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Allison Althoff
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Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

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July 6, 2010

Unexpected Mentors

Being open to the women in my life who know me

I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who wants a mentor. I’m pretty self-sufficient. I hold my cards close to my chest, and—for better or worse—it’s not in my nature to talk about a problem or decision in-depthly with many others.

“I’ve never had a mentor,” I’d tell friends who would talk about a youth leader who poured into their lives when they were high school or the teacher who guided them through some tough decisions. While I was generally okay with this, sometimes I’d feel a pang of jealousy toward those who had an older woman take a mentoring role in their life.

It wasn’t until more recently that I began to see the mentors in my life. Two women come to mind—both of them former bosses. I sat across the table from one of them at a restaurant recently, realizing that it had been nine years ago that we’d first met. She hired me at my college library—a place where I worked for four years. Every so often we get together to catch up, this last time after a too-long hiatus. I left the three-hour dinner feeling so grateful for her. While probably neither she nor I would give her the title of “mentor” over “friend,” it struck me that she was indeed a mentor to me and has been for the past nine years. A lot of growing and changing happens during those formative college years, and it nearly overwhelms me to look back and remember her prayers for me, her questions, her investment in my life. Though I was employed by her, I knew that I was more than just a student worker—my personal and spiritual life was cared for. Even now when I don’t see her for a long time, she remembers details of my life, encourages me, and speaks truth. I’m humbled to realize that I’ve had a couple amazing women invest in me, despite my inwardness.

I love this kind of mentoring—it’s not something planned or decided ahead of time. It just happens. An organic, natural extension of a person’s care and concern for another person. I’ve found it to be a beautiful, tangible expression of God’s commandment to us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). Examples of mentoring are throughout the Bible: Jesus and the disciples, Paul and Timothy, Naomi and Ruth. God values and even modeled the idea of mentorship. Proverbs 13:20 says: “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” I’ve come to realize the necessity of older, wiser voices in my life. It is through these relationships that I learn about myself, draw nearer to God, and find encouragement and support.

I’ll probably never be the type to seek out a weekly, sit down mentoring relationship with someone. But I will continue to be open to the women in my life who know me, and hope that one day my experiences and wisdom can naturally extend as a mentoring voice to another.

Do you have a mentor in your life? How did that relationship come about? Do you consider yourself a mentor to others?

Related Tags: Mentoring

Comments

We all need to be mentored. I think that truth be told, we all yearn deep inside for that type of authentic, intimate relationship.

And we all need to mentor. There's always another young woman a few steps back on the trail. Who longs to interact with us, to glean from our mistakes and our successes and our hard-earned life experience.

Sadly, these relationships are rare as hen's teeth. We are too relentlessly busy. Self-absorbed and preoccupied with our own frenetic lives and schedules and stuff.

And our lives have gaping holes because no one is pouring into us. And we are not pouring into others.

I'm so thankful to have wonderful women of God in my life. I have truly valued the women who will open up their hearts, their homes, and their council to me.

In our journey of life, God will allow us to go through trials and experiences not because He is an evil God, but because He is investing in refining our character and teaching us compassion. Somewhere down the line, we may just come across an individual who is in a similar situation,and can relate by saying "I've been in your shoes".

Take these God-ordained times to lend an open ear or offer a shoulder to cry on. Sure, its an investment of time and self, but if we are going to invest in anything, why not invest in the lives of others and in relationships- things that matter. He did for us.

I've found that many women I know never had a mentor growing up. Why is that? There are so many older women who are available for mentoring, and so many younger women who need mentoring, so why does it not happen very often in churches? Is it an unwillingness to be vulnerable? Is it a busyness issue? Or are the possible mentors not willing to invest time in someone younger? Just a few questions that popped into my mind as I read this.

As president of our Women's Ministry in our church, I am finding that it's the "word" mentoring that is scaring so many women. We all want to be mentored but don't see ourselves worthy of being mentors. Truth be told, I think if we all look in our lives, we can see where we have been mentored, or even mentored someone, but we hesitate to call it that. I don't know what it would take in the churches to be all that we can be to each other as women. It's sometimes pretty discouraging. I for one have several older women in my life who are mentors to me and try to do the same to other women who are younger than me. All I can control is what I do. Wht a great article...thanks so much!!!

Wonderful article and much needed. I believe we all have receieved mentoring at some point in our lives. I love to mentor the younger women at my church.

Thanks for the article! Looking back when I was younger, I find that some authors influenced me a lot. Today, I consider that these female authors were like friends to me, offering me sound, biblical advice. Though I never met them, though I never even contacted them, their books were like "conversations" to me. Their thoughts, godly examples, struggles, victories, teachings, all helped shape my life and influenced me in a positive way. I like to consider them mentors.

I am one who has always longed for an "older sister." Being the oldest in my family I've always found looking out for others and listening to come naturally. I do not know any older women who are both trustworthy and good listeners who also seem to like me.

I once took part in a humorous skit about how not to mentor. I was "Franny Fix-it-fer-ya," an older woman who came across as one who was out to "fix" a younger woman. We all laughed, but I wonder if older women don't sometimes come across like that. I enjoy learning from younger women, especially in areas such as the Internet. We all need to open to learning new things.

Thank you for the article, and for the opportunity to share. As for me, I have always taken life very seriously, and even as a child of age 6, I remember being very concerned, and worried over an adult friend of my aunt with whom I lived at the time. The friend faced some kind of family problem, and she looked "sad" to me, and this troubled me, that I would think about it for days on end. As a young adult, I observed another adult who to me seemed to be hurting over a family problem, and it bothered me, as I wish I could do something to help (she did not know me personally), then another close girl friend of mine had a very serious problem, due to someone who promised to marry her, disappointed her, and it affected her mentally as well. I wanted to pray for her and talk with her, but when I consulted with the person who played a "guardian" part in her life, I was misunderstood, as someone who was just being "curious", so I was disappointed being unable to even do something to help my precious girl-friend. I finally realized that compassion for others, and having a tendency to reach out to others was just a part of me. I had the privilege to meeting girl-friends, and listening to to their concerns, and praying for them from time to time, sharing a meal with them, and it just blessed me, knowing that they were encouraged. I had a few close friends who were my mentors, as they listened to my concerns, and hurts, and who encouraged and prayed for me. Some of my mentors also I have never met, such as Rev. Billy Graham, as I read a few of his books, and I would like to say also that these newsletters that I receive, are written by my very many "mentors". Also as persons share, in reply to articles written, are a blessing to me, as I read their responses. I know God's blessings will continue to rest upon your lives, and the lives of all who share in response to the newsletters. The writers are an inspiration, and blessing to me and am sure, very many others.

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