Our lives are the sum of our choices and others’ choices. Everything from what to wear, what to do with an unexpectedly free afternoon, how to treat your siblings, parents and friends, to even harder choices like what school will you go to – they’re all choices we have to make. How will you represent yourself in this new place? Should you date this person or go to this place Friday night? The list seems endless.
Because of this, I would argue that the choices you make are pretty important. Some more than others, but they all affect your life. How do you know you are making the best choices? Sometimes it can be hard to tell when all of your friends are saying one thing, but your gut is telling you something else. This is why connecting up is so important! Specifically, this is why finding wise counsel is so important, often times through the form of a mentor.
When I look back at my time in high school and at youth group; I was pretty lucky. Not long after I started going each week, I met Ann. She was one of our leaders at youth group, and she had a deep love for students! When I think about it, I’m not sure how I ended up in her small group, all I can say is God was looking out or me.
Not long after I started going to youth group there, Ann and I started meeting each week. We would talk about all sorts of different things: boys, school, work, the things I wanted to do, my passions, dreams, relationships with friends, sisters and parents. She was pretty cool, always had solid advice, but more importantly, was a really good listener. The best things she did for me though was ask me about God and not just if I believed in him, but whether or not I was pursuing him, looking for him in my life and seeking to know him better.
When I think about Ann, lots of different things come to mind; the many different things that she taught me over the three years that we met each week, the fun times that we shared, the small group she led with me and my other friends, but specifically I remember the day that she challenged me to trust the other people in our small group and in our youth group.
A good friend had hurt me in the past and because of that I was having a hard time trusting the other people in my life. It had been a hard betrayal to swallow, and I was feeling defensive. Ann knew what had happened, and she had watched me throughout the year and saw how the hurt played out in my life. I guess you could say I had no idea it was still affecting me! I mean I had friends, lots of them. When I started going to youth group I fit in right away and made some really good friends. We all hung out, people came over to my house to chill every week, and I was really close with each of my friends. I thought I was doing pretty well! So you can imagine I was confused when Ann told me that my friendships were shallow. In my mind they were anything but shallow. I told her I had great friendships! I knew all my friends’ hurts, pains, dreams, challenges and desires, even things like their favorite sports teams or hobbies; I knew my friends.
This is when Ann rocked my world.
She told me “No. You don’t have good friends” She paused for a second then she said, “You may be a good friend to them, but it’s one way. You may know all of their stories, but how many of them know yours?” She was good at that. Leaving me with a question that I had to think about, something that shifted my perspective.
It was like a curtain was lifted and I saw clearly for the first time. She was right! None of them knew about the betrayal I had experienced, the hurt that I felt because of it, and the other things that had happened in my life. None. I had been hiding behind everyone else and their stories because I had been hurt. I was there for everyone, but when someone asked about me, I had mastered the skill of turning the conversation back on him or her.
Over the next two years Ann would continuously challenge me in this area. She would ask me about my friendships, encourage me to trust others and challenge me in my beliefs. My mentor Ann saw who I was, but also saw who I could be. She reminded me that even Jesus had the three that he was closer with, shared what he could with. And she gave me one of my favorite verses, Matthew 17:20 which reads, “…I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go. You could do anything!”
Ann laid out the choices for me. She showed me that I could keep living the way that I was, not trusting and running myself thin, or I could trust God to move the hills in my life. In other translations it reads mountains. I like ‘mountains’ better in this case because for me trusting others wasn’t a hill, it was a HUGE mountain-sized challenge that God helped me to overcome!
Ann did for me what others could not. She gave me strength to do what I thought was impossible, and she taught me to depend on God, but she was able to do this because of the relationship we had built. Ann was my mentor for three years. In that time she met me where I was, walked with me, was a safe place, a place to hear truth, a person to challenge me and another person who loved me. Mentors are a gift. They can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s worth the search. They provide a solid ‘place’ where you know you belong. Find someone who you can walk through life with so that when you are facing a crossroad, you have sound wisdom to listen to. Mentors offer us relationships that are crucial for developing resilience in our lives!
When we look at the account of Esther, we see the true power of a mentor. Esther is an orphan, left with no parents, but fortunately her older cousin has taken her in and raised her. As we follow Esther through a chain of wild events we see that she is eventually selected to be Queen to the King! However, the account does not stop there. One of the Kings men has decided he wants to kill off all of the Jews, the nationality in which Esther and her family are. The time and day have been set for the genocide of the Jews, everyone is scared. This is when Esther’s cousin comes to her in Esther 4:1-27, he tells her that she has to say something to the King because he does not realize what is about to take place and he is the only one who can stop it.
When you look at the verses you can see Esther is afraid to approach the King at first, she could be killed! But her cousin speaks truth into her life and reminds her that God has made her Queen for a reason! To save a nation!
