This study reminded me of my desire to raise children who reach their full potential. Like many parents, I feel the strong inclination to solve all of my children’s problems and answer their every question. Of course, in infancy and early childhood this is essential, they cannot survive without such complete care. But one of my children is now at an age where he is able to assume responsibility and resolve some issues on his own. I find myself wondering what the right balance is of giving him answers versus staying quiet so he can find them on his own.
But this study isn’t only for those in a mentoring position. It is also ideal for those of us who are still coming into our own. Through this study I have also become more aware of crutches I am leaning on, ones that I should have let go of long ago so that I could walk more confidently.
This study was helpful to me from both the perspective of a guide and a pupil. And I imagine that I am not the only one who falls firmly under both categories. There are important lessons in this study for all the different hats we wear. Here are the main principles that came up while I was reviewing the subject.
The Purpose of Mentors
Mentors are a good thing. God made us to be social beings and also imitative beings. Our desire is to be part of a community and to model ourselves after others, and this is by divine design. We therefore ought to seek out the best mentors we can find and learn from them all that we can.
By this approach we are augmented with greater strength and wisdom than we, ourselves, possess. Not only this, but over time we can assimilate that greater strength and wisdom into ourselves, becoming a more full and capable person than we were before.
To a point.
Eventually there is a limit to what any mentor can teach us. If we rely on them continually they will eventually shift from being our support to our crutch. The best teachers therefore push their pupils out of the nest so that their growth isn’t forever stunted. From there it will be up to the pupil to seek out the true source of knowledge and strength. There, alone with God, the student will truly come into their own.
1 Samuel 17:39-40- And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
Genesis 37:23-24, 28- And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
The Greatest Gifts Man Cannot Give
No person that spends their time just imitating another person will ever reach their full potential. None of us was made to be the perfect carbon copy of each other. I can never be another person as well as they already are. The fullest version of a person I could ever hope to be is my own best self.
And by that same logic, no earthly mentor is able to take us all the way to being our own best self either. Our best self is not their own self, and thus they can only show us so far down that path before their vision falls short.
We require a mentor that is on a higher plane and can see exactly what our full potential really is. We require someone who was walked every step in our own shoes and fully understands where we are and how far we can go. We require a being that can assume the very guise of our best self and show it to us as an example to follow. In short, only God could ever help us to know ourselves perfectly.
Matthew 19:17- And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
John 5:19- Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
God Must Be Met Individually
And of course, no mentor can give us their relationship with God for our own. Only we can make that connection. In fact, of all the areas where a pupil might use their teacher as a crutch, this is the most dangerous. If the pupil’s every spiritual whim is catered to by their mentor they might not ever see the necessity for getting any closer to God. They might stunt themselves in this most essential piece of development.
As I shared in my last post, even Jesus’s disciples couldn’t fully come into their own until he had departed from them. Peter had attested that he would follow Jesus to the very end…but he was not supposed to spend the rest of his life as a follower, he was meant to become a leader. And there wasn’t any space for him to do that while Jesus still filled that role.
It is a hard thing for a mentor to stop shielding the pupil they love. It goes against their caring nature to let a student feel the full force of neediness and failure. But for many of us, maybe even all of us, it is only when we are exposed to the elements that we come to realize our dependence God and begin to seek Him in earnest. And from that all good things follow.
John 16:7, 20 (NIV)- But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.