How Pouring Into Her Life Strengthened My Own
Me, a mentor?
How in the world did I get here? Isn’t there somebody else more qualified for this task?
These thoughts have streamed through my mind more than once. It could be said that one of the primary focuses of my life is encouraging other women in their pursuit of Jesus. It is a great delight, a mantle of responsibility, and can be very difficult. In some ways … it is sort of my “job.” This fact startles me, humbles me.
To be bluntly honest … I would consider myself an unlikely mentor in the truest sense.
I do not have a degree in counseling. I am not married, have not raised kids, and do not have sage life experience like Elisabeth Elliot. Sometimes, by the end of the day, I feel I don’t have the time or mental energy to change the lightbulbs in my kitchen … no joke. I used to laughingly say that if there wasn’t a Great Commission, I could see my introverted self winding up as the proverbial cat lady … without all the cats.
And yet, the Gospel really does change everything. It changed me. The transformative reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory, turned me outward. It opened my eyes so I could behold the beauty of building up the Body of Christ through standing shoulder-to-shoulder with young women and cheering them on in their walk with Him.
God has sent timely reminders over the past ten years to remind me of His heart for biblical mentoring. We know that His overwhelming desire is that His people become like Him; that Jesus’ disciples reflect the transformative touch of their Master in all they are and say and do.
One such reminder was this past spring, when — to me — it actually felt more like winter. Months prior a sudden shift had disrupted my plans and shaken my heart, and a few things came to a halt as a result over the course of several months — mentoring had been one of them. That icy spring morning I had prayed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living … and He sent Dawna.
Dawna is a volunteer at Ellerslie and our paths cross several times a day during a training season.1 On this day she approached me and shyly asked if I would consider speaking into her life. My mind slowly grappled with her request and I realized where the conversation was going — she wanted me to mentor her.
I told her I would pray about it, but as I walked away my emotions began voicing their opinion on how I should respond. You are not in a position to mentor another person right now, you are the one who needs pouring into. You haven’t walked this season out with enough character and maturity to say yes. You are much, much too busy to even entertain such a thought! Wait until your schedule — and your life — calms down, then you can revisit such a notion.
Still, I prayed about it. And softly but surely the even-keel, unfazed voice of the Spirit of God brought peace to my turbulent emotions. With eyes of faith, I could plainly see that He had answered my prayer. This was not an ill-timed request. It was quite the opposite. While the exaggerated voice of emotion told me to sit this round out, I said yes. Even though for all logical reasons I could have easily said no.
That was over six months ago, and I cannot tell you how much I have thanked the Lord for leading me in this step of upside-down obedience. Not only did it open my eyes to how easy it is to allow unfavorable circumstances dictate our responsibility to encourage other believers (see Titus 2:3–5), but I could clearly see the false advertising of the enemy, which was purposed to rob both of us of the two-way benefits of investing in discipleship.
The more I have said yes to this opportunity, the more I have detected common excuses that hold us back from fostering Christlikeness in other women. In fact, the day that Dawna approached me, the following justifications presented themselves:
Busyness — My schedule is crammed. I don’t want to overcommit.
Personal Trials — I have too much going on in my personal life to invest in someone else’s.
Lies of the enemy — I’m not ___. (i.e. good enough, don’t know enough Scripture, mature enough, too young, too old, not mentor material, etc.)
There are valid reasons to graciously decline so we can grow in our own walk with the Lord and pour out in the right time and way. After all, we cannot impart what we don’t possess.
However, we must be aware of the enemy’s subtle voice that wants us to believe we will never be in a position to provide Christlike encouragement to others. Condemnation can succeed in disservicing us with “cultural self-care bait,” leading us to forget the scriptural principle that when we water others with truth, we will receive refreshment in return. (See Proverbs 11:25.)
As women, we have been encouraged never to “pour out from an empty cup,” but could it be that we are withholding Christ’s life-giving water as a result? Unintentionally hoarding His resource rather than pouring into the women in our lives? As Lilias Trotter once said, “… we are made to give — to let everything go if only we may have more to give. The pebble takes in all the rays of light that fall on it, but the diamond flashes them out again: every little facet is a means, not simply of drinking more in, but of giving more out.”
. . .
I am here to remind you, dear reader — you were made to give. I must confess, I didn’t expect that saying yes to mentoring would bring such refreshment, joy, and renewed strength into my life, but it has! As I share the lessons my heart has learned — my “confessions” as an unlikely mentor — I pray you are given courage to influence others for eternity as God leads.
Confession No. 1 — Sharpens Spiritual Strength
Jesus’ model of discipleship is incredible for this reason: the individual who is pouring out cannot remain spiritually stagnate, but must receive continual sharpening in order to maintain a fruitful relationship. It is a built-in blessing to both individuals and serves as a preventative measure that ensures we will not slow down in our own pursuit of Christ. I am frequently pointed to the Word of God after Dawna and I spend time together and find myself searching the Scriptures for answers to her questions! As a result, I have memorized more Scripture, read more books, and sought the Lord more than I naturally would have had she found a different mentor. Mentoring also provides us with opportunity to articulate truth. God’s Word tells us to, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet. 3:15 KJV) and the mentoring relationship serves as a practice ground for sharing what Jesus is teaching you.
Confession No. 2 — Beautifies the Body of Christ
Mentoring is relational because our God is relational. Though Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, His Body on earth is known as the Church, a relational vehicle designed to express God’s character and nature to the world around it. Mentoring is beautiful in that it strengthens, edifies, and adorns three different relationships: our relationship with our sister in Christ, our relationship to the Body of Christ as a whole, and our relationship with Christ Himself. Biblical mentoring will bless and enrich each of these, providing a supportive community, deep kindred-friendship, and wise-hearted counsel that seeks to lead one another “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” as we “speak the truth in love, and grow up in all things into Christ” (Eph. 4:13, 15 paraphrased). This is the aim and intent of giving and receiving from biblical discipleship. Dawna is not just the woman I mentor — she is a dear friend and our relationship has brought beauty to both of our lives and strengthened the Body of Christ. I love that!
Confession No. 3 — Fosters and Outward Focus
I didn’t know much about Dawna before we began to meet regularly. After many walks and a few Caffé Americanos, I found that my prayers, my thoughts, and my focus had undergone a shift in perspective. The Lord was graciously turning my attention away from my own problems, and I had the privilege of hearing from her heart instead. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us that, “two are better than one,” and in biblical mentoring our spiritual eyesight is strengthened as we look outside of ourselves and, instead, focus on the growth, spiritual health, and encouragement of another. Jesus’ heart beat for this too as the Gospels uncover a main emphasis of His ministry: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). It is enough that we, as His disciples, seek to cultivate the outward-focus of our Master. (See Matthew 10:25.)
The Mentor Becomes the Mentee
A few months into my mentoring journey with Dawna, I found myself on the other side of the table, shyly asking a wise woman to encourage me in my faith by sharing her own. I realized it wasn’t enough just to be a mentor. I had witnessed firsthand how beautiful and beneficial mentoring can be when Christ is at the center. And now I desired to invite the trusted voice of another to speak into my life. Sitting on both sides of the table — as both a mentor and a mentee — I’ve grown all the closer to Christ. As you explore these relationships in your own life, I pray that you will draw closer to Christ, too!