We were never meant to walk through life alone, and mentors can guide us through our struggles. God is always with us, and he wants us to be involved in each other’s lives, being encouragers of one another.
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance" (Proverbs 1:5).
I was going through a very ugly divorce, something I never expected to do. I felt alone, worthless, and vulnerable. My usually neat home and car were so disorganized and messy that a friend thought my place had been ransacked. The police pulled me over because they thought I was living in my car. Everything was out of sorts. I had a great many friends who let me cry on their shoulders; I knew they would defend me to the end. But it took the words of a mentor to pull myself out of this mess.
"Kim," she said, "someone came to me about the way you are keeping house. I know that your environment at home is only reflecting how you feel on the inside, but you must sort through your feelings and your home. After all, you have your son to think about. Would you like me to get some girls together to help you?"
I wanted to run and hide. I was naked and ashamed.
Looking back, I realize how hard that must have been for my mentor to confront me about something so personal. In fact, I wonder if I would be able to do the same.
A mentor isn't preoccupied with being your friend, or the person you like best. Instead, a mentor is preoccupied with being your coach. Sometimes coaches are hated or at best a source of annoyance. They push you further than you imagined you could go. They force you to really see where you are and work toward where you can be. For the beauty that a mentor sees in your future, they are willing to risk your rejection in the present.
According to Webster's online dictionary, a mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.
So how do you choose someone to be your mentor? Someone who is just as committed to your future as you are (or sometimes even more!!)?
If you are looking for someone to mentor you in business, don't pick someone who has no experience in business. If you seek spiritual guidance, find someone who seems spiritually mature. It's okay to have different mentors for different areas of your life.
My mentor was willing to get involved in my mess by offering help. One way you can tell if a person is a God-given guide for your life is if they are willing to help you. This can be tricky because some mentors may be somewhat inaccessible. It may take more than one contact with them to determine whether or not they are willing to advise you along the way. However, if someone never has time for you, you don't have to take it personally. Perhaps they are not the person God has provided to you as a guide at this time.
Often this means someone older and wiser. A mentor isn't someone with whom you have something in common, but rather someone who has achieved something you do not have in common. Perhaps you are seeking a spiritual mentor. You wouldn't choose a new believer, although there is much a Christian can learn from a new believer. A more prudent choice might be someone who is in his or her golden years and who has walked through life's struggles faithful to the Lord.
Find someone whose advice you'd be willing to follow. You are not in this relationship just to gain another friend, although that might very well happen. This type of relationship has been created in order to shave off your rough edges. It may be painful, but if you take offense at instruction or refuse the advice of a mentor, you will likely not experience the success they have.
Imagine if I would have run from my mentor's words. My house would still be a mess. I would not have been able to provide a safe environment for my son, not to mention a sanctuary for myself during those difficult days. There is nothing more disheartening for a mentor than to have their words of wisdom ignored. Trust that God is speaking through them in order to help you go from glory to glory and faith to faith. Be willing to make the changes they see necessary for your life. God uses the mentor/protégé relationship to produce patience in the mentor and humility in the protégé.
Even while writing this, I realize how I could have been a better student with the mentors in my life. But I also recognize the hand of God who did not leave me alone but sent those who were willing to help me be a better me. And for that I am eternally grateful!
Rev. Deb Koster