The Importance of Mentors
This morning, I woke up early thinking about two friends of mine, one who is younger than me, one older. I love both of them dearly and I haven’t lived close to either of them for over a decade. When we talk, it is as if no time has passed. But too much time HAS passed since our last conversations.
I have been a mentor to many girls and women in my life. It was a natural result of being a youth leader for many years when my husband was a youth pastor and then serving primarily adults for the past fourteen years But I have also been mentored by many, not because it was a formal mentor relationship, but because I learned from an early age to deliberately seek out women who would faithfully point me to Jesus.
A few years ago, I attended a workshop at a women’s conference on the topic of mentoring, specifically the challenges of the older generation reaching out to the younger and the younger generation seeking the wisdom of the older. As different women talked about the divide they felt between themselves and others, I was struck by how complicated we have made this whole mentoring thing. In many cases, mentoring has been turned into a program and women attempt to “match” themselves with a mentor. There is an inevitable disappointment when this relationship doesn’t meet expectations.
Mentoring in scripture is actually a command. In Titus 2:3 it says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior… They are to teach what is good.” And Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Older women are to teach the younger, but they’re not supposed to teach their own theories or opinions. Rather they are to teach wisdom and kindness. This can only happen if women are seeking to learn from the ultimate source of wisdom and kindness, Jesus himself!
We’re all on a journey, so we are all learning things at different times and in different ways. It’s one of the reasons I have sought to invite many women to speak into my life. Some are further along on this journey and I glean from their wisdom. Others are at the same place as me and we struggle together to spur one another on. And some are a little further behind and my role looks more like instructing and guiding. But all of these relationships must be viewed through a lens of humility. I am NEVER the authority in mentoring relationships. My role is simply to point to Jesus. If we miss this, we make mentoring about what we have to pass on and about how great we are. (It’s important here to make a differentiation between mentoring and counseling or work relationships. Mentoring is not about authority, but counseling/work relationships ARE. Understanding these differences is crucial for healthy and successful relationships).
Since I don’t believe that mentoring is a program, but rather a fluid, organic relationship, it changes all of the time. When my kids were infants and toddlers, my main source of mentorship was through MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) programs. When they were in public school, I pursued friendships with other Moms. Now that we homeschool, my co-op friends are a huge part of my life. Through all of these different seasons, I have had older saints in my church who have pointed me to Jesus through their own pursuit of him and I have had younger women who I have been able to pour into, also pointing them to Jesus.
Do you have those friends in your life who love the Word of God and are passionate about loving Jesus more? Every time you talk together, you inevitably talk about what you are reading in scripture and about what the Lord is doing in your life. You can’t help it, because the more you fall in love with Jesus, the more it will just bubble over. And when others are on that same path, it is a beautiful thing! But you can’t force these types of relationships. You can’t expect others to be as excited as you. You must simply keep pursuing truth and asking the Lord to surround you with others who feel the same. My experience is that He LOVES to answer this prayer! When I look back over my life, I am overwhelmed as I consider the many women who have lovingly poured into me and the many whom I have been able to lovingly pour into.
It changes. The relationships I had when my husband and I first started out in ministry are still precious to me, but I haven’t lived close to these women for seventeen years! Proximity is a huge part of mentoring. And that’s okay. If you lose touch with someone who was a crucial part of your growth in life, don’t feel guilty. God used them in your life for that season. He will continue to bless them for their faithfulness whether or not you are in close relationship.
And sometimes you will pour a great deal of time and energy into others only to have them turn their backs on you. This has happened countless times in my life and it has been painful every time. BUT what the Lord is faithfully teaching me is that if I really believe that mentoring is not about me, then it’s okay if others reject me. If I have pointed them to Jesus and I have encouraged them to pursue the truth of the Word of God, then I can entrust them to the Lord and I must keep trusting in Christ myself.
Mentoring is a risk in that sense, but it is one worth taking. Because the Lord will bless our faithfulness.
Now I need to go, because I need to reach out to my two friends I woke up thinking about.
Pour into others with the wisdom and kindness you have received from Jesus. And let others who are drinking from that same well pour into you!