When I started in seminary, eight years ago, one of the first things I was required to have was a mentor. It seemed logical and natural that my mentor would be my pastor, who was supporting me spiritually already. In addition, I was told that it would be a good idea to have a spiritual director- someone wise and experienced in spiritual matters who could help me to see what God was doing in my life. My pastor referred me to another pastor friend of his whom I had worked with on a number of Cursillo retreats. We hit it off after our first meeting and we were on our way. We would meet once a month or so. I would share some entries from my journal and we would talk about what God was doing in my life. Often times it felt indulgent to me to do this- I mean I had so much going on in my life and was very busy with work and seminary. It seemed like a luxury to take the time to go to this person’s office and talk about God and what He was doing with me. I knew, though, that those appointments were very, very important because I was beginning to see the blueprint that was my spiritual journey unfolding and that these people (my mentoring pastor and my spiritual director) were helping me to be able to see these things.
A few years later, I dropped out of seminary (that is another story for another day) and two years after dropping out was given the gift of a second chance in a different seminary program. At my new seminary, they were really big on mentoring. In addition to your church mentors, you were also encouraged to find other mentors from the student body. My beloved spiritual director, had moved away to another state to take a pastorate there. God led me to a new spiritual director- a retired pastor who lived in the area and had started attending our church. I asked a friend from church, whose faith I really admired, to be what they called my “lay mentor” and once again I was off journaling and meeting with these people monthly or so to see what God was doing in my life.
I am a person who requires a lot of help. I have emotional issues from my past, growing up in a pretty dysfunctional family. I am trying to balance intense graduate study with a full time job. I am a wife to an amazing husband and I have learned over the years how putting your marriage on the back burner can take its toll. In addition, just as I was getting back into seminary, my mother began showing signs of cognitive decline. She was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. My husband and I live with her and try our best to take care of her as she fades away a little bit more each week. I need my mentors and I need the time that I take to meet with them and see how far I have come. I need them to help me see where God has brought me since I was a little kid pretending to give out Communion to my dolls and stuffed animals. It is not indulgent to spend time looking at my spiritual life and praying with these people who are my mentors. It is life giving and helpful and oh so necessary. A second, third and fourth pair of eyes can help me see things that I , in my own self centeredness, simply can’t see. They are there to call me on my stuff, encourage me when I feel like I am failing and celebrate when I achieve even the smallest victory in my journey.
Last year, God led me to add another mentor to my life. She is a female pastor and teacher who graduated from my seminary last year and is currently working on her Doctor of Ministry degree. I have been going through some really big changes in my path to ministry this year and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. She has been just what the Great Physician has ordered in my life. In addition, her husband is also a pastor and my former preaching professor. So I get the benefit of his experience and help as well. Two mentors for the price of one.
I know, when I am tempted to blow off my mentoring meetings for something that seems more important, like working extra hours, or cleaning my house, or doing errands or writing a paper- that it is not in my best interest spiritually to skip or delay the meeting. The bottom line is that my spiritual health must be a huge priority in my life. When I am spiritually healthy, all other areas of my life will also be healthy. Jesus talked about this many times. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all of the other things will be added unto me. That is what I must remember-Taking care of our spiritual health is not only for those who are training to be pastors. It is for all of us- especially those believers who desire to live the abundant life that Jesus promises.
So………what are you doing to take care of your spiritual health today?? Who are the mentors in your life who have helped you to grow??
One thought on “The Power of Mentoring”
Christine, I am reading this post transition at BSOE and found it very moving and instructive on the power of this model of theological training, via mentored relationships. I love your use of the terms “spiritual director” too, as that is a form of intensive mentoring. You are reminding us all of what is most important for us, and that is great. Look forward to working with you on your GE in this Fall Semester course. Glad I suggested you for this blogging topic.