There is a term that very neatly defines a significant portion of Christian fellowship. This term is accountability. It's one of the most important things to have a handle on as a Christian. What is it? Well, simply put, in the Christian meaning of the word, being accountable is having people around you that keep you in check, that make sure you're on the right path and expect you to live up to your responsibilities as a follower of Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we must have accountability with people. We need their iron to sharpen ours, so to speak. Being a Jesus-follower is not a solo deal, it is a community effort, a church effort, a family effort, a group effort. It takes a cloud of witnesses to raise up a young man or woman and put them on the right path. Without those checks and balances, it would be infinitely harder to follow God's Word.
And so, I'd like to acknowledge all the numerous people in my life who have kept me accountable. Who have called me out when they saw something in my life that was out of place with the example I should be setting as a young Christian man. The people who have had the guts to say things that might be considered as harsh, because they knew that was what I needed.
My parents, first and foremost. They have constantly encouraged me, uplifted me, and strengthened me, but they have continued to point me to God's standard in every situation, to challenge me to be responsible, virtuous, loving, bold, unyielding in the face of hardship or adversity. I haven't always listened to their advice. I've screwed up many times and let them down. But I would not be half the person I am today without their perseverance in my life.
And to the dozens of strong men and women in Christ who have counseled me over the years. The people who have poured their lives into me. Jonanne, the children's minister at my church, who has been such an influential and inspiring force in my life, even years after I was no longer a part of the children's ministry (at least as a student). She had patience with me when I was a rambunctious little boy who would not sit still for a moment, and she had the wisdom and clarity to know exactly what I needed to help me grow as a young man taking his first steps in a journey with Christ. There are many, many more teachers, pastors, leaders in my life that have made an impact on me, but it would take much more space than I reasonably had to name them all.
Finally, to my friends. The people I have simply done life with over the past nineteen and a half years of life. My brothers. My childhood friends. My fellow youth groupers. The young men and women I get to call my people. They have challenged me, inspired me, and driven me onward in a way that makes me smile, looking back on the years we've had together.
Thank you all for thinking I was worth it. For taking the time and energy to patiently correct me. For being willing to say whatever needed to be said for me to grow. And for loving me all the while. I cannot thank you enough.