You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2.1-2).I first learned about the idea of mentoring my freshmen year of college. I was sitting in a worship gathering in a campus ministry, listening to an older college girl talk about her experiences with life-on-life discipleship and how influential it was on her walk with God. She met with this older woman once a week to talk and study Scripture, she went places with the woman, and hung out with her family. It sounded fantastic.
I didn't grow up in an environment with much spiritual guidance, and when I came to faith in Jesus in junior high, I had a fantastic youth group who taught me a lot of things, but never a person who took me under their wing and invested in me. Or so I thought.
Aunt GeriIt wasn't until after college that I realized how influential my aunt has been in my life in regards to my spiritual formation. My aunt was the only "born-again" Christian in my family that I knew of growing up. Long before I was a Christian, my aunt was sowing seeds of the gospel in my heart. Although we only saw each other a few times per year, she invested her time and energy in keeping in touch with me through letters, gifts, and bi-annual visits. During these visits, she'd have something really fun to do, and she'd always be open with her faith, talking about things she was dealing with and how Jesus was working in and through her.
|Signing "I Love You"|
|Finger painting on my 3rd birthday|
|Cooking at a camp with Aunt Geri (she's the one in the white shirt behind me)|
So, although we don't meet weekly to study Scripture and I don't get to spend very much face time with her, she has been one of the most influential people in my life.
|Jen with two of her sweet daughters at my wedding shower back in 2005|
Looking back, I'm surprised that Jen stuck it out with me...I was an over-committed 20-year-old who got my worth from doing a lot of different things and had trouble balancing it all out. I wasn't as faithful to our meetings together as I wanted to be (and certainly not as faithful as she wanted me to be), and I'm sure she got annoyed by it. She was faithful to me through it all, and through our time together, I learned a lot about the character of God, small groups, discipleship, and prayer.
While she was discipling me, we worked on a big project together. She was in charge of small groups at the campus ministry I was a part of, so she had me work with her to create a small group leader training. We went over material together, read books and discussed what should be put in the training, and created the training manuals. She even let me assist with the actual training, even though I was still a student leader myself. After this project, she asked me if I could do the same thing we just did together, but this time a different subject-- and all on my own. She had me design and teach a one-on-one discipleship training for people in our ministry who either wanted to be discipled or who wanted to learn how to disciple other. While she was there for me when I had questions or concerns, she let me have fun and gave me freedom to do what I best saw fit. Little did she know that I was going to be doing those exact things on staff at the same campus ministry several years later.
After our formal discipleship commitment ended, she continued to be a woman that I would go to for advice, prayer and encouragement. Jen and her family can tell story after story of God's faithfulness in their lives, and God has used their life to encourage Jake and I in our journey. She was there for me during my first years in campus ministry (her being in campus ministry herself), she was there to bless me on my wedding day (her and her husband were the first ones out on the dance floor at our reception when everyone else was too timid!), she gave me the most useful advice about a baby's eating, sleeping, playing routine that I have successfully used with all three kids, she mentored me through some of my seminary classes, and even was the voice of God to me a few months ago when I was struggling to understand and accept my life in this new geographical location. The work of God in her life gives me courage and hope when I feel discouraged and fearful. While we don't talk very often, whenever we do, it's meaningful, encouraging, FUN, prayerful, and deeply healing.
I've learned that there's many ways that God puts people in our lives to help us along in our spiritual journeys. Sometimes the relationship is formal and we're very aware of their purpose in our lives. Other times it isn't until much later that we realize we were being mentored by that man or woman who took interest and sowed grace and truth into our lives. I am so. incredibly. thankful. for these two women in particular (and several more men and women that I didn't have room to mention in this post!).
For more on mentoring relationships, here are some helpful resources to check out:
Becoming a Woman of Influence by Carol Kent
Mentor Like Jesus by Regi Campbell
lifeGiving Mentors by Tim Elmore
Connecting Like Jesus by Tony Campolo and Mary Albert Darling
(not a book directly about mentoring, but very useful to a mentoring relationship)
And now for a giveaway! I'll be sending someone the book, Becoming a Woman of Influence, by Carol Kent. Enter below with the rafflecopter widget- the winner will be revealed (and emailed) on Monday. Note: Leave a comment on the blog (and click "I did it" on the widget) to be entered into the giveaway.
Congrats, Tracy, you are the winner!!! Thanks ya'll for entering!
a Rafflecopter giveaway