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All Figured Out

It's important that we admit we don't have life all figured out and seek out wise mentors to help guide us.

I had life all figured out when I was in college. Oh, sure, some other folks might not have had it all worked out, but I did. I ran into quite a few older men who thought they needed to give me advice. Didn’t they know I had it all figured out? I did my duty and listened. Some of them were nice and well meaning, but … have I forgotten to mention that I had it all figured out? I knew what law school I was going to. I knew what girl I was going to marry, and I knew when I was going to marry her. I knew how many kids we were going to have, where we were going to live, etc. See, I had it all figured out.

It wasn’t until late in my graduate school years that I really began to value the advice and wisdom others had to offer.

Then God stepped in. Almost a week after walking across the platform to get my diploma, I was home for a few months to rest and relax before heading to law school. My mother suggested I go talk to a professor friend of ours at the local university. Out of duty and not wanting to be nagged, I went.

We chatted for some minutes before he dropped a bomb. It was a simple question, yet it took me totally by surprise. “Why are you going to law school?” he queried. “Well, I was a double major in political science and communication, dabbled in debate activities, and well … that’s what you do.” Hearing my reasons out loud for the first time, they suddenly sounded very unconvincing. Apparently, he noticed that, too. “Why not talk with a friend of mine in the law school here,” he suggested, “just to find out what you’re in for?” It sounded fair, so I agreed.

It turned out to be an afternoon that changed the direction of my life. The law professor didn’t try to talk me out of my decision to pursue a legal career; he merely told me what studying would look like, what law school would look like and, more importantly, what a career in the law would look like. Amazingly, it didn’t align well with the Hollywood images I had in my head. I left his office later that day, not at all convinced that I was on the right track. But where did I go wrong? What led me this far down a pathway I wasn’t sure about?

The Path You Tread

Stop, right now, and think about the path you are on. I mean it. Stop and think about it. I’ll wait right here.

OK, now, what got you on that path in the first place, and why did you decide to stay on it?

It wasn’t until late in my graduate school years that I really began to value the advice and wisdom others had to offer. I was so independent and self sufficient that I believed I didn’t need others. I liked to have people around, but only on my terms. This created a void in me that was hard to recognize. My beliefs about independence and self sufficiency didn’t allow me to see what I was missing — mentorship. As I would later discover, I was missing a key part of life as God designed it.

Biblical Mentoring

The importance of mentoring shows up in the Bible often, but nowhere more clearly than in 2 Chronicles 10, the story of Rehoboam’s first years as king.

The people of Israel came to Rehoboam and asked if the heavy workload Solomon placed upon them could be lightened. In a moment of discernment, Rehoboam said he would take three days to consider the matter.

A mentor doesn’t have to be perfect. The truth is, the mentor/student relationship is about walking along together, living life and waiting for Jesus to show up.

In the meantime, Rehoboam sought counsel from two groups of people. The first were elders who had served Solomon before him. They told Rehoboam that if he lightened the load, he would win the favor of the Israelites, and they would serve him always. Rehoboam didn’t like that answer so he turned to a second group: “the young men who had grown up with him” (v. 8, NIV). They told him that he would be a fool if he lightened the load — that he’d be seen as a weak leader. He should increase the workload to show them who’s boss. They even went on to suggest that he disrespect his own father by telling them, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist” (v. 10).

The people came to Rehoboam on the third day and, ignoring the advice of the elders, “answered them harshly” (v. 13). Instead of listening to the advice of those that were older and wiser than him, he followed the counsel of his younger and less-experienced peers. This turn from wise counsel led to some very serious consequences for both Rehoboam and the people of Israel.

Just Ask

Rehoboam had access to some wise mentors. You and I must also avail ourselves of those that can give wise counsel. Look around and seek out those that can mentor you — and in boldness, ask them to.

Copyright 2006 Chris Leland. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Chris Leland

Chris Leland, Ph.D. is the former director of the Focus Leadership Institute. He enjoys outdoor activities with his wife and four sons.

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