“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
I owe all that I am to those that took time to invest in my heart, my pain, my dreams and my failures. To the countless women and men that stretched and pushed and aided me in dreaming a bigger dream, I am indebted. This week’s topic on Double Vision is dedicated to the many brave, wise guides that have invested hours in coffee shops and dorm rooms and church offices. To those who have committed to life learning – from those that were ahead of them in this journey and those that were following in their shadows. To the mentors and mentees that have blessed my life and story, this is for you.
I was still in high school when I first realized that someone was looking up to me. While I understood little of this responsibility, I had already seen the difference that adults and older youth were making in my life. I watched and listened. I asked questions. I was a student of life. From being the beneficiary of wisdom and guidance, I developed an appreciation for the mentoring relationship at an early age.
No doubt, this played heavily into my call to be imbedded in a helping profession. I cannot imagine anyone feeling compelled to lead in the Church today out of their own strength. The best pastors, doctors, therapist and teachers I know have one thing in common. When asked why they do what they do, the answer usually includes a hat tip to someone who showed them how do be a servant. The most attentive friends have had a good friend. The most healthy marriages have a model of real strength to learn from. We need to learn from each other.
From the time that I could set my own schedule, I have prioritized reaching up and reaching down. I still need mentors. I sit regularly with friends that I admire their leadership and teaching and writing skills. I learn from the way that they prioritize and love and serve. I use these relationship to fill my soul and push me to believe things about myself that I can’t always see. This is what I mean by reaching up. They help me become who God created me to be.
In equally important ways, I intentionally reach down. It is a bad week when I don’t have at least one coffee date or a call or text exchange with someone who I know has been placed in my life to encourage their growth. Some of these are formal, sought out, mentoring relationships. Others have been connected in friendship and a shared love for a topic and have grown to mutually depend on each other for maturity. For instance, I came to know a dear friend as a co-conspirator in all things mommy-world, but in reality she has mentored my dependence on prayer in ways that I didn’t know to ask for. I would not be the pastor or teacher that I am today without her leadership.
There is one special aspect of mentoring that I cannot shake. Try as I might, I just can’t let go of my passion for watching young women dream. There is a miraculous thing that happens when a woman is freed to be who she was created to be. This miracle cannot be duplicated. And yet, we live in a world that is flooded with messages of defeat and shame belittling. The time and the space of living in that calling has changed over the years. The number of hours that I have logged at Starbucks are too many to count. The conversations on wholeness and soul tending are innumerable. The meals that I have shared while lamenting lost love or broken dreams are endless.
I have been called to pull hope from the bottom of a Xanax bottle. I have prayed peace over severed relationships as I drove away from heartbreaking lunch tales. I have spent hours driving circles in my neighborhood so I could get in five more minutes of friendship as I was driving home. These moments are a priority for me because they have been, and will always be, some of the greatest joys and relationships of my life.
When I began investing in mentoring, there was a hidden gift that would take years to uncover. It is especially true for those women that I knew as teenagers. As I began to share my life and my family, many saw the value that reaching up and down provides. Often, I would invest in a young woman and she would get to know my daughters. As they grew, both AJ and Ally have seen that mom has friends of all ages and interests. Some are older. Some have kids. Some really love to play with them. And more often than not, these precious relationships have built a legacy of continued reaching.
As I reached into a young woman’s life, she began reaching into my daughter’s. With this pattern of legacy established, I am now seeing the next generation of reaching! Often I find myself a bit misty eyed when I see my girls value this same connectedness to the children of those that reached down to them. This ongoing, gift giving wonder of love provides the greatest of life’s cheerleaders. I can’t wait for you to hear about how AJ has seen mentoring lived and is now living it out in her own life. Don’t miss Thursday’s post