I join with the Five Minute Friday community of writers in this weekly five-minute writing exercise. This week is the word “follow.”
To be followed is an honor. Each time I see a new “follower” on my blog or Facebook page or Twitter, I get excited. Yet the following of social media connections is a far cry from the original following Jesus discussed. He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Not only does it sound odd to be invited to be a “fisher of men” but “follow” can feel vapid. I am fine with following Jesus social-media style, meaning that I check in with him when I feel interested in knowing how he’s doing and see if there’s anything particularly new or interesting he’d like to share with me. Following is very much on my terms, and the pace is leisurely.
Yet when Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he was asking them to leave behind their former way of life entirely and join with him in his nomadic travels on a journey that would end with the horror of the cross and the surprise of resurrection. He was inviting them to yoke themselves to him, to be his 24/7 disciples who would eat every meal with him and learn at his feet daily. This is quite different than when I have a “follower” on Twitter. More often than not, it’s not someone I know or even am likely to meet. They are “following” me when they don’t know much about me – nothing more than what I’m revealing in small intermittent and infrequent bits, limited to 21 characters. And the same is true when I choose to “follow” them back.
To truly follow Jesus requires more commitment. It requires nothing less than all of me, heart, mind, and soul.
It’s been more than four years since I last met with Beverlee in her living room over a cup of steaming Lady Grey tea and chatted about life, ministry, and relationships. She invested in me, a barely-one-year-into-marriage new seminary graduate beginning to counsel and serve on staff with a church plant. She was an older woman with decades of experience in ministry, including overseas missions and full-time campus ministry. She was not strong during those two years we met weekly. I did not know it, but she might have: those were the last two years of her life, and she suffered from complications of diabetes that often robbed her of sleep and forced her to be homebound.
Yet she taught me more about mentoring, discipleship, gospel-centered friendship than almost anyone else in my adult life so far. Her legacy of gracious, selfless love and care for others even in the midst of her own pain lives on while she lives in glory. I hope to continue that legacy by sharing with you some of what she taught me.
1. Gospel mentoring flows out of weakness, not strength.
She was physically weak for most of the two years that we met together. She easily could have complained and focused on her own pain and ailments, seeking my comfort and prayers. I certainly did pray for this dear woman and seek to comfort her, but it was not because of her complaints. The pain was written on her face, and yet she repeatedly asked me how I was doing; what she could be praying about; and entered into what seemed like my petty struggles (in comparison).
[read the rest over at The Gospel Coalition today]
For another article on mentoring I wrote: “When Mentoring Exposes Your Idol of Being Needed.”
It’s been over four years since I last met with Beverlee in her living room over a cup of steaming Lady Grey tea and chatted about life, ministry, and relationships. She invested in me, a just-one-year-into-marriage new seminary graduate beginning to counsel and serve on staff with a church plant, from her place as an older woman with decades of experience in ministry including overseas missions and full-time campus ministry. She was not strong but weak during those two years that we met weekly. We did not know it, but she might have: those were the last two years of her life and she suffered from complications of diabetes that often robbed her of sleep and forced her to be homebound. Yet she taught me more about mentoring/discipleship/gospel-centered friendship than almost anyone else in my adult life so far. Her legacy of gracious, selfless love and care for others even in the midst of her own pain lives on while she lives in Glory. And so I hope to continue that legacy by sharing with you some of what she taught me.
- Gospel mentoring flows out of weakness, not strength. She was physically weak for most of the two years that we met together. She easily could have complained and focused on her own pain and ailments, seeking my comfort and prayers. I certainly did pray for this dear woman and seek to comfort her, but it was not because of her complaints. The pain was written on her face, and yet she repeatedly asked me how I was doing; what she could be praying about; and entered into what seemed like my petty struggles (in comparison) of a new counselor and wife seeking to find my way in marriage and ministry.
- Offer what you have. She could not leave her house, but she reached out to me through phone calls; invited me weekly to come for tea to chat and pray; followed up in tracking me down in my busy, cluttered life of overcommitment. When I first began mentoring/discipling younger women, I was a college student with more free time than I realized. I met with a small group of younger women weekly for 1-2 hours of Bible study and prayer, and then sought to meet individually with each woman weekly outside of that time. After graduating from college, I volunteered with a campus ministry and discipleship/mentoring took a very similar shape then, too. Fast forward 10+ years, and my life as a pastor’s wife, mom to twin preschoolers, and part-time counselor does not allow me to devote the same kind of time to mentoring. Yet it is freeing to remember that mentoring involves offering what I have. And what I have is much less than before – but I still have something to offer. Meetings now take place in the evenings, during naptimes, or on weekends. Sometimes they include meeting somewhere where my kids can play. If I meet with a younger woman even once a month, that’s my “regular” during this season of my life.
- Mentoring begins with prayer. She prayed for me when I wasn’t with her, and we prayed together when we met weekly. She followed up about what she was praying for, and there was no secret to the source of the power she depended on herself. Only Jesus sustained her during her most painful days and nights.
- Mentoring at its simplest is being intentional to care for another. She initiated getting to know me when I first came on staff with the church plant she helped to start, and she intentionally “took me under her wings,” so to speak. She would call me if we hadn’t seen each other for awhile, and she invited me to meet regularly for the soul respite I so desperately needed.
- Gentle challenge embedded in love is an essential part of mentoring. When I had a petty complaint about marriage, she gently challenged me to love. She gave examples from her own life about love as thinking of your spouse often during the day, and then telling him about things that brought him to mind. She shared everything with her beloved Collier, as he did with her. And she encouraged me to do the same – speaking words of reproof into my life as needed.
Do I follow Beverlee’s example perfectly? Far from it. And she herself would be the first to remind me, if she could, that she was not perfect herself. But the call of following Jesus in the ministry of mentoring is a call to lay down your life – as it is – for another. It’s a call to find the grace and strength needed in the midst of my weakness in the cross, not my false notions of self-sufficiency. It is to offer to another the Life I have found and to encourage her to seek Life from this source with me. Until the day when instead of seeing dimly we will, like Beverlee now, see face-to-face the Glory to which we witness. [1 Corinthians 13:12 – “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”]
Sharing the gospel is inextricably tied to sharing other aspects of life with those we’re mentoring. Consider what the apostle Paul says: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Biblical mentoring requires engaging the whole person for more than just a scheduled time each week or month. It includes meeting for lunch or coffee, showing up for an important event in the life of the woman you’re mentoring, inviting her to be part of your life or family, serving together, and even enjoying together the seemingly “frivolous” activities such as watching a movie or going shopping.
Life-on-life ministry comes quite naturally to many of us women as we love to care, nurture, and share emotional intimacy. Yet as in every other relationship, there is danger that I find my identity in mentoring another young woman and so become enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship. My definition of “unhealthy relationship” is a relationship where one of my idols takes the central place that belongs to Jesus. In mentoring, this can happen when my idol of being needed replaces Jesus as what I am worshiping and serving in our relationship.
What does this idolatry look like, and how can you establish healthy biblical boundaries?
[… Read the rest of the article here at The Gospel Coalition Blog where I’m a guest writer today.]