As we have launched into a mini-series on discipleship, I wanted to give you some encouragement and thoughts from someone in our body who has lived out the mission of making disciples in a powerful way. Sue Addington, along with her husband Tom, has been helping others move forward in their relationship with Christ for several decades now. What follows is a condensed version of an article Sue wrote about mentoring. Specifically, she addresses mentoring “as you are.” DR
At a fast food table I heard the whole story: a bumpy road that was scarred by sexual abuse, eating disorders, a messy unfair divorce, and most painful of all, having her only child taken from her forever. This journey left her ragged, raw, and feeling like a social outcast.
Listening to the sadness was anything but easy.
“Is there something wrong with me?” she asked. “Person after person says they’ll be there to help me. They have all disappeared.” In that moment God let me know that I could not abandon her.
“I promise I won’t give up on you, but let me first tell you who I am. I often travel with my husband. Our grown children live far away so I’m in and out of town. Sometimes it may be months between our conversations, but I will keep coming back. Will that work?” She agreed, and a mentoring friendship was born that has lasted years.
When you consider mentoring and disciple-making, what is your first thought? Is it to choose or suggest a system, a book, or template? By all means, hang onto those wonderful ideas. Much wise and successful material has been written about mentoring, along with the often interchangeable topics of discipleship and coaching.
But more often than not, my life hasn’t allowed me to follow the traditional models for mentoring and discipleship. I could have concluded that if it was not possible to see this woman on a regular basis—with a deliberate plan—it would not be of value to her. But my Creator was not surprised by my marriage, schedule or personality. He had a plan for using my love for this woman, and others, even in a seemingly irregular way.
Experiences over the past forty years, as both a mentor and mentee, have prompted me to offer a simple “life on life” route to those yearning for godly impact, for encouraging growth in others.
Where is God at work around you in the life you are already living? With whom is He inviting you to become involved personally? Mentoring is first and foremost about involvement with God’s plan. Pray that He opens your eyes to how He wants to work through you in another’s life, journeying side-by-side.
Three friends I quizzed regarding mentoring – a stay-at-home grandmother, a college professor and a hospital chaplain (who is also battling cancer) – all indicated that relational opportunities were right under their noses. In the middle of God’s 24/7 assignment for them He had also arranged natural ways for them to bring Jesus into ongoing conversations.
What do you love to do? What fills your tank and energizes you? In what are you gifted? What do others repeatedly say that you do well? Cooking, sports, building, woodworking, praying, financial planning, exercise, gardening, reading, writing, biking, parenting, leading, singing, Bible-digging? The list is endless really.
Baking pies was the open door for mentoring conversations for a Mosaic friend. Conversation, laughter and floury hands led to ongoing God-talks.
Mentoring others in the context of what brings me great joy empowers me. It is extremely helpful to be aware of what we personally and uniquely have to give. My husband and I have re-assessed countless times in our four decades of marriage, reviewing the exact gifts that God has given, learning from multiple styles around us but pouring into others as God has wired us.
While my husband mentors primarily in his daily business settings, I most often mentor by opening my Bible and sharing what God’s freshly been showing me and asking, “What is Jesus teaching you?”
Encouraging and cheering others on in what they are already doing well fills me with joy. I love to say, “Tell me what’s going on. Tell me your highs and lows.” I love to listen to and learn from their stories. I love to talk about good books and God’s lessons and drink lots of great coffee.
What is the cadence of your life? Are you hesitating because you don’t fit standard scheduling molds? What time commitment is natural and sustainable?
You may thrive with ordered regularity. You may have an extremely regular schedule.
I know my sporadic self and irregular schedule all too well, learning to cheerfully embrace waking up in lots of new places with my amazing traveling husband, remembering there is no one exactly like me. In fact, is there anyone exactly like someone else?
We have watched scheduling become one of the biggest road blocks for those desiring to make disciples. If one can’t meet weekly, then it seems that it is not valuable. We have found that belief cannot be farther from the truth.
While my husband and I mentor no one on a regular schedule, we both are committed to keeping in touch through texting, calls, coffees and lunch times with a large group of younger followers and peers – usually one at a time.
I close with wisdom from a seasoned mentoring friend,
I am just living transparently, as close to Jesus as I can, through the ups and downs and ins and outs of life. I am letting others live as close to me as they want…I model how I am striving to live this life I am in with Jesus as my reference. It is not always pretty, and I do not always feel wise…that is what I do.
Fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made – we are ALL prepared specially by our Maker to pour Jesus into others. Please hear me cheering you on, “You can do it – as you!”
Sue Addington lives with her husband, Tom, in Fayetteville. She confesses that she has always had much to share, which is evidenced by her early report cards. God has used that passion for sharing in her as a public school teacher, and especially teaching the Bible to women. These days, she does most of her “sharing” through mentoring.