Why Mentors Matter.
By Eileen Slattery Berglund
(I was 40 years old before I ever really had a true mentor. In retrospect, I wish I would have had the wisdom to be more intentional about looking for one earlier in my life. I guess sometimes things just happen in their own time, but I do believe we can miss things, people even, if we aren’t really tuned in. So for all the 20-somethings and 30-somethings and 40 and 50 and 60 and 70- somethings, this article is for you!)
This is me. This is me sharing a little bit of my life in an attempt to make your life better. Let’s see if it works. Haha. The story goes like this…
Almost ten years ago, in a small, simple hotel restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria, I began to tear up. After all these years, and all the struggles, and all the questions, I had finally found a mentor, a spiritual Mom, for the first time in my life. I will clarify and say that I did have a great biological Mom (still do) but the reality is we didn’t really share anything on a spiritual level. I will also say that I did have a couple mentors along the way that I was, and still am, truly grateful for. Somehow though, this was different, and it was a “different” that I had been longing for.
I was 40 years old and had found myself halfway around the world with a group of people I had never met before. (Strangely, this wasn’t all that uncommon for me!) I was there as an intercessor for an African Women Arising conference that was being put together by a few different ministries. I almost didn’t go. I can still remember that day that I told my husband, “I don’t think I’ll go.” And I remember his rather nonchalant response, “We’ll see”. It was a response that got my attention. My husband was always open for discussions and my endless verbal processing, but in general, he let me and God talk and figure things out together concerning where I would or wouldn’t go. So this response surprised me. I continued to pray and I’m so glad I did. I heard God speak into my spirit a very clear answer. “Go to Nigeria. It actually has nothing to do with Nigeria itself, but it’s where you need to go to meet the people I want you to meet.”
So I went. I prayed and I served and I did a lot more. I watched, I listened, I noticed, I paid attention. I soaked in all that I could and I treasured all of it. I was like a little kid at a beach gathering as much sand as I could into a large bucket and then sifting through it with Holy Spirit each night.
It was on one of the evenings of my week long stay that we all gathered to eat a late meal and share a bit with each other that the tears came out. Here’s why I cried: I cried because I finally had a real life, living, female example of the type of woman God had created me to be. She was further along, and so much wiser, and oh so much more graceful than me, but I knew God had placed us there together with purpose. We were not exact replicas and I wouldn’t idolize her or try to become her. But I finally had someone who I could follow, as she followed Christ. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and God’s never ending love, and so I cried. For the record, that’s usually still why I cry.
Over the past near decade, I have become a true spiritual daughter to her. She loves me as much as I love her. She fights for me, comforts me, encourages me, and strengthens me with praise. She opens doors of opportunity for me when she can and she is always, and I mean always, cheering me on. She shares her life struggles and victories with me and she delights in my success. She is indeed my mentor and friend. We have become bound together in Christ’s love and God’s Kingdom mandate.
When I think about where I am today she can be credited in a big way. The funny thing is, we live thousands of miles apart, talk every couple of months by phone and see each other even less in person. Social media keeps us in closer contact but even that is Spirit led, and it works beautifully for us! But because she is the “real deal”, she is always there for me.
As I was reflecting on all of this today, I wanted to write some of it out to share with you and encourage you to find a mentor. I don’t mean for you to artificially try to manufacture some relationship, but if you don’t already have a mentor (or several), maybe begin to pray for God to bring someone into your life who can speak life over you and just plain ol’ help you out when you need it. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and ages so I am 100% certain that as you pray and stay tuned in, God will highlight someone to you. And then, keep praying, and keep asking and let God lead. If it is meant to be, God will bring it forth. You may have to obey God’s promptings to initiate something, that’s normal. But you don’t have to force anything or feel rejected if it doesn’t come to fruition. Trust God and keep in step with what He is doing.
Now that I’m a bit older and wiser myself, I try to devote most of my time to helping others by mentoring, encouraging, cheering-on, and listening to those coming behind me. My goal is that we will ascend the “mountain of the Lord” together and that each new generation won’t have to keep starting from the bottom. When it comes to my kids, those that God has blessed me with biologically and spiritually, I want to see my “ceiling” become their “floor”. In other words, I want them to surpass me. I want them to go higher. And can I mention, it's a blast! I love it and I love them so much!
Mentoring is a beautiful thing- whether it is formal or unscripted- it is a win/win for both people when done well and unto the Lord. Mentoring is not about power or control, if that’s what you get, run far and run fast! Mentoring is about love and help and teaching and growing and being accepted and celebrated. Mentoring done God’s way, is an expression of God’s heart that results in both people feeling mutually encouraged and valued. It is out of this relationship, submitted to our ultimate relationship to God through Christ, that we have our best shot of becoming who God created us to be!