As I watched The Nativity (a movie presenting the account of Jesus’ birth), I was struck by the importance and beauty of the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. They not only had divinely ordained motherhood in common, they also shared the trials of pregnancy and all the changes that a new baby involves, even if that baby is the Son of God or a prophet of God.
Mary, being the only woman in history to give birth to the Son of God, must have had unique struggles. Yes, she had God’s Spirit upon her, but God also gave her someone “with skin on” to help her. Elizabeth! They encouraged one another to trust God in their special callings. How Mary must have benefited from Elizabeth’s wise counsel and comfort, while Elizabeth marveled at Mary’s faith and the privilege of being one of the first to meet her Messiah.
Mentoring is a gift from God. The dictionary defines mentor as, “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” God gives us a blueprint in Titus 2:3-5:
“…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
Instead of this happening on a regular basis, we often rush around saying a quick, “Hello! How are you?” while running hither and yon to teach, sing, care for our husband and children, meet with committees, etc. We hardly have time for an edifying conversation with another woman! Mentoring isn’t always easy. It means stepping out of your comfort zone and making new acquaintances, spending less time with those who are like you. It can also mean making yourself vulnerable. But, no fears – there is a richness out there just waiting to be explored.
God’s Word instructs us to be a mentor, while being mentored ourselves, at the same time. Please let me introduce the Discipleship Dozen …
God knows our needs and wants to meet them. Have you asked Him what you can do to be a mentor/learn from a mentor? We need to pray before we go to church, pray before we go to the store, pray before we walk around the neighborhood, for God to prepare us and make opportunities. A friend and I have agreed to pray over the Christmas holiday about the need we see for fellowship among women in our church.
2. Be Connected To God’s Word
Whether we have time for an hour-long study, or just a few verses on the run, it is critical to make that time. It’s as important as food, air, and water! The Word is alive, preparing us to minister and making the soil of our hearts fertile for growth.
Luke 1 tells us that Mary travelled to visit Elizabeth. How many times do we as younger women seek help from an older lady? Maybe we’re afraid to bother her, assuming she’s too busy or that she wouldn’t be interested.
As a mother of a teenager and two young boys, I crave adult fellowship. We all do, to differing degrees. There are many ladies at church I’d like to get to know better, but recently there was one I felt compelled to meet. We met at Bible study last year, and while I always enjoyed her input, I was too busy caring for my children afterward to really get to know her. Recently I asked her if we could meet at Panera Bread, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship. I sat on the edge of my seat while Linda graciously shared her testimony with me. Hearing about how God has worked in her 60+ years made a huge impression on me. When I told her God is teaching me about submission, she groaned and said, “I don’t want to talk about that!” We laughed! Her down-to-earth kindness warmed my heart, and her lessons in faith inspired me to keep going. She thanked me for inviting her to meet and said that in all her years, I am the first younger woman to ask her to “Titus 2” me. I can hardly wait to make another coffee appointment next month.
4. Be Creative
A few years ago, while attending a funeral in a large church, I walked into the ladies restroom and my jaw dropped. There before me was an easel with an attractively decorated board resting on it. On the board were little pieces of paper pinned to it: “If you want to learn to bake pies, call June at … (phone #).” “If you’d like to knit or crochet, call Sandy at …” I’d love to hear about the friendships and discipleship opportunities started through that simple avenue. Often the “physical” mentoring (cooking, sewing, walking together, etc.) leads to “spiritual” mentoring.
5. Be Available
One of my friends has helped start a mentoring group which meets monthly in her home. While they all study God’s Word, the more experienced women can help the younger ones find practical solutions to common perplexities like, “How do I get grass stains out of jeans?” “What should I do to get my family to help around the house more?” “How can I help my daughter through puberty?”
While this group is made up of mothers, single women need mentors, too. I remember when some young women at church asked my single friend Ann to teach them about being a godly woman. How I wish I could have sat in on that study!
I’d like to add here something God did when I was not expecting it. Not feeling at all available, I ran into a friend at the church nursery on Sunday morning. “How are you?” she quipped. “I’m tired and grumpy!” I exclaimed. For days I felt guilty about my outburst, until I received a beautiful e-mail from that same friend. She thanked me for being honest with her about how I felt, instead of just saying, “Fine, how are you?” She said God used that to teach her to be more transparent with others. Truly, I had been struggling; but, I was in church that day! So, in a sense I was available, and God mercifully used me through my weakness.
6. Trust God
We may fear that we don’t have anything to offer other women, but we do! How do I know? We have God’s Word to share … and our own unique God given abilities and experiences. As my pastor’s mother recently told me, “God chooses people to bring into our path, because He has prepared us to meet their need.”
A couple years ago I talked with our youth pastor and told him that I had a growing burden for teenage girls. I knew it was from God, because for years I had been afraid of teenagers. So, for what was God preparing me? Hosting teenage foreign exchange students! Last year my family hosted a daughter from the Philippines for ten months, and this year a daughter from Ghana graces our home. Talk about learning to trust God! God taught and is teaching me about mentoring while I spend time teaching the girls to cook, about American culture, piano lessons, the Bible, and more … lessons they will take back to their countries and teach others. God promises to supply for what He calls us to do. Whatever you do, please don’t sit around and think you have nothing to offer someone else; that is a lie straight from the Devil. God may not call you to host a student, but He does have something important for you to do.
7. Keep the Focus On God
This is not about showing off my talent to quilt, jog, or bake. And we need to clarify when we are giving our own opinion as opposed to God’s written word. On the other side, be careful not to idolize women. Yes, they can be an example, but only God deserves our worship and obedience. Carefully weigh what your mentor suggests, prayerfully comparing it with the Bible.
8. Make Time
Do you believe that Satan can use our busyness for his glory? I do. We need to make room in our schedules to spend with other women of all ages. As a single woman you may have more control over your schedule. For those who are married, we need to talk to our husband and arrange a time when he can care for the children so we can go out. The entire family will benefit!
9. Bring Tissues
The growing process is sometimes painful. One pastor’s wife taught me to keep a tissue folded in my Bible for those tearful moments that arise for us or for those we counsel. You may even need to bring bandaids! God describes Biblical friendship and mentoring in this way – “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). We aren’t getting together to be a “mutual admiration society” (Thoreau, 1851).
10. Be An Example
People are watching us. And age doesn’t automatically bring wisdom: I often learn from the younger women in my life. Married women can learn a lot from single women – and visa versa. Even if you don’t have time right now to get together with someone to teach them, you are teaching every day by your example.
11. Respect God’s Work In Her Life
I love it that Elizabeth was not jealous of her younger cousin. True, she would not bear the Messiah, but she rejoiced with Mary for her opportunity. We also should be seeking to lift up women of all ages, honoring them where God has placed them. We waste precious time and energy if we compare our situations or gifts with others. God gives each of us unique gifts. By not accepting this truth, we disrespect our Creator and disobey His plan (2 Corinthians 10:12).
12. Be Patient
God’s timing is often different than mine. A few times I have talked with my pastor’s wife about women I am concerned about in our church family. She patiently says, “Sara, give God time to work.” It has been exciting to see God work in lives, including mine, growing us more into His image over time!
Mentoring isn’t always a regimented meet-once-a-week thing. More often it is brief conversations that season our lives with grace, and the infrequent gatherings which water the flowers of our souls, helping us to grow toward God. As Jesus didn’t heal everyone who was sick, neither can we help every woman we meet. God can give us wisdom to know what He wants us to pursue.
With a new year just around the corner, let’s make room in our lives for mentoring and being mentored. It is a God-ordained essential element of our growth. And speaking of “God’s love with skin on” …
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14