Monday, October 22, 2007

A Parable of Accountability

I shall tell you a very powerful story about two boys. Willie and Freddy were buddies. In fact so close were Willie and Freddy that in their childhood they did almost everything together. They played Little League baseball together. They would go on family vacations together. They chased the girls together. They rode to school together. As they got older they both decided to do something to change their world.

Both of these boys were quite bright intellectually and excelled academically. They entered high school with lofty aspirations. Suffice it to say that their high grades helped with their great aspirations. It would benefit them in the chosen paths that they chose to walk. Honor students they became and academic achievements seemed to fall at their feet. Medals, ribbons, and other honors came their way because of their brains and their focused discipline. The focus and determination they exhibited set them apart from a lot of their teenage peers. While they were excelling in the classroom another area opened up to them too. The agility on the fields of competition also brought a measure of recognition to them. Even though they both enjoyed the competition of sports neither Willie nor Freddie were under any illusions that the playing fields would be the ticket to their success. Deep down they both realized that what they were called to do would require more agility of mind than of body and so the focus continued to demand that they take the hardest classes with the most unrelenting of teachers.

Collectively they decided to go to medical school and become physicians. After some counsel with their parents and school guidance counselors they begin the process of entering the school that would help them to accomplish this very visionary goal. The challenge escalated and they both realized that they would have to put aside their teen-age whims if they were to make it.

To their great satisfaction Willie and Freddy were accepted into a pre-med program. The pre-med program was finished with some degree of difficulty but it would not scratch the surface to the challenges they would face together in medical school. The task was daunting but steadily, circuitously, and diligently they begin to climb through the hoops of academia and medicine. Once they finished the academic demands of medical school, they begin the rigorous training of the “hands on” process of an internship, then a residency, and finally a fellowship into a specialty field.

When it came time for the fellowship into a medical specialty, Willie and Freddy parted ways. Their friendship remained and was even strengthened by the fork in the road that medicine now called for. Willie was interested in general organ systems and Freddy was interested in hearts. Willie began his more focused training to become a general surgeon and Freddy followed suit in his efforts to become a cardiovascular surgeon. Several years would pass and although they missed the camaraderie of their friendship, they both knew this was the designated path that each had to follow. With the passing years, their training continued with great demands of time and diligence but finally Willie had become a general surgeon and Freddy became a heart surgeon.

Willie went to small-town American to ply his trade and Freddie went to a thriving metropolis to practice. As the years passed, the phone calls, the letters, the outings literally came to a standstill with only the annual Christmas card arriving in each other’s mailboxes. But as luck and maybe even a little providence, Willie watched his little town grow to such an extent that the hospital that he staffed decided to open up a cardiovascular program and needed a surgeon to come to practice. Willie was excited as he thought about his life-long friend Freddy. Willie did not waste any time in trying to persuade the administrators and medical staff to contact Freddy about coming to the smaller town to practice his art.

When Willie called Freddy and told him of the situation, as luck would continue to have it, Freddy was getting tired of the metropolitan rat-race. What Willie did not know was that the metro area had turned Freddy into an excellent heart surgeon and that he was widely respected in his region of the country. In the process of the cardiovascular program opening up in the smaller town, they begin to renew their friendship once again. However this time it began to take on an even greater strength than when they were in their teens and in their twenties.

Willie continued to cut on gall-bladders, stomachs, colons and other organs. Freddy finally left the huge medical center in metro-America and came to the little town. He put up his shingle and started cutting on hearts. Willie was one of the most lovable guys that you would ever want to meet and Freddy was in the same category as Willie. Both physicians became widely respected by their colleagues and the support staff that worked with these men literally loved to work for them. Not only were their skills good but their bedside manner had the capacity to put many an anxious patient at ease before the procedure. Good reputations and success begin to fit the bill for these two life-long friends.

