I used to love the gradual turn of summer into fall when I was a child. I still do, in some respects, but not for the same reasons. As a young boy, growing up in Cincinnati, I loved going to the fair. County fairs, State fairs, World’s fairs…I have been to them all. The sounds, the tastes and smells, the excitement…those were all reasons I loved going to the fair. One of my favorite attractions to go through was always the Fun House. Undoubtedly, as I roamed through the many rooms of the Fun House, I would wind up staring into a series of mirrors. There were mirrors that made me look 12 feet tall, and mirrors that made me look 12 feet wide. If I stepped up close enough my legs would look like pencils, while the top of my body looked like a pear, or at least a pear with a gigantic smile. The reality is, however, that the end of the row always had a mirror that was normal. My perspective of how I saw myself would change from the distorted pear/pencil creation, to that of a relatively normal young boy. While the contorted images of those days are cemented in my head, even today, the lessons learned from that row of mirrors hadn’t come into focus until recently.
This week, we look into James 5:16-18, and while we will get through the entire passage, it is going to take us two postings to get there. So, today, we’ll dig in…and then on Thursday, I will finish part two of the discussion of this passage. Two postings? Are you serious? Yes…and you know the scary, yet awesome part? Two will be pushing it…it would be very easy to continue the discussion on what’s really contained in this passage for months. Now, I won’t do that to you, of course, but this stuff is that powerful. So powerful in fact, that we’ll just get into the first half of one verse this time.
James 5:16 (first half…) “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…”
My wife, Natalie, and I, have been blessed with the opportunity to be table leaders in the current session of Fourward, White River Christian Church’s 8-week study of the 4 Faith Movements. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience these powerful 8 weeks, please sign up for the next session. If you have been coming to WRCC for one week, or ten years, you will get something out of your time there. In our study this week, Pastor Tom Rich asked each of us to, “Tell the class about the worst thing you’ve ever done.” Obviously, Tom knew better than to actually expect an answer from anyone in there, so he lead the way and told us a bit about his story. All day long, however, the thought of that question, and my immediate flinching to his question, really made me think.
To be able to answer that question honestly, what would it take for me, or you, to be able to just tell the truth to that question. It would take trust, it would take a knowledge that there would be no judging, and it would take some amount of grace and forgiveness by those who listened because parts of my past, and maybe yours as well, are uglier than I would really like them to be. In that ugliness, and through the transformation I’ve experienced, through Jesus, I have been able to live a life far beyond those ugly days.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This is one of the many references to the importance of living life with other Christians and holding yourself accountable to the principals that God commands us to follow. In my life, I have had several accountability partners to help me along in my walk with Jesus, but there has been no better partner in this regard, than my wife. Through my “Journey” small group, which has now become our “A Way Of Life” small group, we have met 4 other couples, living life like ourselves, and they too have become great accountability partners.
For me, my accountability partners are my guardrails from…well…stupidity. Each and every time, in my past, when my life has spiraled out of control and began to careen down the highway as my wheels begin to fall off, it has always…and I mean always, come down to the fact that I fall away from those who are close to me. When that happens, I tend to no longer focus on myself in the real mirror, the one that God see’s me in, and will find myself back in the Fun House, picking and choosing which mirror I look in…and manipulating the perspective of who I really am.
One of the things I strive to do in life is to make mistakes, because rarely does growth come from not trying something new, but I also work hard to only make the same mistake once. As I have gotten older, this has gotten easier to do, but still, I struggle. The Bible, as it always does, has a prescription for me to take whenever I am feeling the need to try this thing solo again, and it also comes in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 12:15, it says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Why? Because sometimes, if it’s just us, on our own…against the world, it becomes easy to forget which mirror is which…and it becomes easier to think that the path we’re choosing is the right path, when in the eyes of our Lord…it is not even close. Listening to those whom I trust the most, putting my thoughts and ideas in front of them, help keep me focused on where I am going…and more importantly, who I am following to get there.
This, the accountability I speak of, is my way of staying sharp. Confessing your sins to each other, and letting others see your heart, will help you in more ways than you’ll ever imagine. It will help you here, on earth, but it will also help as we leave it.
As it says in Romans 14:12, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Being held accountable now will make my ability to account for my life, to God, immeasurably easier.
In closing, I am reminded of an old John Wooden quote; “Discipline yourself, so others don’t have to.” Accountability partners should be your guard rail…not your GPS. Sometimes, it has to start within.
We’ll hit this concept more on Thursday, and we’ll talk more about the importance of being a righteous person…but until then, I hope somewhere inside this posting…a chord has been struck and you can now see, you’ve been looking into the wrong mirror.
In His name,
Eric J. Wasson