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Archive for the tag “Mentor”

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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Stay Out of the Chocolate Factory

The best advice never taken was given by me to a mentee…”Stay Out of the Chocolate Factory.”

This morning I lingered in the book of Judges reading about brother Samson and his troubles.  His life began with the most promising words, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson, and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.  And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him…”  God was going to use this man of promise to defeat his people’s enemies, but a funny thing happened on the way to his destiny…his flesh got in the way.  What in flames was Samson doing traipsing through a vineyard anyway?  Note to self…when entering the enemy’s camp, expect to encounter some enemies!!! DUH!  It seems as though instead of changing his atmosphere, the atmosphere changed him…getting caught up with the locals, eating, drinking, touching, playing house with everything and everyone that caused his demise.  What is this tendency that we have to hear what is right for us, to be given a roadmap loaded with blessings in exchange for obedience; to be empowered by His Spirit, only to end up living out Plan B, which usually works out for our good (God is merciful); however, it ain’t Plan A.

Once upon a time I encountered a college aged girl at Target…she was a checker and she was checking me out in more ways than one.   We chatted a bit and as I headed out the door, I heard the Holy Spirit instruct me to return, give her my phone number and offer to stay in touch.  She was so appreciative and even said she had prayed for a mentor like me and wished we could stay in touch.  That day marked the beginning of our Mr. Miyagi/Daniel-san relationship (reference to Karate Kid…one of my faves)!! 🙂

I poured in, she received and so it was with us as she became a fixture around our home.  She was moving right along making great life choices..doing well in school, working and serving in church.  At one point she “confessed” her guilt over getting a little intimate with her boyfriend when he was in town.  It happened again another time and this time the enemy worked her over, convincing her that hers was a sin too great for her to be serving in church.  She shared that intimacy was a weakness for her, but that she was fighting to maintain her virginity.  I once again counseled her and prayed her off of that ledge and after a time, she was serving in church again and life was back to normal.

That summer, she announced her intent to spend some time reconnecting with her dad back east (where her boyfriend lived).  She would be staying with her boyfriend and his mother.  (Insert sound of needle being scratched over a record here.)  “Not a good idea,” I said which was followed by an assurance that she had learned her lesson.  They had made a promise to each other to wait until they were married to consummate their union, blah, blah, blah.  Her mind was made up and there was no changing it.  She left with my advice ringing in her ears….

I said something like this…”Say you have a weakness for chocolate, let’s say a chocolate easter bunny…one of those giant ones.  You’ve been told that it’s not good for you and you really should stay away from it because the temptation would be too great to eat the whole thing and that could hurt!  You ignore that wisdom thinking you could control yourself and so you nibble at the ear and before you know it that ear is gone and that wasn’t so bad, so you fix your eyes on the second ear….before you know it, you’ve thrown caution to the wind and have scarfed Peter Rabbit down in one sitting.  My point is this…You cannot go near the chocolate factory…chocolate is your weakness so you need to stay away…in fact, you need to stay out of the chocolate factory altogether.”

She said okay, we hugged, she left and the next time I heard from her was via telephone (long distance) early one Sunday morning.  She called to say hi and to tell me about a message on forgiveness she had heard at church.  She said she had to call to forgive me for hurting her.  (insert crickets here) – She was offended at my chocolate factory analogy and was holding it against me.  When it was my turn to speak, I told her I stood by the analogy and challenged her to prove me wrong.

Two months later, I was at a bookstore and saw her seated on the floor reading.  I approached her and we embraced and her body temperature gave away her secret.  We chatted a moment and I walked away only to have her run after me to tell me one more thing that I already knew.  Her baby was due in April and she was no longer with her boyfriend.  As it turned out, there were things she discovered about him that had she known, would have altered her choices.  I changed the subject and told her I was so happy she chose to keep her baby and to prepare for a hard time, but the Lord would see her through. (She had no real support system.)  She said she recognized that things would be difficult but figured this was God’s will for her.  I had to tell her that choosing life is always God’s will, but the timing of it all was hers.  I left her that day feeling so bad for her and months later she came to mind again and I reached out once again.

