I was sitting in the living room apartment of a young woman along with several of her friends. I had been invited by a young mom friend who has poured into these women for several years through a campus ministry, to just come and talk about stuff they want to ask about. It was informal and the kind of thing I love. Tell my story, hear theirs, impart a little advice or insight, feel some good connections- all in the span of two hours. The last question my friend asked was “What do you wish you knew at the college age that you know now? What would you go back and tell yourself?” My answer- find a mentor.
I often hear from women they want to BE mentored. I hear just as frequently most women do not feel prepared/ready/able TO mentor. It’s problematic, no? We want someone to pour encouragement and advice and wisdom into us, but we don’t feel we can do that for others until we have it for ourselves first. How do we change this pattern of looking for something we don’t think we know how to give?
“Because we loved you so much we were delighted to share not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” 1 Thes 2:8
We start by demystifying this intimidating word: Mentoring. Can I tell you a secret? No one knows exactly how to mentor or what it is. I know, there are books and blogs and all that. I’ve read some of them. And they can be helpful. But, honestly mentoring is a term we created in the recent past to explain a process that Paul describes more poetically and practically in this verse. Mentoring is sharing the truth of the gospel along with how that works in your real life with another person because you love them and want God’s best for them.
I currently have three young women I mentor. Sometimes we have coffee and talk about their week. Sometimes they hang out at my house while I do laundry and start dinner and we visit. I pray for them. I pray with them. I make a point to hug them when I see them at church and I love their babies and care about their marriages. Sometimes I text them a scripture in the morning and sometimes I text them something silly. I share what God is doing with me (Which is always teaching me to trust Him more. Could I please, please learn that lesson and move on to ANYthing new? No? Okay fine then. Guess I’ll stick with that one.) I talk about feelings, and goals and children running amuck and broken garbage disposals and work and elliptical machines and being a backstage mom and fears and Jesus. You know, I share my life.
Can I tell you another secret? Mentoring feels very much like every other relationship you’ve tried to develop. Because in many ways, it is. The title Mentor doesn’t create a short cut to being close or earning influence. It takes time. It feels extraordinarily normal and regular. You both have to invest in each other and learn to trust. It must stay focused on Jesus to be healthy. Things true of all relationships. The difference in mentoring is your intention to help the other person grow in specific ways you have already grown.
Titus 2:3-5 shows a pattern of older women in the faith, being taught, so they can turn around and teach. What you know, you share. Do you know what it’s like to face pressures in high school to be cool and fit in or feel insecure with boys, but now see how Christ is your identity? Share it! Do you remember how scary graduating college and having to be a real grown up felt? How you started a job and felt sure everyone would know you were brand new, yet also being excited to spread your wings? How it was tempting to pull away from community and pour yourself into networking and climbing the ladder and proving yourself, but now knowing God is the real source of approval? Share it! Do you relate to getting married and finding out how hard it is to love a sometimes unloveable man, and the temptation to be self righteous and controlling, but now see how God was actually exposing your own sin and teaching you how He loves you? Share it!
Here’s the bottom line: mentoring is not about teaching and sharing all the success and cool stuff you know. It’s about helping to lead another woman to the One who taught you, who still teaches you and who loves you both. It is sharing your life, the good and bad, with the goal of helping her grow by learning from your victories and failures. It is being a friend who is further down the road, who turns and offers an encouraging hand to a woman to help her not feel so alone as she journeys to where you are.