Elf on the Shelf.
I’m sorry, but when, exactly, did this become a thing?
Elf on the Shelf, in case you haven’t heard of this new parenting phenomenon, is a little figurine of an elf that parents place in the house in the months leading up to Christmas. The story is that Santa “sends” the elf to report back on whether the kids should go on the “Good List” or the “Naughty List.”
Frankly, I think it’s just an excuse for parents to milk the whole “he-knows-if-you’ve-been-bad-or-good” thing for all it’s worth.
(Can you hear the eye roll from here?)
Anywho. Clearly, this was not around when I was growing up.
And to be quite frank…which, as you know, I always am…I think the whole thing…well…it stinks like rotten fish.
OK, hold the phone…This is a harmless, fun little tradition that makes my kids squeal with excitement. Why are you such a bah-hum-bug Grinch??
The Elf on the Shelf encourages good behavior in order for the child to be rewarded. Be good so you don’t get coal from Santa. Be good because Santa’s watching. Be good so you get lots of presents.
Kids are now having to be accountable to Santa.
This really gives the whole notion of accountability a bad wrap. Like, Santa’s become some sort of parole officer who’s there to keep tabs on you, or check up on you to make sure you’re not doing anything destructive. Be accountable to avoid negative consequences.
And this is where the problem lies in my eyes: accountability is not something that is restrictive or negative. In fact, in true accountability, there is overwhelming freedom. Overwhelming love.
I went to inpatient for a reason. I needed around-the-clock accountability. For my intake, for my exercise, for my ED behaviors. So I went to an inpatient treatment facility for 3 MONTHS. I missed my high school graduation. Missed summer vacation. I was in a hospital where I was held accountable every second of every day. And there was no fudging the accountability either. Doctors, nurses, dieticians, therapists, table monitors to sit with us while we ate, people who watched over us while we slept, people who flushed the toilet for us. INTENSE ACCOUNTABILITY.
One of the things my parents and I talked about during my trip home over Thanksgiving, was how they were so thankful that they don’t have to worry anymore. How they’re grateful that I’m taking care of myself in every sense of the word: physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially.
And we got to talking about why that is.
Here’s the thing: I live alone. I’m in a cute little studio apartment. And the reality is, if I wanted to cozy up to ED again, I could. The reality is, I live in NYC: the busiest city, and also the most anonymous city in the world. And I live by myself. That could be a recipe for disaster.
One word: accountability.
I don’t go to a therapist. I don’t go to a dietician. No ED support groups or meetings. None of my family or relatives live on the East Coast. All of my physicians are even back in my hometown.
So how, then, have I been able to stay in recovery? How is it that I don’t skip meals or snacks or spend 6 hours a day exercising, or isolate from the people, or just deteriorate, in every sense of the word? I have every opportunity to, if I wanted.
Jesus is my accountability partner. But unlike the Elf on the Shelf, — who is waiting for me to mess up, whose reward is dependent upon me not screwing up — Jesus already gave me my reward: on the Cross.
Jesus didn’t get to Calvary and say, Wellll, I’m actually not going to go through with this because Susie did X on December 3, 2015. Too bad, this whole redemption thing coulda been greaaat.
No. That’s the Elf on the Shelf’s approach.
Jesus gave it all no matter what we do or don’t do. He gave His life because He loves us that much. Because we are worth that much.
That is what I’m accountable to.
That is the character of the Who I’m accountable to.
I’m getting a little preachy now, so I’ll leave you with this.
That desire for self-accountability didn’t happen overnight. It came through transformation. Transformation that came from Him.
We’ve all heard “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God.” But think about this: In that verse, (Ps 51:10) the Hebrew word for “create” – bara – is only used a couple of times in the bible. It is also used when God creates the world, and God creates man – meaning that He created something out of nothing. Those are things that only God could do. Man could not create himself. The world could not create itself. Therefore, we cannot create a clean heart for ourselves. God has to do it.
The Elf on the Shelf, sure it’s a fun tradition, filling children’s imaginations with whimsy and wonder. But let us not mix up that “Good List”/”Naughty List” accountability with the freedom that is experienced in accountability with, to, and for Christ.