That turned out to be a divine appointment since she needed the support.  I held her hand through the last weeks of her pregnancy and was blessed to be present  to hold her hand once again as she pushed that life into the world.  I was there during the early days and moved on once I was certain that she could remove the training wheels and ride on her own.

Five years later, she has moved back east to be closer to a larger support system which includes her son’s father.  They aren’t a family, but he is involved.  She’s a great mother and is on track for a successful life — as a single mother, for now but having great hopes for her future.  I’m certain that she wouldn’t have changed a thing about her journey thus far, as the love she feels for that boy has caused her to forget the difficult times she has endured…well, maybe she would have considered the timing of her choices..and maybe her choice of father and every other “maybe” she probably has to live with.

For the longest time, I thought that my mentoring days were over, until a whole new little crop sprung up around me.  I fought it for a while until the Holy Spirit encouraged me about choices…everyone has them and it’s up to them to receive the truth or not; it’s up to me to be prayed up and not offer my opinion…just the truth.

How many of us forego His way for our way and settle for Plan B when Plan A was His desire for us?  I’m grateful for His mercy, His kindness and His forgiveness when we do lose our way.  I’m grateful for lessons learned for the next time…and there will always be a next time!

Remembering Miss Mary

I love a good prophecy…love a good word.  I don’t chase after them though.  We’ve all heard of folks who run from meeting to meeting hoping to be spotted and called out and given a word.  I learned early on to file those away.  I don’t disregard them…no, not at all.  I’m just really careful not to adjust my life or position myself in such a way to force a word given to come to pass.  I figure, if it’s God, it’ll be good and in time it will come to pass without my assistance.  I learned that long ago from Miss Mary and so today I’m remembering Miss Mary.

One of my first spiritual mothers was Mrs. Hopkings.  She was quiet and strong, full of wisdom and she could lift the roof off with her prayers.  I called her one day for prayer.  I was due to return to work after maternity leave and I was sad and broken at the prospect of leaving my son.  I was a mess and needed some encouragement.  After we spoke for a while, she asked me to hold on while she added her prayer partner, Miss Mary to the call.  They prayed for and encouraged me tag team style and at the end of the conversation, Miss Mary told me that soon I would be home for good to care for my son.  I hung up from that conversation filled with peace, strengthened and encouraged.

I returned to work just fine and 16 months later I was on maternity leave again and this time, just as Miss Mary had said, I did not return to work.  Months later I was at Miss Hopkings’ birthday party and seated behind me was a beautiful older woman dressed in african garb.  I was instantly attracted to her.  We spoke for a long time until dinner was served.  As I ate I looked around for Miss Mary.  Surely, she had to be present.  After dinner, I asked Miss Hopkings for her and she laughed and said that I had been talking to Miss Mary the entire time.  Of course!  I went over to Miss Mary and took her hands and introduced myself to her.  I introduced both my children and told her that I was at home with them now, just as she had said.  Her eyes filled with tears and she spoke such beautiful words over me and my children.  We exchanged telephone numbers and Miss Mary became my spiritual mother.  We began a phone affair, encouraging one another, sharing prayer requests and praise reports.

During one of our last telephone conversations, Miss Mary began to speak into my life.  I was sweeping the kitchen floor as she was speaking and it was the strangest thing, but whenever she would have a word for me her voice would change…everything about it…the tone, the volume, its cadence…and I knew to stop and listen.  This time I stopped, grabbed a pad of paper and sat down and began to take dictation.  She stopped abruptly and instructed me not to write down what was being said.  I was startled and looked out the window half expecting Miss Mary to be outside looking in.  She said that I would remember exactly what she said as it came to pass.  I did just that and have marveled through the years, as much of what she said has come to pass in my life.

Today I’m remembering Miss Mary…that powerhouse woman of God…so tender, so wise, so strong, full of love.  Here’s to you Miss Mary.  I can’t wait to tell you how spot on you were!

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