Father, help me to remember that I do belong, that I do have something to offer. To remember that you made me and I have value! Guide me Father as I walk through life. There are so many different things that come up and sometimes I just don’t know what to do, but you do Father, and you know who can help me, give me wise council. Open my eyes Father, help me to see these people when I feel stuck and Father…I think I may want to find a mentor, someone who will be consistent in my life, would you guide me in this process to find someone. Would you help me find the right person? We pray these things in Jesus’ powerful name, Amen.
Sometimes finding a mentor can be hard, but scripture does help us out in this area. Check out Matthew 7:15-20:
“Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs. A healthy tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. And any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.
That passage is taken right out of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. We can recognize a person who is following Christ because their fruit will be good! But…fruit? When we turn to Galatians 5:22-23, we see what Jesus was talking about,
But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.
Some translations like NIV say, “but the fruit of the Spirit produces…” Those are things to look for in a person’s life when seeking a mentor. See! It doesn’t have to be too hard!
Sometimes finding a mentor can be hard! Here are some things I thought about when looking for a mentor after Ann moved.
- What do I need from a mentor, personality wise?
For me, I wanted someone who would be honest with me and a little in my face when I was doing something silly. Other things may be, someone who is more compassionate, someone who will cry with you, someone who will run around with you, be active when your talking or something else.
- What do I want a mentor to be willing to talk to me about?
Maybe you want someone who will talk to you about family, school, faith, relationships or maybe you need someone to talk about the divorce your parents went through or Dad being on active duty. These are just good things to think about ahead of time so that your time together can have purpose. It may also help you figure out who you want to ask.
- Does this person actually have time to mentor you?
There are lots of well-intentioned people, but sometimes they just don’t actually have time for another commitment. For example, I asked a person to mentor me and every time it was time to meet, they had to reschedule. After this happened five times I was back on the search for someone else. They really wanted to, we did meet a handful of times, but there was too much going on in their life at the time.
- Is this person old enough to be your mentor?
Generally, you want to ask someone who is a life stage or two ahead of you because they will have experience going through and figuring out what you are facing now.
- Is this person in a growing relationship with Christ themselves?
Are you able to see that they are growing in their own life? As you continue on in life if you call yourself a Christ Follower, it is wise to also have a mentor who is pursuing Christ because then they should also be leading you in a direction Christ would lead you.
- Do you actually get along with, respect and look forward to seeing this person?
It may sound silly or obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. These things are important when looking for a mentor because hopefully you will develop a long-term relationship with them.
- Are you ready to commit to a mentoring relationship?
This may be one of the most important questions to ask yourself, because honestly, if you’re not ready, you’re wasting their time. You’re asking this person a favor, to spend time with you and teach you. They don’t have to, but my guess is they would be honored to. Don’t be rude and waste their time if you’re not ready. It’s okay if you’re not right now, but be honest with yourself and when you’re ready, look at these questions again.
Sometimes Mentors come out of nowhere and last only for a second. They come into our lives, spill truth and leave us thinking about it.
This is what I think about when I think about last summer. I was in a new place, didn’t know anyone and was feeling a little defensive. Not really threatened but just protective of myself. I didn’t know anyone! I was the only one who was going to protect me and I had to be careful.
Well…as you can imagine God was about to teach me something. I was walking around, minding my own business when this guy comes up to me and basically says, “You know you’re not alone right? God is with you, always. Even here.”
I like to think of myself as a tough cookie, someone who can take care of themselves. I almost burst into tears right there. It was just the message I needed to hear. God knew and this man took a risk, followed God’s prompting and gave me a great gift. Truth. Truth I needed to hear right then.
I haven’t really talked to this guy since, but I’ll remember that truth he shared with me the rest of my life.
1 Corinthians 11:1 - Here Paul tells the people of Corinth to follow his example, just as he follows the example of Christ.
Proverbs 13:20 - The Bible tell us that when we seek wisdom from others, we will continue to grow; when we don't though, it can cause us more pain. We seek wisdom to make better decisions.
Proverbs 27:17 - Working together helps us to be smarter about the things that we do, way that we live, and choices that we make.
2 Timothy 2:2 - Sometimes mentoring is as simple as teaching others good things!
Psalm 18:19 - God will always be there to rescue us. Sometimes he does it in ways that we don't expect - through other people.
Coach Carter: The boys have just lost the final game, the game that would have made them state champions, they are disappointed after having come so far from the beginning of the season, but in this clip we see Coach Carter share truth with his team, much like mentors do for us.
The Karate Kid: Dre has asked his mentor to teach him Karate so he can defend himself against the bullies at school, but all he had done is take on and off his jacket for hours. In this scene we get to see how Mentors reveal things to us we could not see before and teach us in ways that strengthen us.
Check out this movie clip
Mentors inspire us. Sometimes our mentors start off as just someone we really look up to, but they can become so much more than that! Who has inspired you, shaped you, changed who you are? Have you ever told them the impact they have had on your life? DO it! Ask them to mentor you, or at least meet with you once or twice so you can keep learning. Maybe you can’t anymore, but you can share their story with those around you like Z’s story was shared.