mentor-mentee“We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we are not crazy after all, that what we are doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!”

The late Ray Bradbury wrote the above in an essay entitled ‘Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle.’ In it he recounts how as a young writer of 33, he received a letter from B. Berenson, a great art historian. In that letter, Berenson affirmed Bradbury’s style of writing.

Bradbury writes: “Thus, at age thirty-three, I had my way of seeing, writing and living approved of by a man who became a second father to me.”

It was a turning point for Bradbury, who went on to write books like “Fahrenheit 451”, “The Martian Chronicles”, and “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.

It seems all of us need someone “higher, older, wiser” to help us find our life calling. Life is too short to be frittered away. It should be lived as an adventure, to be entered into with passion. Unfortunately our hearts are deceitful and we have an enormous capacity for self-deception.

What may appear to be our life calling could merely be an exercise in escapism or some grand standing of the ego. And most of us are more prisoners of our personal histories than we realise. Hence the need for someone older and wiser to help guide us in our journey.

The word ‘mentor’ comes to mind. It is a word that has received fresh exposure in the church by way of the world of management. Even the marketplace has re embraced the need for someone senior to help one maximise his/her potential.

The concept has also been there in the scriptures. Paul, for example, writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:11,12: “As you know we treated everyone of you as a father treats his children, urging you, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and his glory.” (NJB)

Unfortunately this type of spiritual parenting is not practised much, especially in the evangelical circles I come from. (The other extreme sometimes happens, where disciplers essentially attempt to make clones of themselves. I am not sure this is healthy either.)

More often than not, the focus has been on:

  1. Content. Just give them good teaching. They will surely grow. There is no need for close personal relationships.
  2. Programmes. The church is seen primarily as a corporation that requires sophisticated management to help it achieve its potential.

But that is exactly the point. The church is not a corporation. It is first and foremost a family. And as in all healthy families, growth comes through community and relationships.

I have two sons. They have very different personalities and abilities.
As their father, I will have to try to help each one find out who they are, and should be, in Christ. In seeking to do this, no programme and lecturing can replace a close ongoing relationship with them.

I, on my part, am very, very grateful for my parents and all the spiritual mentors that God placed in my life. They functioned as God’s fingers moulding me to be all that I am today. (I take full responsibility for my failures.)

In return I seek to be a spiritual friend to all whom the Lord brings into my life. It is my desire to see how I can encourage them to be all they can be in Christ. The trouble is, I have found that there are so many more people that desire such spiritual friendships than I can handle. I don’t belive it is because I am particularly gifted in this area. It is just that there are so few who are doing it.

There are many exceptional leaders and potential spiritual mentors out there. Unfortunately they are too busy to provide spiritual friendship on a regular basis. De facto, it means they do not see spiritual friendship as important.

We shouldn’t be surprised then that few Christians come close to fulfilling their potential. And that the church makes minimal impact on society. We are long overdue for a major recommitment to the practise of spiritual mentoring.

Do you have someone “older and wiser” that you meet up with from time to time to seek clarification on the workings of God in your life? Would you consider being such a friend to someone? Take a moment to list out the people already in your network. Is there one or two you could encourage by your giving them the precious gift of your time? You might find yourself delightfully surprised at what spiritual heroes the Lord allows you to coach! Indeed you will discover that all of God’s children are spiritual heroes just waiting for encouragement and affirmation to flower.