Majoring in Life
How to find a good mentor who will help you on your way.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 9: Jesus with a Jacket
(Finding a mentor worth following)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Two demons paced back and forth, unsure what to do. The big one rubbed his chin, staring at the ground as if trying to burn a trench under his feet. The other waddled like a duckling, glaring at the glow from the nearby dorm room. They stopped as their assigned target opened the window to the evening's breeze, her silhouette dark against the light of her room.
"She's impossible," growled the puny one. "I'm ready to ask for another mission, something less resistant than this saintly slug."
"Fool!" his partner snapped. "Has someone smacked your skull with a pitchfork? Our master would eat us for a midnight snack. We've got to find a way."
"She's tougher to guide than a deaf bat," the little demon insisted. "She won't pay any attention to us. I bet she's studying her Bible right now." He stuck his head through the wall, confirming his suspicion. Then he jumped back, shivering. The Enemy's Book did that to him sometimes.
"We still haven't tried that hunk of a temptation in her World Religions class," he suggested. "He might bring her down."
The two exchanged glances, thrilled by the possibility. Then they shook their heads. Both knew she would tell the "hunk" all about the Enemy, probably resulting in another desertion from their master's ranks. Couldn't have that.
The two demons resumed their pacing. Suddenly the dwarf demon spun on his head, giggling like a jackal. "I've got it!" the imp yelped. He stopped spinning and floated to his feet, savoring the moment.
His partner stared at him as if he'd joined the Enemy. "What are you waiting for? Armageddon? Speak up!"
"Let's tempt her to live the Christian life by herself. We'll separate her from her pastor, her church friends, that Christian professor of hers—we'll convince her she doesn't need them. Let's make her an island, a super-Christian, a loner for God."
"You really do have a brain in that chicken head of yours," the big fiend chuckled. "In three months, maybe six, our target will be so lonely and proud, she'll fall flat on her face. Then we'll have fun with her."
The two demons huddled to plan their attack.
Finding a Mentor
A Couple of Examples to Consider
So you're passionate about your relationship with Christ. You want to serve him with all your heart. Great. Keep going. Make it your life's journey to know and serve him.
But don't do it alone.
Christians who go it solo make a big mistake. Without the support of other believers, you are a prime target for one of Satan's favorite tactics: isolate and conquer. You need the input of other believers in your life, especially that of older Christians.
Contemplate Mary. As a young woman, she found herself miraculously pregnant, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. Her life was about to undergo major changes. Did she face those changes alone? No. She sought out the counsel and encouragement of her older cousin, Elizabeth (see Luke 1:39-56).
Think of Timothy. As a young man he had the smarts to latch on to an older Christian named Paul. Timothy was perhaps twenty-five years younger than Paul was, but he didn't let it scare him. In their long journeys together they saw heathen temples, dark prisons, and many new converts to Christ. Timothy picked up all kinds of great guidance from his coach, ranging from "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young" (1 Timothy 4:12) to "Endure hardship ... like a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3).
With the exception of Jesus and his disciples, Paul and Timothy are the closest trainer-trainee team in the whole Bible. Worth imitating, for sure.
So imitate Mary. Be a Timothy. Give yourself protection from Satan and a boost in your desire to live for Jesus. Find an Elizabeth. Search for a Paul. Get yourself a mentor. Fast.
What's a Mentor?
A mentor is a mature Christian person with whom you would willingly share your dreams. A mentor is an encourager, someone whose advice you'd be happy to hear. A mentor is someone committed to seeing you reach your Christ-given potential.
A mentor is someone you would be wise to have in your life.
What to Look for in a Mentor
Your mentor should be someone willing and able to give you time. If he is always too busy to get together, look for someone else.
A listening ear.
Anyone who talks too much won't be much help.
You want a mentor who will be brutally honest with you. Sometimes your course in life veers off track. You need someone courageous enough to say so.
No mentor is perfect. The ones who can admit their imperfections are worth more than those who hide behind an I've-got-it-all-together smile.
Qualities worthy of respect.
Most of all, a mentor should be someone you admire. Make sure you admire her for the right reasons: Just because she's an incredible wakeboarder doesn't mean she has the qualities you need. Look for godly character. Make sure you see Jesus in your mentor's life.
Approaching a Prospective Mentor
It's possible your mentor will come to you. Paul and Timothy were like that. Paul took the first step (Acts 16:15). If that happens to you, take the relationship and run with it.
It's more likely you'll have to make the first approach, as Mary did. What you don't want to do is tap Jane Possibility on the shoulder and say, "Hi! Will you be my mentor for life?" You may scare her off.
Instead think about a problem or decision you're facing, something you want help with. Now pick a time and place you'd like to talk about it.
With these in mind, give your prospective mentor a call and say something like, "I've got a problem I need some advice on. Would it be possible for us to get together to discuss it? I'd really appreciate your help on this thing." If she says, "Sure!" (a high probability), suggest your time and place and you're set.
Assuming the first meeting goes greater than you ever expected, try this before you part: "You have been really helpful. Could we do this again sometime?"
There, you've found yourself a mentor. You're now an official "mentoree."
Being a Good Mentoree
Any relationship involves responsibility on both sides. Here are some qualities you'll want to have:
Most mentors are busy people. Don't waste her time by being late or failing to show.
Don't wait for your mentor to initiate the conversation. Come up with discussion topics before you get together. Let your mentor know what it is you expect in the relationship with him.
You need to start out carefully, but you want to be able to eventually share the bottom line in your life—your biggest pain, your deepest struggle. You can't get help for things you hide. Once a firm bridge has been built in the relationship, it's unlikely you'll shock your mentor with anything you've done or experienced. He's probably done or experienced something similar.
Make sure the relationship with your mentor doesn't eclipse your growing friendship with Christ. If you let that happen, you'll become a leech who monopolizes your mentor's time. She should willingly give you time, but she has her own life to live, too. Discover the healthy balance.
Ask questions—lots of them. Write down the answers. Tell your mentor if his or her advice helps. If it doesn't, gently let him know and invite more input. Watch your mentor—see what makes him tick. Find out how he and Jesus relate.
Most of all, be relaxed.
You're not going to solve all your problems in one sitting. Make sure you do both serious and fun things. It's amazing how much you can learn playing tennis or chopping wood together.
A Few Other Suggestions
Guys need male mentors. Girls need female mentors. Cross the gender gap and you're asking for trouble. Dangerous attractions have a way of complicating things.
Realize God may have several mentors for you during the course of your life. Don't feel locked into having only one. People move. Relationships change. Avail yourself of as many mentors as you reasonably can. Each will help you in different ways, at different times.
Understand the ultimate goal of mentoring: Mentorees are meant to become mentors themselves. Just before Paul died, he wrote Timothy these words:
"And the things you have heard me say ... entrust them to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).
The Christian life is meant to be a transformation from being a Timothy to being a Paul. Learn well the role of Timothy. With time you'll become a Paul.
One word of caution: There's a chance your relationship with a mentor will become destructive rather than helpful. If a mentor begins to control your life, becomes unduly critical, or suggests something you know is a violation of God's Word, get out of the relationship. It's a slim possibility. Be forewarned, but don't let the potential of one bad apple spoil the full barrel of good mentors that are out there.
The Bottom Line
It's simply this: Don't be a loner for God. Instead, look for the mentors God has lined up for you. No sense slashing your way through life's problems by yourself. There are good people around who'll gladly help cut the trail.
Imitate Mary. Elizabeth's waiting.
Be a Timothy. Find your Paul.