The Blessing of Mentoring: Be One or Find One
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…
I remember when I first heard about her. My friend and fellow mom was contemplating a return to school after spending the previous decade tending to her three children. Her one dilemma was how to fill in the gaps between her potential class schedule and that of her kids. Like me, she had no family in the area and their tight budget did not allow room for the expense of childcare. Enter “Sally.”
After ending their teaching careers in Seattle to be near their daughter, “Sally” and her husband had recently retired to the area. With time on her hands and a desire to serve, Sally offered to fill in those gaps for my friend. She covered carpool, made sure her kids weren’t home alone after school and helped with homework when needed. Sally was my definition of a modern day “Mary Poppins”—and an angel.
As long as I’d known my friend, I had often heard Sally’s name. She spoke so fondly of her and their times shared in the same church community, babysitting Sally’s kids as a teenager, and then reconnecting while living in the same town once again. I was intrigued (and envious) hearing all the stories of kindness, wisdom and advice my friend received from this sage I had yet to meet. I remember wondering, “who is this Sally lady, and how do I get myself one?”
At Sally’s invitation, my friend coerced a group of us to attend a weekly class taught by a Christian counselor at a local church. Not only was the course well beyond my hopes and expectations, it was there that I finally met Sally. She was humble, unassuming and intentional about giving us “girls”(as she referred to us) our space as she sat at a different table with women in her season of life. While I understood why, I was thirsty for answers to how and why she had begun her healing journey at this stage of life. I approached her after class one day with that question, and that is where our beautiful friendship took root. Sally offered to reserve a room at the church after class the following week and suggested we bring sack lunches. It was there that she would be willing to share parts of her story.
Sally showed up armed with articles and books on every subject affecting a woman’s life that had been helpful to her in recent years. But it was her life experience I was most interested in. After that meeting, we exchanged emails sporadically, but I longed for more. As a young wife and mom, I knew I could benefit from a more seasoned woman in my life, but was too insecure and prideful to seek one out. Now, in my forties, the struggles of life, marriage and motherhood had rendered me enough humility to recognize I was desperate for one. I needed a mentor. And I wanted her to be Sally.
Not knowing how she would respond, I sent Sally an email and asked if she would pray about meeting with me on a regular basis. I was afraid to use the word “mentor” for fear that it felt too formal. Plus, there was the possibility we could each have very different definitions of the word (I suddenly had empathy for the online dating scene). The very next day, I received this reply: “I was just telling my husband last night ‘I think I am far enough into my healing journey that I could probably mentor someone’ and here was your email. I would LOVE to mentor you.”
That conversation was almost 7 years ago. In the time since, Sally has filled many roles including, but not limited to, life coach, counselor and friend. When I went back to school for my teaching certificate, Sally offered wisdom from her 36 years in education that helped me navigate the classroom. She was my most ardent supporter when I tried to balance school and family. As I struggled with my teenagers becoming young adults and leaving the nest, Sally put into words the despair I was feeling and normalized it with her own parenting experiences. Having lost her own mother, she encouraged me to release expectations, forgive and value my own mom.
At the same time, being that I could technically be her daughter, I helped her understand the pressures and frustrations of her adult daughters from their perspective. Her commitment to continually learning and growing in her relationship with Christ encouraged me to do the same. Sally obeyed the call to be a true “Titus Woman” (“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5) and now so must I. It was time to “pay it forward.”
When the words from the book of Titus refer to “older women” I suspect Paul was speaking to those of us who are beyond childbearing age—or thereabouts. While I think anyone can fill the role of mentor to someone younger than herself, the onus is on the older generation of believers to pass down their spiritual wisdom to the next. But what does this look like when the generation gap has never been wider than it is right now? I had been hearing in many Christian circles that there were more women looking to be mentored than there were women willing to mentor them. The main reason making it to the top of the list was the intimidation factor: the belief they have nothing to offer. While it’s true that today’s young women have come of age in a world that doesn’t resemble the days of old, the need for relationship, wisdom and encouragement mentioned in God’s word has not changed.
At Sally’s prompting, I began asking God to bring me alongside younger versions of myself, and He has been faithful, but it has looked different every time. For one, none of them were anything like me– which is probably a good thing. I had envisioned instant connections, no shortage of the same interests and a hunger for my sage advice. When this wasn’t the reality, I began to believe the same myth as my peers: “I have nothing to offer them.”
But, in spite of the lack of my expectations being met, I did see one common thread in these relationships whether spoken or not: Each of these young women loved being pursued. They responded to someone caring about them and showing interest in their lives. And isn’t this what Paul’s words to Titus are advising me to do as an “older woman”?
Perhaps you are just beginning your journey into adulthood, marriage or parenting and longing for someone other than Google or an anonymous blogger to answer some of your big life questions. Or maybe you’re on the other end of those early seasons, with a little more time and a lot more wisdom. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, step out and take that chance. Whether these connections thrive long term like mine and Sally’s or are just for a season, it’s a call you won’t regret answering.
Are you interested in being in a mentoring relationship? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the Collide Mentoring Program.