As they say, life was good! Willie and Freddy began to enjoy a fantastic camaraderie once again. They laughed about their middle-school days and about some of their high-school antics. They remembered the demands of their college days and the long hours in medical school.

Things were so good that Freddy thought he ought to buy a home in his new found haven. But Freddy didn’t want just any house and so he bought one right across the street from Willie. Their wives became good friends and Willie and Freddy’s kids played together. Life was so good! Willie and Freddy’s story was seemingly meant to be a best-seller. It was perhaps one of those stories that you start in a good book and half way through the book, you find that you do not want the story to end. It was a story meant for the top of the New York bestseller list, such a story that would give readers ample opportunities to get a good case of warm fuzziness.

When the weekends came Willie and Freddy were inseparable. They took deep-sea fishing trips together. They golfed together. They went to their college football games together. They grilled out together. The only time that they were separated was when Willie had to take care of bones and Freddy had to take care of hearts. They were “living large” as they say these days. The only little drawback to their friendship and it was quit minor was that Willie liked to smoke. Freddy would jokingly tell him that he needed to quit and then they both would laugh. After Freddy would say this to Willie and the laughter had subsided they would continue to pursue life at full tilt. They shared dreams together. They shared their hopes and their fears because there was such a deep bond between the two of them.

As time passed, one of Willie’s parents passed on and Freddy sensed the loss almost as much as Willie because he had spent much time at Willie’s house when they were growing up. Time continued to march on and when one of Freddy’s parents died, Willie wept with Freddy because he too loved Freddy’s family almost as much as he loved his own.

The friendship deepened and the ties became stronger. Both men were literally in the prime of life, widely respected, and financially well off. But all the success betrayed a tiny secret in Willie’s life. Willie shared almost everything with Freddy but there was a small matter, or so Willie thought, that he kept from Freddy. Time continued to pass but something slowly and deadly was unleashing itself everyday in Willie’s heart.

A fishing trip one weekend seemed to prove how close these men really were. The only thing that was off limits to their friendship was a sinister secret that Willie refused to tell Freddy about. In fact, Willie told very few about his sinister secret. They returned home from the trip and promised to spend some more time fishing or golfing the next weekend. What they both did not know was this was the last fishing trip. There would be no more fishing, golfing, riding Harley’s, grilling, or just hanging out. . . . again. . . . ever. . . .

Late on a Thursday night, the phone rang in Freddy’s house. He picked it up and on the other end was the hysterical cry of Willie’s wife. “Freddy, please come help us, Willie is very sick.” Freddy ran across the street and found Willie crumpled on the floor. He turned him over and checked for respirations which were absent. He checked a carotid pulse and found it absent also. So now the heart surgeon began to perform the most basic of treatment for a stalled heart, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Freddy gave himself all out to CPR for his life-long friend in an effort to save him. Freddy did chest compressions and rescuer breathing furiously until the paramedics arrived and were able to relieve him.

The paramedics continued CPR, started an IV, and used the defibrillator to try to jumpstart Willie’s heart with very little success. After hurriedly but efficiently loading Willie into an ambulance, they sped rapidly to the nearest ER where a whole host of medical staff was waiting for his arrival. Willie arrived in a full Code-Blue status and the medical team worked valiantly and skillfully but to no avail. Willie’s heart refused to respond to their drugs, the shocking of the defibrillator, and to intubation of the lungs. As Freddy watched the cardiac monitor depicting the ominous flat-line of asystole, he could only brokenly sob, his best friend had died.

Subsequently in the following days an autopsy report found its way into Freddy’s hands. He was stunned and at the same time, he was enraged. Willie had died from severe coronary artery disease that had affected three of the five coronary arteries that were wrapped around Willie’s heart. Freddy’s skills could have saved Willie’s life if he had only known. As more details surfaced, some of the staff members at Willie’s surgery clinic had remembered him saying that he was having some vague chest pain. When they tried to get Willie to follow up on the symptom, he laughed them off and told them that he was in the prime of life and that it was probably just indigestion.

