When I was a kid, I attended school in a very different district than the neighborhood I lived in. In fact, I was a city-kid who went to school in one of the first planned communities in the country. Folks couldn’t change the colors of their shutters without neighborhood approval. To add extremity, my church was over one hundred years old, and the surrounding area was rural. Needless to say, it was as though I lived in multiple worlds. This fragmentation produced an unintended residual in that I grew to be pretty secretive. I went through college separating my family, peer groups, and activities. I’m sure most of my classmates had no idea I was Christian. I considered myself “introverted” instead of “secretive,” and figured I wasn’t really hurting anyone by it. Then came graduation.
The years following college were pretty dismal. I found myself suffering from extreme loneliness, and so I ate to feel whole. I ate…a lot. Unfortunately, nobody really considers overeating a problem, because we’re so acculturated to consumption. My hunger, however, was beyond any semblance of acceptability. I would buy one of those cookies as big as a human head, eat it, and then go purchase a carton of ice cream as a chaser. I’d then go punish myself at the gym for a while.
This cycle lasted for years. It’s still painful to read my old diary entries from this period in my life. Thankfully, I finally sought some assistance through a Christian-based online program. Day fifteen of the program, you have to choose an accountability partner, and that’s when I realized what my secrecy and separation-of-functions lifestyle had been lacking all along: Accountability.
Up until that time, I had attended Redeemer for years, but had never applied for membership or attended a small group meeting. The person I chose to be my accountability partner was not only my best friend, but a member of Redeemer as well. That same year she began hosting a community group, and it was the first time I had truly been immersed in a community that cared about my character. They also cared about my trials, and triumphs. It has been unlike any experience I’ve ever had, and the community I found encouraged me to finally complete the Redeemer Membership process.
We all need to be held accountable. I’ve always had trustworthy friends, but it’s only been in the last three years that I’ve allowed them to hold me accountable for my actions. No one really likes to be told what to do. It’s an act of humility to allow others to speak into your life, Still, Proverbs 15:32 teaches us that “he who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” True friends hold each other accountable. They do so in a loving way that pleases God.
Today, not only does my small group hold me accountable, but they are my best friends in the world. I’ve been a believer since I learned to read, but had never been a part of a community group. If not for the friends God has blessed me with, I never would have known my idols. I never would have seen those things that I tried to replace with God to satisfy my deepest longings. God places people in our lives to draw us closer to Him.
Dewanda Miller is a Redeemer member attending on the East Side.