

This was followed by an awkward opening of shower presents which included spatulas and sensible aprons from Williams-Sonoma and the like. One of them gave me a book on cleaning up one’s mind.

The tea-and-crumpets part of the Bible study was inexplicably abbreviated, and everyone either offered to skibble off to the kitchen to “help” or coincidentally had a pressing errand or appointment to dash to.

Then the wedding happened and I got lost in wedded bliss; somehow they never called after me to see when I would return, and likewise, I didn’t call them.

I was again free banished hurtled back into a life of unaccountability.

(okay, well, one of them who most held me suspect, cornered me in a coffee shop a year later and warned me to be good and stay in my own lane. She was drinking a giant mug of double espresso; I had a little latté. I had my Bible on me, she didn’t. One of us knew what she was talking about, and it wasn’t me, at that point. What, does nobody have fun inside the sanctity of a marriage anymore???)

This accountability group seemed to keep me more accountable to these ladies and their need to have someone or something to talk about, rather than to the good Lord. In fact, they made my mind wander astray and second-guess things.

I was always uneasy with how the initial task in accountability groups was to collect everyone’s prayer requests – and, in the guise of humility, nobody hardly ever asked for prayer for themselves.

No, the prayer requests always felt like a benevolent way of obtaining the latest gossip.

I do, however, appreciate the importance of being accountable – it is a matter of transparency and good intention, both good things when it comes to integrity.

But really, how can we, as sinners, be truly accountable to anyone but God? He knows our hearts and our being, down to the last jot and tittle of our soul, much better than a human prone to judging our baloney ever can.

If an accountability group is properly structured and those in home leaderships are held more accountable, I believe these can be a good way to grow in the Lord. Except the sinner is prone to presenting a façade to whomever he wishes, whenever he wishes – even in the most intimate of relationships.

My limited experience is that the bigger the church, the more diluted group leadership gets and the flock gets more off track with laypersons who mean well but who may be limited in their ability to counsel, guide and keep things focused on the spirit instead of the flesh.

Smaller churches, it goes in reverse and people tend to focus more on being accountable to the smaller, “inner circle” than on what the Lord intends (often a broader perspective) for them to focus on.

This group experience was a gold-mine of spiritual lessons, not one of which I regret.

If it’s true that good intentions pave the way to Hell, I’ll stick with being honest about my bad intentions, inadequacies and fallible foibles – and whatever little good comes out of me, therein lies the gold, silver and precious stones, even though it may not be much in others’ eyes.

It really DOES boil down to a person’s individual, personal relationship with God.

Only HE knows the whole story.

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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.

Which one is the Sea Muse?
(hint: not the one on the bottom)

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.

Cobalt Blue Teapot

Still looks great today next to my Crate & Barrel moo-cow. But it’s a damned dust-collector, I tell you…

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…”

Potholder or pastie?

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.

Ladies’ Bible Study doublespeak at its best.
Say, aren’t most marriages like this?
Tell me the truth, darling…does this make me look phat?

(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…

For Pete’s sake, don’t bring this to a Bible study! Even if they tell you to!!!

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