If I were to have taken out a personal ad seven years ago, it would have read: 30 something year old Christian Female desperately seeking a mentor, male or female. Must be willing to stay around my whole life, love me for who I am, never correct me, forsaking all others, having time only for me, taking my side in all disputes, and must be willing to let me make you God.
I had mentors when I was younger. Every summer, I would sit with my Grandmother and her friends while they quilted or drank tea. Women used to be surrounded by other women who taught them by example. I’ve lost that. A lot of women my age and younger have lost that. Today’s generation has lost that connection, what with moves and careers. Our families are more and more extended and farther away than we like to admit. In losing that connection, we’ve lost our mentors.
I wanted and needed a mentor but my heart’s requirements were very immature. God in his wonderful wisdom – answered my unwritten want ad – with radio silence. Ever been there?
Eight years ago, my pastor and his wife took a call to St Louis. He had a dream of being a seminary professor and chose to follow it. We all saw it coming, but I was crushed. I’d never belonged to a church before, and they were my first taste and what Christianity at it’s best looks like. Both are brilliant people and both have a heart for leading, shepherding and teaching. There were still strong leaders within our church, who stepped up to teach and lead women while we waited for a pastor. And then they too followed God to other cities.
My tradition does not have an organized women’s ministry department per se’ . They do however have a women’s missionary league called LWML and they became my staying point for quite a few years. LWML as they call it is a wonderful group of ladies with a heart for God and for missions. These ladies work really hard at what they do. They were a safe place for me to spread my wings, and grow. They let me serve and they let me teach for a season. I just did not want to make a career out of it at the time and moved on for now. I’ll come back to it later. LWML is a wonderfulorganization with young children I just could not properly devote the time needed.
We changed churches so that my husband could be on the praise team, and I jumped right in to teach women’s Bible Studies, lead a prayer group, and went to work in a church across town as a receptionist. My confidence in God was growing as I spread my wings and trusted him with the results.
Then, through just a simple fact of life more men and women that I’d come to know and learn from died on me. I unexpectedly buried 14 friends in 18 months. I know it’s not as personal as I make that sound, but it sure felt like it at the time. I suddenly felt very much alone. These were my mentors, men and women I’d relied very heavily on to help me grow in my Christian faith and to help me learn how to live life on life‘s terms rather than my own. I had no idea what I was going to do without them.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how reliant I’d become on all of them to tell me what God really meant and who God really is. I had placed all of them above my relationship with Him. While answering my personal ad for myself, I did try to make mentors out of other people, pastors mostly, but I didn’t trust them like I did this original group and it wasn’t pretty. What with my never ending list of questions, my insecurities and fears of rejection and my inability to be transparent. I honestly went so far as to accidentally set my dress on fire (small fire) to hide the truth. When they proved themselves to be human and let me down by not being God – I didn’t know what to do. When God did place strong Christians in my life, I shook so badly it made them uncomfortable and I literally ran away from one or two people that He gifted me with.
I’d shared with someone a few years back that my husband was thinking about becoming a pastor and that I was terrified at the prospect of being a pastor’s wife. I wasn’t sure I was able to walk that path with him. Her advice to me was to surround myself with mentors. Easier said than done, I replied. My mentors have all moved away or died. How on earth was I going to achieve that? She smiled and gave me some things to ponder.
There are many types of mentors. The side by side mentorship that lasts a lifetime isn’t the only kind. Some mentors are simply seasonal, people God brings into your life for a certain time. I definitely had those. Then she asked me to identify my “shadow” mentors. A shadow mentor is someone I learn from whether I meet them or not. They aren’t friends, but rather people in the faith who teach, speak, or simply live. I can follow their examples, and learn from them as well. I discovered that I have a lot of those. Most are private people within my life that are a silent example of over coming. Joy – the gal who leads our mom’s group Bible Study “Bad Girls of the Bible” is one of them. She has a great gift for teaching and just has an awesome testimony to the power of God. I’ve read all of Liz’s Curtis Higgs books and even though we’ve never met, I count her as a shadow mentor as well.
