Raised in the heart of pop culture, Ryan Gosling, and CosmoGirl, I was crazy about boys and ready to dive into a Nicholas Sparks passionate romance as soon as I was liberated from the incarceration of braces and baby fat.
The problem really did not change during my college years. I went out on dates with all sorts of guys. This included sixteen-year-old me on a date with a twenty-one-year-old, an eighteen-year-old me out with guys of all different beliefs, and a nineteen-year-old me dating a drug dealer.
No, it wasn’t because I wasn’t praying enough, or reading my Bible enough, or because I didn’t have an accountability group. I believed in Jesus from a young age and became more serious about Him in college, but I just couldn’t shake the idea of being incomplete without a significant other.
During my sophomore year of college, I truly pressed into a relationship with Jesus, but this still didn’t fix the boy problem. It pacified it for a while as I focused on Jesus and set forward rules for myself, but as it turns out, rules don’t cure brokenness.
The rules worked out until another guy came along. He was charming, funny, and had totally different beliefs and values than me. I took baby steps into just hanging out, to sneaking around, and to compromising so many values which I held so dearly. I went through a pattern of resisting and returning, resisting and returning without hope that I could really have the strength to stand firm.
I voiced my pattern to friends. Many, who were well-meaning, had the idea of “keeping me accountable.” They would ask me when I was tempted or remind me of how I was a Young Life leader who knew better than to get into situations like this. The fruit that came of it was that I felt guilty and reprimanded. Anytime I would slip, I would downward spiral into self-loathing and sob with guilt.
My closest friend however, encouraged me out of the pit. She was my Jonathan or my Barnabas, if you will. (If you don’t have a female Jonathan or Barnabas, ladies, it’s time to get on the market for one.) She had a different approach. When I was moving through a self-destructive cycle at 200 miles per hour, she reminded me of something that I either forgot or never really knew: “Sara, it’s okay. Remember, He knows you. He knows why you’re struggling, and He knows it’s a process to overcome it. Let’s focus now on who you truly are and which lies you’re believing to cause you to fall into this.”
This was a game-changer for me. Some may say that was an outlet for me to abuse grace, but that isn’t what happened. Once I got into the process of grasping my identity, I had the wings to take flight, and sister, I cannot stress enough how the art of being your brilliant, beautiful, quirky, wild, God-given self to the full capacity is the bravest, and most adventurous way to live.
In her book, Made To Crave, Lysa TerKeurst writes, “When you take the “com” from “compromise,” we are left with a promise. God has a greater plan for us than compromise.” If I am a co-heir with Christ, a chosen priesthood, a holy nation, a person for His possession (1 Peter 2:9), and my old self was crucified and done away with (Romans 6:6), why would I want to compromise that? If we saw ourselves the way that God sees us, would we feel the need to do the same things in order to feel fulfilled? When I believe in myself the way He believes in me, I am unstoppable.
The road of coming into my identity hasn’t been perfect, but I made it through the paper-writing, 8:00 a.m. class, Ramen Noodle season of college. As a graduation gift to myself, I made one of my all time favorite purchases, an emblem of sorts. This year, traveling throughout all of the countries, the ring finger on my right hand holds a ring in the shape of a crown.
Throughout the day, situation to situation, I am reminded of who I am. Knowing how my Father relates to me changes the way that I relate to others and dictate my life. I see the crown on my hand, and I remember that Jesus finished the work and brought me into royal standing. My job is to believe this and to put aside the old nature (Colossians 3:9-10) — not to work on myself by being shamed into being good.
So from now on, what are better questions and applications to ask for true, life-giving accountability? Here’s a few practical examples:
- When have you fallen into this cycle before?
- Ask Jesus what the root of this is.
- What is the lie you are believing about yourself?
- Who does Jesus say you are?
- What are the opposite truths you want to receive and live out?
Find opposite truths through prayer and the Word, and sink into it until it becomes second nature. Seek out friends who affirm these identities and build up a true, biblical system of accountability.