holding hands while holding a bible

Mentoring Through Our Imperfect Selves

We have seen the transformation that comes from women of different generations learning from one another and we hope for this experience for each one of us. Our mentoring program encourages women to bravely step out in willingness and say ‘yes’ to mentoring those younger than them and encourages younger women to allow someone who has gone before them to speak into their lives and walk alongside them. We hope this blog written by one of the mentors in our program encourages you right where you are at in your journey…

Recently I entered a new chapter of life: retirement!  Having been a school teacher, my life was full of lively 5th graders, plenty of opportunities for creative expression, and lots of love and laughter.  I knew that I would experience grief over the loss of a purpose-filled life as a teacher, creating a possible void that might leave me feeling depressed.  Because teaching had been everything to me, I knew I had to be proactive to pursue something new.

So, when I started attending Collide events I was open-hearted for new opportunities.  I checked the box “interested in mentoring” when a ministry interest survey circulated.  This was just one step I took to prevent retirement depression and build a new chapter of life. My heart was ready for something new!

Donna, the volunteer who paired mentors and mentees at that time, made pairings after extensive interviewing and interest surveys. Her enthusiasm for the process came through during our first meeting.  Donna questioned me about my spiritual, emotional, recreational, and vocational life; the areas of my life that would help her find a suitable match. Her questions made me feel loved as I sensed her sincere interest in me.  I knew that her decision was made after prayer, thoughtful consideration, and God-given interpersonal intuition. She assigned a young college student to me: Jenna.

Donna contacted me and said that she thought that Jenna and I would be an excellent match; Jenna was studying education at Western Washington University and had spent many of her high school days dancing or teaching dance to younger students.  I am an avid Jazzerciser, hence the dance connection. These were the two main reasons Donna gave me for the mentor/mentee match. Then texting between Jenna and me began to make that initial connection and we planned for a meeting place.

I will NEVER forget the first meeting with Jenna. She seemed so shy, and my own insecurity had me wondering, “How would I connect with a 20 something college student?”  But, I had already committed to something new!  Our conversation took off over our coffee, and became easier as the minutes passed.  We gently got to know each other, tenderly probed each other’s relationship with Jesus.

During the two years I met with Jenna, something else was lost in my life: my relationship with my daughter.   This unexpected event in my life was certainly something I could not understand. My hurt registered in my emotions as anger.  Anger! This loss caused me to question a lot about myself and my prayers were full of brokenness. Thankfully, Jenna and I kept meeting.  Her positive interest in me, and the contributions to her life I was able to make during this negative personal chapter, kept me moving through my uncertain grief created by my strained relationship with my daughter. I didn’t talk to Jenna about my relationship struggles,  in any deep content, but the fact that I could positively relate to Jenna filled some of that raw part of my heart. I felt God’s encouragement to move forward… to still reach out to others in love.

Jenna and I loved talking about teaching and we always arranged our discussions in local coffee shops.  So, our love for coffee, teaching, and Jesus cemented our relationship. Jenna encouraged me with texts like: “Can we meet soon?”  Simple words, great affect! I found great joy in celebrating Jenna’s birthdays, end of quarters, and other little important milestones.  There was nothing complicated about caring for another person… time invested and sincere interest.

It could have been easy to withdraw from any type of ministry, with the strain that existed between my daughter and me.  Instead, I met with Jenna, started volunteering at Engedi Refuge, and continued to seek reconciliation with my daughter. I went to counseling to better deal with my anger related to the loss.  This loss, I determined, was not going to define my life, or destroy any other good relationships in which the Lord existed. The Lord remained faithful; He continued His good work in my life, Jenna’s life, and of course, in the relationship between my daughter and me.

It’s just so important to remember that we are imperfect people, serving a perfect God, who desires to make us whole.  We are participants in His work as we surrender our time and talents to Him, and of course, we do NOT have to have everything sorted out in our personal lives to play an important role in someone else’s life.  In losing your life, you will gain it…

Collide provides so many opportunities for wholeness…. a wholeness that is birthed out of our imperfections.  All of these hurts, empty places, and new chapters that we view as negative, yet, they are useful for God’s kingdom work in our lives and the lives of others.  Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom, and each of us can have a part in rearranging parts and pieces that don’t seem likely to create something good. But, with His touch: they can work together for good.

From this mentoring experience, I have learned once again that ministry is not birthed from perfection, but from a place of surrender and through the gentle touch of God, through the Holy Spirit.  Jenna played a sweet role in my life for 2 years. She’s moved away from the area now, but I send her texts as she focuses on her student teaching experience. Last week, she responded to a text with this phrase: “ Thanks, I needed that today!”

Yes, Jenna, “ I needed that, too!”  We need each other… that’s what makes mentoring so important. We all have something to offer, in our seasons of life, during our pain, and through the imperfections of life.  Jesus needs all of us to be His hands and feet. He needs us to love others. That’s what mentoring is all about: loving others, being loved… in and through our imperfect selves.

Are you interested in being in a mentoring relationship? Email us at info@wecollide.net for more information about the Collide Mentoring Program.

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