I’m guessing you have shadow mentors as well and maybe like me, don’t realize it. In looking through my list of books, studies, web pages, conferences, and classes I found I had many mentors. God’s radio silence, was temporary. He filled that cup to overflowing in a way I could not have imagined. He did it, only after I made a fool out of myself with a few people and finally let Him be the side by side for a lifetime mentor that I craved.
Some of these I found in the library, some through other women, and others by being willing to be of service.
I haven’t met most of these people, only a few, and yet they are my mentors. Who are yours?
– I belong to a private board that has many women on it and we learn and share with each other.
– Flylady – I read about a woman in Dear Abby who helped other ADD women get organized. Her mantra at the time was do you live in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and at the time it fit me. Having failed at almost every other attempt at organization I’d tried, I decided to give this a go. Once I joined and started doing it, I found out that several of my friends use her system as well.
– Kay Arthur Lisa, my first pastor’s wife, taught precepts. I was so frustrated doing my homework that I whipped my Bible against the wall and busted the binding. I stuck it out, and Lisa took us to a conference where we got to meet Kay. I was so terrified that all I could do was shake and I couldn’t speak – that poor woman signed my book with Joshua 1:9- “be strong and courageous.” and even though I haven’t met her since, I consider her a shadow mentor. Not only have I studied precepts for years (inspired by my first pastor‘s wife), I get to teach others how today.
– Beth Moore – with Living Proof Live. I “discovered” Beth when our new pastor arrived and his wife (another Lisa) led one of her classes. I’ve never met Beth and yet I’ve been blessed enough to facilitate several of her Bible studies and see her speak with LPM. I also keep her CD’s in my car to listen to while I drive.
– Alicia Britt Chole – has mentoring moments on her web page and I’ve facilitated her bible study, Choices, at my church. Never met her, but God uses her in ways she doesn’t always see.
– Women of Faith – need I say anything about them? I took women to that for several years. They also did a mentoring series for a year that I took advantage of. They mentor long distance through transparency, sharing, and writing. Wonderful organization.
– Extraordinary Women Conference – again it’s a great conference, loaded with wisdom and grace.
– Chonda Pierce – This was God’s deal. I signed up for her newsletter at a WOF concert and wound up leading the Tulsa Turbo Hostesses when she came to town. Not only did I fall on my face my first try at that, I literally ran away from her. Her best friend Ali gave me a second chance. This time the concert sold out, and I didn’t run away. I still get to help her with concerts and I consider it an honor.
– Thelma Wells – mentors with intent on the You Go Girl Network and I get to be a part of that simply because I was willing to volunteer at a local conference that she spoke at and she kindly shared a part of herself with me.
– Speak Up with Confidence – I am an intentional student, and not rostered speaker with them. SpeakUP is loaded with mentors and life coaches. This is part personal growth, part career growth for me. Excellent teachers here.
– Ken Davis has a Professional Communicators Summit as well as Dynamic Communicator’s Workshops every year. – I’ve yet to be able to go and this is my year to do it.Because I do speak and do teach – this is a must attend on my wish list. I’ve never met him in persona, I have however, learned from his books, and dvds and I hope to keep learning from him. – This, like Speak Up, is a career choice mentoring deal for me. You may have other organizations that you learn from. Look for them and go to them.
That’s just a handful of people and opportunities out there. There are authors like CS Lewis, Phillip Yancey, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, not to mention books written by missionaries or evangelists or even by your own pastors. There’s just too many to name here.
I’m still in touch with my original mentors. They play a huge part in who I am today. God used them in a mighty fashion to plant seeds. He took those seeds – and many of us – and while it seems we are scattered across the nation – we are all connected in Spirit.
I begin 2009 with gratitude to all of my mentors: seasonal, intentional, and shadow. May God bless and keep you this year and always.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.