The sinister secret was that Willie should have told Freddy that he was experiencing chest pain. He stopped just short with the one detail that probably could have saved him. This parable should speak volumes to us about accountability and how crucial that it is.

Accountability only manifests itself in a close fellowship of brothers who are willing to speak things into our lives. We can have no more accountability than what we are willing to allow. Our accountability is only insured when brothers are allowed to traverse some of the pathways where we store our fears, our dreams, and most importantly, our secrets.

Much tumult has ensued in forum land since the infamous Resolution 4 passed in Tampa last month. For those men who are in preparations to leave the fellowship, the accountability card is now being played. It is almost as if to say that once these men leave they will have no accountability to anyone and that they will at best dry up on the vine or at worst depart from the faith. Furthermore, the implications are that those who choose to stay will find a warm bed of accountability that will provide an unrealistic sense of security.

Frankly very little of my own spiritual direction and sense of accountability has come from men who have been in elected positions in our organization. In fact the majority of men who have impacted my life the most were men who were not office-holders. I am in no way inferring that men who hold positions are not doing an important service for us. But at the same time, I have marveled when political maneuvers bled over into spiritual venues that should have been off limits. When this sort of thing happens, more often than not principles will be a sacrificed on the very shallow altar of politics.

No matter where one stands at this juncture in history all servants of the Lord need accountability.

For those who choose to leave, I would spend much time, thought, and prayerful consideration before doing so. No organization or even “loosely formed” alliance is going to be entirely apolitical as this will always be the nature of the beast. In fact there are some very fearful “wolves” who will take full advantage to push a very powerful, self-motivated agenda under the guise of conviction and “doing what is right.” Furthermore there are times that self-importance and self-aggrandizement can be thoroughly couched and hidden in a showy but superficial spirituality. I can see conviction but until I am fully aware of the content of that conviction, I shall be very slow to embrace it. In fact I have noted some who have so-called “strong convictions” to be marred with appalling and disgusting latitude in areas of their personal lives that ought not to be so!

I am encouraging you to find some accountability that goes much deeper than an organization can bring to you. I am encouraging you to find some accountability that will be much deeper than a course beyond an organization. I am encouraging you to allow men to walk into your life who are honest, clean, and forthright in their assessment of the times. . . . Accountability demands that we sometimes hear the things that we do not necessarily want to hear. . . .

My accountability can only come when I am willing to. . . . .

  • Give myself to much prayer.
  • Give myself to an understanding of history.
  • Give myself to the preparation of preaching.
  • Give myself to a brotherhood of godly fellowship.
  • Give myself to a pursuit of holiness.
  • Give myself to a lifestyle of repentance.
  • Give myself to a hunger for purity.
  • Give myself to a ministry of faith.
  • Give myself to something that is bigger than me.
  • Give myself to the consideration of my brothers.

If Freddy had only known about Willie’s secret, much could have been prevented. Accountability. . . . It is worth staying for. . . . . It is also worth leaving for. . . . .

3 comments:

Jason Calhoun said...

Bro. Phillip, I could not agree more!

Jeff said...

I don't know that I have seen a resolution that has been more misunderstood than this one. I believe both sides have made a bigger deal out of it than it really is. It is not the answer to evangelism for the UPC, God is not reliant on man made devices to build His Church. Nor is it likely to be the demise of the fellowship, I don't see anything inherently wrong with Church Marketing so long as saints don't view it as a substitute for personal evangelism. Personally I was for it but I can see the viewpoint of those against it, (I did not vote, I am licensed by another Apostolic fellowship) I do not want to see our services broadcast on TV, only a quality produced commercial. It is impossible to transmit what is going on in a service over any media form. These are surely the last days, and we need to all be committed to preaching the gospel and not get derailed by side issues... Bro. Harrelson, great posting on the issue, keep up the great work.

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