Friday, I wrote about where love stands. I told you about the people in my life who have stood in front of me, saying they love me but blocking my view of anything but their encouragements. Then I told you about those who, in the past few weeks, have come to stand beside and behind me. I argued that this was love.
I would like to partially retract that statement, now that I've got you thinking.
What I should have clarified on Friday is that encouraging love stands beside and behind. If you love me, stand behind me and be my confidence. If you love me, stand beside me and be my strength. These things are true; confidence, strength...these are encouraging loves. Now I want to add one more:
If you love me, stand in front of me and be my accountability. This is tough love.
One of the problems I'm seeing more and more is a lack of accountability. People don't take responsibility for their own lives. They are waiting on someone to answer their questions, solve their problems, fill in their gaps. They always have an excuse for being messed up, and that excuse is always what someone else did or did not do to or for them. This is especially true in our younger generation.
Somehow, we have this idea that a "good" life falls into place when you put all the pieces together. Life is less about hard work and making choices than it is about accumulating those pieces. You have to find a mate, and this will fill in a part of your puzzle. You have to find a job. This is another piece. You have to have this financial stability and that kind of car and yet another kind of schedule and all of these things that are tangible and obtainable, but if you don't understand why you're going after them, you never appreciate what you're getting. And you never understand why it isn't working.
I know some young men who bounce from relationship to relationship. When they find a girl - any girl - she's the best thing in the world and becomes their life. When that girl turns out to be as immature as you'd expect any teenaged girl to be (as she rightfully should; she hasn't lived yet and, unfortunately, has no accountability in her own life), their world falls apart and they have nothing. They don't know what to do with themselves and they get "emo," for lack of a better word. It's not because these girls are anything special. Trust me. It's because these girls are a piece of their puzzle, and when that space opens back up, a young man who is trying to put together a life feels empty. He feels the pain of that gap. Then he tells you his life is never going to be anything because he doesn't even have a girl.
It pains me. It absolutely pains me. And it's so hard to show this kind of person what's really going on because when you point out truth - that your life isn't built on your pieces but on your peace - they just fire excuse after excuse after excuse and it's not long before you realize that they aren't taking an active role in anything. They're waiting on their life to fall together while agonizing that it's falling apart and acting out because they don't know any other way.
The other way is accountability. It takes someone standing in front of a man (or woman) who is running and forbid them to go that way. It's blockading them into their emptiness without turning away, but instead keeping your eyes locked together as you teach them to fill their own empty spaces. It's about helping a man find peace within himself instead of scrambling to put all the pieces together. It's about helping one another know that life never just falls into place; you have to work for it. You have to make decisions. You have to ask the questions and not move from that place until they can answer.
When a man goes chasing after another piece and love stands in front of him demanding an answer, it is that necessary pause that forces him to think. You stand there and wait until he's got a better reason to go than because he's missing that piece in his life. You want the girl? Why do you want the girl? What empty space does the girl fill for you? What else could you do to fill that space? You want the job? Why do you want the job? You want to move? Why?
We need to be willing to stand in front of one another and put our foot down, demanding an answer to the deepest question: what empty space are you trying to fill?
Then we have to be able to help a man fill it with himself, with who he was created to be, with the outpouring of his Creator, with Love. If we can't do that, the man will always run wild. He will always be chasing.
And he will always be empty.
In tough love, I've said it to a few people here and there: until you feel complete within yourself, none of this other stuff you're chasing will ever complete you. You have to love yourself before you can ever love, or be loved by, another. You have to work hard if you want to do the hard work. You have to set your feet in something solid if you ever think you're going to stop running. Life doesn't just fall together; you have to build it. Start with one solid thing that isn't going away. That solid thing is you. (In best circumstances, it is God, but I'm watching a generation that above all needs accountability and I don't want to shove Christ down their shaken throats. But ideally, a man knows that all he is comes from God and turns Himself back to God to find that one solid place to start building.)
In tough love, a few people have said these things to me. And I love them for it. My struggle hasn't so much been putting the pieces together, but rather a battle with fear or holding back. But there was a time in my life where I was still running and it took people standing in front of me, demanding answers, rejecting excuses, refusing to budge until I could give an account of my mission. More than "what." Why. And it changed me. And I am so grateful.
If you love me in encouraging love, stand beside me and be my strength. If you love me in encouraging love, stand behind me and be my confidence. But if you really love me, know when to stand in front of me and be my accountability. Block my eyes from that thing I am chasing and turn them back to who I am. Or simply to I AM.