Last week I was talking to a friend who is older and wiser than me. She isn’t an official mentor to me, but we have met for coffee and talked a handful of times over the past few years. As we were catching up, and I told her about some of the good, bad and ugly of recent months, she told me that she has been where I am and offered some helpful ideas for moving forward in a godly way.
One thing she said really stuck out to me. “When you’re in the wilderness, you need an experienced guide.”
A wilderness year
I think many of us can relate to the past year feeling like a wilderness — a dry, wild and unpredictable place. Maybe even a place of worry, confusion, hardship, grief or dryness in our relationship with God. After my conversation with my friend (who offered to chat with me again in a few months), I pondered her words “you need an experienced guide.” I have always been open to the idea of mentorship, but I have not always made it a priority.
Here are a few benefits to having a mentor, and ideas for getting one into your life.
A mentor can train in faith and godliness.
The Apostle Paul laid out this concept in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
A major function of Christian mentorship (and why it is so valuable) is to pass the faith from one generation to the next. Paul often invited new believers to follow him as he followed Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).
A mentor can train in practical aspects of living out faith.
Titus 2:3-5 encourages life-on-life mentoring relationships when it says: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
That example feels rather specific to married women of that time whose primary role was to be home managers. But the principle is that older women, grounded in faith, were to act as guides to their younger counterparts, helping them navigate the practical aspects of their daily lives and to live in a biblical fashion.
Years ago, a friend of mine had as a mentor an older single woman who had been on the mission field for many years. My friend, also single, was on the path to be a missionary and found the relationship beneficial for troubleshooting specific obstacles along that road. She also gained encouragement from her mentor’s joyful, Spirit-filled disposition.
A mentor can be a friend.
As I already mentioned, I just recently stumbled into an “accidental” mentoring relationship. We started out as friends and colleagues in ministry. But because of my friend’s expertise and experience, our conversations easily went down a mentoring path.
I see this falling into the category of what Proverbs 13:20 describes: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” There is value to having a friend who is ahead of you on the path and can offer support and direction through mentorship.
A mentor can be a guide.
Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” There are many times in life when we encounter a fork in the road or seem to be “stuck” in a certain attitude or behavior and need some help to move forward. Those are not the moments to succumb to a “blind leading the blind” situation. We need an “experienced guide.”
Unlike a Christian therapist or counselor, a mentor is not there to diagnose and treat problems you may present. Their main objective is to listen, engage, pray for you and offer wisdom from Scripture and life experiences which may serve you. At times you may need both a counselor and a mentor; the two serve different purposes, but can both be beneficial.
Finding the right fit
Are you convinced you need a mentor? How can you go about finding someone willing to invest in you in this way? Here are a few ways to start:
Ask the Lord to provide a mentor and reveal to you who that person is. It may be someone at your church, a Christian friend or even a family member.
While an older man or woman is likely the right choice, keep in mind that someone nearer your own age who is a more mature believer or has more life experience could also act as a mentor. Be sure the individual is grounded in faith and living out the gospel in his or her daily life.
When you ask someone if they would be your mentor, provide a specific request. For example, “Would you be willing to meet with me for coffee once a month?” or “Can we arrange a video call every other month to talk about how I’m doing spiritually?” This alerts your potential mentor to the level of commitment you have in mind.
Be prepared that a mentor relationship may not work out. One time a woman at church gladly offered to meet with me, but then her schedule was so full we never ended up getting together. In that case, you can graciously release your mentor and go through the first three steps again to find someone who has greater availability or will be a better fit.
This past year has been challenging for me. I didn’t even know how much I needed that hour-long conversation with someone who understood what I was going through, was eager to listen, and could offer loads of wisdom. I left the call encouraged that God is at work in my life and will help me overcome the challenges I face. Sometimes you just need an experienced guide.
Copyright 2021 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.