Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mentor Me

One of the {many} gifts of 2012 was a mentor.

This was a complete surprise to me; something I'd been longing for and praying about on-and-off for 6 1/2 years. It was one of those lovely connections that came about in a round-a-bout sorta way, but it clicked and felt like it was always meant to be.

I've had both informal and formal mentors.

By informal mentors, I mean authors and friends that have spoken into my life. Some of my favorite authors in this category would include Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Lisa Samson (novelist, but excellent books; not just entertainment!!) or even evangelists/biblical teachers like Charles Stanley or Kay Arthur.

Friends have oh-so-often spoken into my life. Whether this stretches my work life, emotions, home life, parenting, health and body, I would not be a fraction of the person I am today without honest, sincere, different-than-me friends!!

By formal mentors, I am referring to those relationships that are specifically cultivated so that one can gain wisdom and insight from another, often older (but not always!) person.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way when it comes to selecting mentors.

1. If it's gonna work well, there's gotta be a game plan! What area is God inviting you to grow in? Is there someone who can help you walk through that? By selecting a specific theme, it might be easier to find someone who fits well. If it's too general and vague, you run the risk of totally missing each other's point - you may want mentoring in Area A, but this person is more skilled and fluent in Area B -- and the two may, or may not, be compatible. And yet there is much grace here, because the best part is, even if you do discuss particular "topics,"there's no tellin' how God will use that to shape and challenge you --- it might be in a completely different area of your heart than what you had planned!

At this point in my life, I have the privilege (and responsibility!) to lead music in church. So often I definitely feel like is way above my head and I strongly felt a need for a mentor in this area. However, often times music leaders are men, and not that men are bad ;), but I was definitely longing for a gal pal to hash out some of my questions and wrestlings with :). God led me to a very specific woman who lives in our community but is not from our church. There was a lot of liberty with what we could discuss. However, as we conversed, God used this to challenge so many things - my understanding of Holy Spirit, for example.

2. Create a date ;). Also, particularly in a world full of good (and often very good!) intentions, it is easier to note it on the calendar. For example, with this mentoring relationships, we aimed to meet every 4 weeks, the first Wednesday of the month. If that didn't work, we'd call and create a new date on the calendar. This was very versatile, but at least it gave us both the reassurance that we could keep the commitment without having to worry about trying to carve out the time. AND it gives one something good to look forward to!

3. Honesty is the best policy :). This is a bit of a no-brainer. But it's important to note. The first mentor I ever had was because of our church's practice upon being baptized. I was baptized at age 18, and the year following that was to meet with a mentor that I had chosen. Problem was, I didn't really know myself, and so to share honestly and transparently was a challenge. In my mind, things were fine, (though they were not always fine) and so she thought they were fine, and consequently, since things were apparently fine, we never met very often. Maybe once or twice. Over the course of a year. Not really an accountable mentoring situation! I realize now, that if I had been more honest with both her and myself, that perhaps some learning experiences could've been ... avoided :).

Also, honesty helps communicate expectations - how often do you want to meet? What would you like to discuss? Where would you like to meet? Are all great questions to ask up front.

4. Pray. Pray. Pray. For a period of my life, I was dealing with a very specific, intense situation. I felt like it was best to seek out a counsellor, who had been trained and was knowledgable, to help sort out the practicalities of life. My concern was that, even with a "christian counselor," there is definitely the risk of not being led biblically. The first counselor I met with, while helpful in many areas, fit in that category. Though I am still thankful for her input, I knew it was time for a change. When I initiated a second counselor-situation, I prayed many times :) that this person would be spiritually grounded, and willing to listen to the wisdom of the Spirit as we sought clarity together.

5. Set a time frame. This is fluid, but I recommend setting a time when you re-evaluate the situation. In this relationship, we agreed on 6 months. It's not like we couldn't continue to meet after 6 months, but instead of dragging something out, it would give us both the option of deciding whether the timing was right for this in each of our lives. Our time has come and passed, but I am hoping to connect with her again in spring. To sit and visit with a like-minded individual whose wisdom and experience far surpasses my own. To laugh and pray :). And enjoy a great cup of tea!!

Over the years, I've had the honor of having a few mentors that have been a blessing to me. Whether they knew it or not, they spoke deeply into my life. I am grateful.

Mentorship is a passing art in our culture. Things seem so busy, too full, and in our fairly-individualistic lives, creating time with others outside our immediate circles of influence requires.... intentionality.

Have you ever wanted a mentor? Been a mentor?? Been blessed through a mentor ;)???

1 comment:

Roo said...

beautiful. and i am sure, without knowing it, you probably also taught your mentor a thing or two. life is like that...heh?


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