The Mentoring Mess

lets-do-life-together-digital-hand-letteringWe all need each other, but it can be difficult to find someone who truly invests in our lives. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to set aside time to authentically invest in someone else’s life.

I wonder sometimes if we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Are we too particular? Using wisdom in guiding us to the right people is important, but I wonder sometimes if we get too picky. Do we overlook people as possible mentors (or mentees) because of the differences between us? Or perhaps our self-doubt or insecurities get in the way. We don’t want to make the first move in case it’s the wrong move, or the first time we meet doesn’t work out well, and we give up too soon.

Are we too programmed? Do we feel the need for someone to set up mentoring for us? Perhaps we experienced mentoring done really well through a particular program or ministry, and we simply want someone to duplicate the same experience for us. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it just might be. Programs and ministries can help with connections, but it takes personal sacrifice and effort to keep them going. That’s up to you.

Are we too unwilling? We can try to justify our unwillingness by claiming we’re super busy, not the right fit, or a myriad of other excuses, but perhaps we’re simply not willing to give what is needed to establish and maintain mentoring relationships.

Mentoring puts us in a vulnerable position, whether we are giving or receiving. We have to expose our lives to others. That’s easy for some of us and incredibly difficult for others. Mentoring seems so elusive for some yet seems to come naturally to others. That’s frustrating or exhilarating, depending on the side you fall.

No matter what, mentoring is not easy. It’s messy, because it involves people sharing life with each other. That includes everyday situations, crises, and celebrations. Sometimes it feels as if we’re coasting down a hill as we ride bikes on a beautiful day. It is almost effortless. Other times, we get worn out as we struggle to make it up a steep hill of challenges. Both are part of the journey.

Both make mentoring worthwhile.

Truth be told, mentoring is really much simpler than we make it. We want it to be well-defined, because that makes sense to us. We think mentoring is a relationship between two women (or men), usually one older and one younger, where the older woman imparts wisdom into the younger woman. It is so much more than that. Often, the women are close in age. They both feel they get benefits out of the relationship; in fact, you will hear many say they get the best end of the relationship, that they feel as if they receive way more than they give.

We all need others. We need to find partners to help us through the relational, spiritual, emotional, and practical ups and downs of life. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate mentor, but God gifts us with community, people who surround us to cheer us on and challenge us. And we surround others. If we’re honest, at all times, we are being mentored and are mentoring. We need to be intentional about both. We need to recognize that others are not perfect, just as we aren’t. Other will let us down, just as we do to them. Relationships require sacrifice of time and energy, but God is the one who gives both, so it’s best to spend them His way anyway.

How can you find and maintain mentoring relationships?

  • Pay attention. Set aside your assumptions and open your eyes and heart to the opportunities God is placing in front of you. Relationships often begin with eye contact and a brief exchange of words. You don’t have to instantly decide how deep the relationship will go or how long it will last.
  • Persevere. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Be patient and diligent. Put in effort and be humble through the process.
  • Stay healthy. The best thing you can do for any relationship is to be the healthiest you can be. Determine to grow spiritually each step of the way. You might find you need to move on from a relationship. Yet you might find God sharpens you through one you’d rather set aside. Trust Him to lead the way.
  • Transition through seasons. Just because a relationship works well for a while doesn’t mean it will remain in your life forever. Growth requires changes. Saying goodbye (and saying hello) takes courage. It’s difficult. Yet it’s essential to healthy spiritual growth. Again, let God lead.
  • Accept the mess, but don’t be content to stay in it. Set aside your idealism about relationships. Know they will be messy. Be willing to work through the mess, admitting everything won’t ever be completely neat and tidy, yet as you work through issues, you can choose to rely on and get closer to God.

Mentoring might be more mess than magic, but when you invite others into your life and authentically invest in each other, the experience will help you grow in unrivaled ways. Give it a try!

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