Never had a mentor?
Who taught you to tie your shoes or love your first chocolate chip cookie? Who taught you to say, “Mama,” or “Daddy?” Who taught you to read and write? Who showed you the sky and stars and the awesomeness of a zebra’s stripes?
Who exampled a myriad of jobs and professions? Who demonstrated a life’s calling so that it appealed to you or so that it did not appeal to you? Parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, teachers… the world around us is mentoring all the time — coaching and inspiring us to choose certain pathways and neglect others.
Mentoring is rarely ceremonial where you officially call it “mentoring.” And even if it is that way, it is not so mystically. It’s earthy, real, basic — so common that you can miss it and say you have never been mentored. It is natural life.
Elijah mentored Elisha in the Bible. You can say he had one of the grandiose-est mentoring preparations ever recorded. Elijah placed a mantle of anointing on Elisha’s shoulders and separated him into the work of the ministry that he had been faithfully prepared for by other mentors. But I imagine, after the ceremony of receiving the mantle, life was pretty basic in the mentoring process of this is what you do to be a prophet. Who knows? In real life, Elijah might have been a man of few words and more actions. Do you think Elisha was taking notes? No, but yes, his spirit was alert and aware. Maybe his flesh resisted at times.
Jesus separated the disciples to be mentored in ceremonial ways, but the actual discipling happened in the day-to-day walk from Jerusalem to Nazareth and back. It wasn’t glamorous. It was hard work and filled with setbacks and delays and disappointments. And the followers of Jesus probably wondered why they even signed up for such a thing at times. But they were mentored well in the rigors of life — fishing, paying taxes, attending weddings.
And even though their separation to be mentored by Jesus was indeed ceremonially, I think they often still didn’t have a clue that they were being trained for something until His resurrection. Often as they walked together, they asked among themselves, “What does the Master mean?” Even when they waited in the Upper Room, some still didn’t get it until the Holy Spirit fell and endued them with extra power.
My mother never out-and-out said, “Pay attention, I am mentoring you.” No, she showed me how to clean and iron and work hard and be prepared. I never felt a ceremonial buzz in all of it, but she equipped me and made me who I am. I love the art of homemaking, cooking, and entertaining because of her. But my training was less than perfect as I resisted in immaturity and laziness sometimes. Still she mentored me with her constancy. Looking back now as a mother, I feel her burden to prepare me. I appreciate her mission now.
The truth is I owe a boatload of gratitude to my immediate family and basic educators who prepared me to do what I do. I owe a boatload of gratitude to my close friends now in the ministry who prepared me through the years, my pastor and fellow pastors. They all taught me wonderful things upon which I constantly draw.
I remember now my seventh-grade teacher, Miss Shoun, drilled English grammar into my head — who made me conjugate verbs and diagram sentences. I would never have called her a mentor, because I hated her subject then, resisted it. And besides, I would never have chosen HER as a mentor, but God sent her my way in His great love and care for me.
Now I LOVE the subject and have a great foundation because of her — my first real mentor in my field of writing. Now I mentor others. I become a mentor in every piece I edit — every piece I write. I am passing on the good things Miss Shoun placed in me.
My list goes on and on.
God places mentors in everyone’s life — some you choose and some you don’t. Some come through ceremonial attachments and some through the rigors of life experiences. If you blink twice, you may miss the fact that you were or are being mentored because it wasn’t or isn’t mystical or grand or ethereal. It comes in the dull drums of daily living, but there is always someone close by who is showing or saying, “This is how to do it…” or “You can do this too!”
We miss it in the expectation and yearning for the elite status of “being mentored.” We expect the mentor to spot us because of our great call, great gifting, and great teachability — to single us out and make our status higher than anyone else. We want to be special in the world’s eyes and the mentor’s eyes. We want the drama.
It just doesn’t happen that way. The world doesn’t stop and bow down because you are learning a skill as you go in life. And I don’t think Jesus selected the disciples because of their greatness in character or gifting. He chose them because His glory could be seen through them, because He saw them in their end product, a reflection of God’s beauty and goodness.
As we await a great mentor to come along and recognize us, we miss valuable opportunities to learn from others in common ways. I loved the writings of Catherine Marshall as a teenager and read her books over and over. She mentored me, but she never laid eyes on me. I wanted to be like her, write like her. She greatly influenced my life. I choose her, but others who have influenced my life, actually most others, I did not choose. God did and placed them in my journey to be useful to what He saw I would become.
Wisdom acknowledges and recognizes those who have gone before and made investments to your personal achievements, accomplishments, and growth throughout the journey with expressions of honor and gratitude.
So today I say thank you to my mom and dad who first placed a passion for life and living in my soul and heart, who taught me most of all to love God and his people. What great mentors they were. Thanks to my school teachers who brought the rudiments home as the foundations of education and thanks to dozens of inspirational friends, leaders, pastors, professionals, laborers, and colleagues.
My husband has been one of my best mentors in showing me how to love, express gratitude, and press on to the end of tasks. And much more.
My sweet daughter mentors me in the joy of youthful living daily, and dedication to her own calling. I am in awe.
Thank you, thank you to all of you! You rock, and I’d be nowhere without you!