When I had my first child, I had no clue what I was doing. My parents were serving as missionaries in Albania at the time, and email was new on the scene at that time. So Skype wasn’t an option. While I read some books and knew a few women at my church, I didn’t feel close enough to ask practical newborn questions.
For fear my son would experience nipple confusion, my husband and I didn’t bring a pacifier to the hospital. Of course after he was born all he wanted to do was suck on something. My husband let him use his pinkie finger to keep him content. I began doing the same. I stood over that crib every night with my finger in his mouth! I was sleep deprived and knew there had to be a better way to get this kid to sleep. We tried the pacifier, but he had gotten used to fleshy warm fingers and wanted nothing to do with cold latex.
This was just one of the many things I look back on and chuckle. How I wish I’d had a mentor then—someone I could talk to for advice about diaper rash, sleep training, and the changes in marriage a baby brings. Not only that but spiritual advice, encouragement and someone to reach out to when I need prayer. The concept of a mentor is found throughout Scripture:
- Mary and Elizabeth
- Elijah and Elisha
- Paul and Timothy
We find the benefits of a mentoring as a wise person pours into the life of another. Titus 2:4 says, “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.” I’m so grateful that when we moved to Ohio eighteen months later, God graciously put an amazing mentor in my life.
Deb and I served together in youth ministry. She invited our family over for dinner and sometimes out to eat after church on Sundays. She didn’t formally say, “Hey, can I be your mentor?” I didn’t formally ask her either. Yet she became the person I called with parenting and marriage questions. When my five-year-old daughter had to be admitted into the ICU and put on a ventilator, Deb was my first call after my husband. She sat with me for hours day after day, praying with me and bringing me food. Just this week I got stuck on a parenting problem and dialed her number as I have so many times before.
Through the years I’ve had a front-row seat to how Deb handles her own parenting situations. She isn’t perfect, but she is the mom I want to be. In the early days when we invited her family over for dinner, her older kids would play with our little ones so we actually could have a conversation. Her daughter has helped my girls through the teen years. As the years have passed, my husband and I have invested in her kids and even did her son’s premarital counseling. As I stood in her kitchen a few weeks ago, I remembered giving my twins baths in her sink to wash their first birthday cakes off their faces. Now one of those twins came over to babysit for her little grandchild. We’ve built memories through the years. I can tell you firsthand, for a parent seeking to follow Jesus, the benefits of a mentor are immeasurable.
As we realize how valuable it is to have someone to help and guide us, where do we start in finding one? As you look at the others around you, who would you say:
- Spends time in God’s Word and prayer regularly?
- Treats those around them the way you want to treat others?
- Parents their children the way you hope to—with patience and consistency?
- Seems to have genuine spiritual connections with their kids?
- Has a personality and sense of humor you enjoy?
I’ve heard many individuals complain that they asked someone to mentor them, but the person they asked never responded. Often a person being sought for mentoring is unclear what to do. Life is busy. Family time is demanding. You as the mentee should be clear about what kind of guidance you’re looking for and be realistic about what you expect.
As with any relationship, there are some of the pitfalls to guard against in mentoring. They include:
- Lack of clear dialogue about expectations
- Feeling territorial and wanting to be the only one your mentor helps
- Personalities that don’t naturally complement one another
- One person being more committed to the relationship than the other
- Lack of margin in either party’s life to make time for mentoring
If you have experienced a mentoring relationship that didn’t turn out the way you expected, reflect on what might have contributed to the lack of success. Though that relationship was not what you had hoped for, don’t give up—keep seeking a mentor who is right for you.
I appreciate any time I get with Deb, but I don’t expect her to be my Savior. I know she can’t be omnipresent, perfectly wise, or the source of all truth. Besides, I already have a Savior—and He’s amazing! I just count on Deb to help when and where she can. Is God bringing someone to mind that you could pursue as a mentor? Reach out to them and explore whether they might be the right fit in your life!
Today a broadcast airs that I got to do on FamilyLife Today radio. Dennis Rainey, Bob Lepine and I chatted about mentoring and other topics about making disciples at home. You can listen online by clicking here http://familylifetoday.com/series/total-family-makeover/ or find what time it airs on your local station by looking here: http://familylifetoday.com/list-stations/ I would be super grateful if you would listen, comment on FamilyLife Today’s facebook page and share this broadcast with those in your sphere of influence. It will air in three segments today, Tuesday, and Wednesday! Thanks in advance.