During my first year in seminary, I had a friend who I would regularly meet with for coffee. They were just beginning college, and needed a proxy big brother. So almost every Wednesday, we would meet and share about each other’s weeks. I would hear about drama from parents or friends and offer some insight. The tables would even turn from time to time, and I would be given some good advice along the way.
Turns out mentoring, even informally, is a really good thing.
Elijah was battling depression, and in the midst of his time in the cave, he was given a solution. Elijah was called to go and find a guy named Elisha (the names sound almost identical), and take him as a protegé. Elijah is going to shape and mold Elisha into the next prominent prophet in Israel.
I’ll be honest; this seems like a bad idea to me. You’re taking a guy who is just coming off of the lowest possible emotional point, and giving him the responsibility of molding Israel’s next great prophet (as a side note, that sounds like an spin off of the talent based shows liked ‘America’s Next Top Model’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’). I would be questioning whether or not Elijah was emotionally stable to handle this kind of responsibility.
It turns out that it was exactly what Elijah needed.
Mentoring others can be a tricky thing, but it is one of the most important things we can do in Christianity (I’ve been blessed by having several mentors in my life. I’ve shared some of my thoughts here).
Mentoring, or intentionally carving out time and space to pour into someone, is a bit daunting. First of all, a lot of people can struggle with the idea out of low self esteem or false humility (“What can I possibly offer to someone?”).
You were fearfully and wonderfully made by God Almighty. You have something to offer – to the right person.
The thing I have struggled with in the years since school is the responsibility of mentoring. When you mentor someone, you are speaking directly about what someone should or should not do. You are, in many ways, telling someone what to do with parts of their life. When I was younger, I had little problem shooting my mouth off, giving advice away like candy (I was more than a little obnoxious at times). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more hesitant to give direct advice, trying instead to be a sounding board. And while that may work for some, it doesn’t really seem to work well for me.
So I’ve become a poorer and poorer mentor.
Why does this matter? Two reasons.
First, we’re called to mentor Christians. Elijah and Jesus set the example of pouring themselves into a few people, rather than the masses. And for their focused effort, we have Elisha, and the early church from the first apostles.
Life is a team sport. We all need a coach.
Secondly, and more important in this story from Elijah’s life, is that mentoring others can give us life. There is something exhilarating about watching someone grow right before your eyes because you were there to help them. I look at the people who I’ve mentored over my life, and I think of how I’ve grown because of them.
Elijah had questioned whether or not he had anything left to do in life. He felt like a profound failure; a waste of space. That is, until he realized that he had an incredible wealth of wisdom to offer someone else who wanted to better understand God. And in that relationship, Elijah saw that he wasn’t wasting his time.
Not every piece of advice I gave was right. Not everything I said was profound or wise. But what I saw was that the value in mentoring is found more in the relationship than the strict growth. We are relational beings – we value relationships with other. To have someone who values your presence enough to want to regularly
Whether or not you believe me, you have some wisdom and insight to offer. More than that, you owe it to yourself to mentor someone. You will learn more about yourself and grow from the opportunity.
I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it…