The idea of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. The more I think about it, the more I think I've had the wrong idea about what a mentor is. A line from one of my favorite movies comes to mind...to paraphrase the line from The Princess Bride, "You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
We often toss about the phrase "mentor". As a teacher, I was given a "mentor" to help me learn the ropes at my new location. As a parent, I look to those who might "mentor" my child....but I'm starting to see the whole process a little differently than before. Maybe a better word than "mentor" might be "friend".
It all started when a younger woman in the church mentioned to me that she'd like to get together and do some "friend" kind of things. At first, I couldn't figure out why she'd want to spend time with an old fogey like me....I am twice her age. Then I started seeing a number of younger women in the church that I didn't see so much as "someone I should mentor and guide" but as really neat people that I'd like to get to know better. I'd like to be their friend. That's when it started to sink in, (okay, I'm slow, I admit it). Being a mentor isn't so much about teaching someone something as much as it is about sharing your lives. It's about having friends of all ages and interests who can learn from each other, can laugh with each other, can share their fears, frustrations, and dreams. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn to be a family....the family of God. I learn all kinds of new things from them, and from me....well, hopefully they learn from me a few things that come from walking with the Lord for over half my life. Their spark helps keep me fired up, and my, shall we say wisdom, (or just call it old age) helps them find ways to direct that same spark. They encourage me and I encourage them. It's about relationships....family, growing together.
I know that's a tough concept in today's society...everyone is so busy, but as my pastor said, relationships are really one of the only things we can take with us to heaven. It won't be the sermon I preached in Kid's Church...it'll be the young people I got to know and love in that group. It won't be the song that I sang, it'll be the people I sang it with. It won't even be the hundreds of things I may accomplish in my life....it'll be those whom I got to know along the way.
On my 50th birthday I ran a half-marathon distance at the local track and invited friends to come and join me for a lap or two. When asked why I didn't go elsewhere and run so that I wasn't just going in circles, the answer for me was simple: I never really have gone anywhere exceptional in my life...that's not what made it special. It's the people I've been blessed to share my life with along the way that have made it worth living.
In the book of Acts, New Testament church was said to have "all things in common". We usually take that to mean some sort of communal living, but somehow it struck a different cord in me. My friends and I have a "lot in common". We share our joy, laughter, frustration, triumphs, hopes, fears....we share our lives. Maybe that's what the New Testament church really had...a lot in common. They took time for each other.
So back to this "mentoring" thing. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older, but I really want to pass on what the Lord has given me....I guess the best way to do that is through mentoring, but I still think there's got to be a better name for it than that. For now, I think I'm just going to work on getting to know those around me better, learning from them, encouraging them, and finding ways to help them grow. Gee, I guess that's what you'd call just being a friend. Works for me.