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A Foolish Mentor…A Wise Mentor…And a Mentee Who Knows the Difference

Mentoring is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in her/his life. – John Mallison, author of Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders

My children remain in the “train up a child” phase of their upbringing (I dare say they may always be in that phase), but I’ve noticed my husband and I sliding more and more into the role of mentor to them. There’s still a whole lot of correction, but it seems the training, encouraging, teaching aspect has gotten deeper; the conversations more profound and heartfelt. When there is a need for correction I recognize the importance of treading softly over their heart so as to not kill their spirit. Being constructive, not condemning…adding some sweetness to an area of difficulty during correction to keep their heads up and in the game. That takes skill because I could be a bit passionate and semi dramatic (well more than semi) – and one of my cherubs is sensitive and requires my approval while the other is built to play poker! Mentoring can kill a spirit…this I know for sure.

I was a party to a relationship (strange way of phrasing that, I know) that had the underpinnings of a mentor/mentee deal. After knowing her from a distance, I had an opportunity to get to know her up close finally. I liked her from far away and grew to care deeply for her as I got to know her more intimately. I would have done just about anything for her (and just about did), always gladly. I defended, encouraged, prayed for, covered and served, expecting nothing in return. I thought this was a forever friend until the wheels came off the bus sending the bus careening out of control. (I told you I’m dramatic, right)? hehe

Why am I suddenly hearing the music to a Temptations song (Papa was a Rolling Stone)? There was something in the air during that time, and our conversation turned into accusations being hurled at me..instead of being asked questions, I was being told about something I had done, places I had been, people I had been with; my motives were being questioned and I was compared to people from her past whose actions were determined to be shady and unworthy of trust. I was stunned and couldn’t even form my thoughts in a way to present a coherent defense. I squeaked out a few words and the conversation ended with a knife and a plunge. I was told I was being “corrected” and then accused of having lost my prayer edge. (Oh man, them there was fighting words to me.) Somehow nothing that was said was more hurtful than that. I was sentenced to prayer and given times to do it. Um…huh? Here’s the part where the Lord just closed my ears to the rest of what was being said…He does that sometimes to protect me (or maybe the other party:)! Thanks, Lord. I stepped away from that assault conversation knowing that what had just occurred was not constructive and so not healthy; it was not correction…it was an attack, straight up and the accusations…all of them were false. The only thing I took away from that beat down conversation was that I, in fact, needed to pray…pray that I could get away from the situation as quickly as possible with no casualty count.

I was reminded of this incident this past week when I ran into a woman the Lord used to help me become the woman warrior I proudly am today. Someone who embraced me, poured into me, encouraged me, corrected me (not attacked and insulted me); promoted me in ministry…someone who believed that God’s hand was on me. I saw her and just about cried as I made my way to her. We hugged and held each other and hugged some more and after class we gravitated toward one another again and caught up, promising not to lose contact again and hugging some more.

Seeing Mrs. Bishop reminded me that I have been blessed with some rich relationships, strategically placed in my path to push me along in my destiny. Women who have taken the time to speak life into me; women who have seen in me what I probably would not have seen as clearly; who have celebrated my rowdiness and have loved me enough to reel me in. Strong women…no nonsense women. Those who taught me how to be quiet enough to hear the Lord; who taught me about the importance of submission; how vital a teachable spirit was. I knew the difference between correction for growth and correction as a weapon and I learned that under Mrs. Bishop.

I clearly recall telling the Lord that I would serve where the need was greatest…”Lord, use me,” I said. Well, shortly after that declaration I was approached by a leader asking me if the Lord had been speaking to me about serving in the youth ministry, where the need was great. “Uh, that would be a no,” I said and quickly high tailed my way outta there. I felt bad enough to call her when I got home and left her a message saying that I would do it if she really needed me. I didn’t hear back from her…Whew!!! I thought! I went before the Lord one more time and said “okay Lord, the next time I’m approached I’ll submit…I won’t seek a position, Lord…You’ll have to drop it in my lap, okay..in Jesus’ name.” That Saturday as I was running out of church leaving church after a women’s fellowship (I wasn’t the hang around and fellowship type:) I was followed by one of the female ministers who said “Mrs. Britt, you need to serve in the prayer room. There will be training next Saturday..report to Mrs. Bishop.” “Uh, yes ma’am”..and so I began my time of service in the prayer room under the leadership of Mrs. Bishop.

It took no time for me to realize that this was my calling and before long I found myself being promoted to “lead counselor” where soon my leadership-ability would be tested…my ability to make a judgment call and then deal with the consequences of that call (could I handle correction?) Would I pass the test? After service one cold and rainy night I was met in the prayer room by a woman who was desperate for prayer. During our conversation she divulged that she no longer wanted to live and the more she spoke, the more I realized that this situation was way over my head. I looked around and found that I was alone in the room, so in the absence of counsel, I made a split second decision to call for our Pastor who was steps away (something we had been told never to do). As I was preparing to leave that night Mrs. Bishop caught up to me and laid me out. Correction wasn’t even the word for the tongue lashing she gave me. I took it, apologized for overstepping my boundaries and walked away confused because I knew that I had heard from the Lord to consult with Pastor. I left that night deciding not to take offense at the way I was spoken to and I felt the peace of God. I saw Mrs. Bishop a few days later and after service, she approached me and knelt down next to where I sat. She took my hands and looked me in the eyes and asked me to forgive her for the way she had spoken to me. She told me that I had heard from the Lord and that I had made the right call and that Pastor had acknowledged the seriousness of the situation in that had he not intervened, there was a great chance that that woman would have done harm to herself that night. It took great humility for her to apologize and I loved her more than ever at that moment. She and I grew even closer after that day and when she became President of the women’s fellowship, she asked me to be her Vice-President.

The lessons I learned from my mentor were invaluable, many which have remained with me. How important it is to be humble (not to think highly of oneself); how freeing it is to submit, to yield; how empowering it is to forgive and seek forgiveness; how valuable it is to remain teachable and correctable; how vital it is to know when you have heard from the Lord and to stand your ground; how necessary it is not to allow those who lead you to break your spirit.

I was so grateful to the Lord for having Mrs. Bishop and I cross paths again. One of the women I lead in small group witnessed our “love fest” and approached us and after I introduced her to the woman who was instrumental in teaching me how to pray, she said some really nice things about me, to which Mrs. Bishop responded…”Arlene had it in her all the time…God is using her.” That was amazing coming from her…it was real coming from her…I believed it coming from her. Thank God for true mentors!

“It is essential that mentors be loving enough to correct (Proverbs 27:5-6) and caring enough to affirm (Hebrews 10:24).”

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