A Word About Mentors 

I had a phone conversation the other day with someone I’ve known and respected for a long time. When I hung up the phone, I sat for several moments thinking about that conversation, and how much I appreciated the time and friendship my ‘mentor’ friend had invested in me over my life. And then I began to wonder about where the word ‘mentor’ comes from. After a bit of research, I made a discovery:

In Homer’s epic poem, “The Odyssey” when Odysseus, King of Ithaca leaves for the Trojan War, he entrusts the care of his household, and the nurture and guidance of his son, Te’lemachus, to his friend, a man named Mentor. Mentor was charged with the task of guiding, overseeing, educating, and doing everything in his power to invest in the development of the life of Telemachus. Who knew that a fictional character in an epic poem would become an renowned title, an identifying characteristic for someone who has impacted our life in a profound way.

We’ve all had them, I think. Now, the basic definition for a mentor would be one who comes alongside us, serving as an advisor or trusted teacher or model who helps us learn some skill or simply live life in general. My wife still talks about a mentor teacher who shared valuable insights about teaching when my wife first began working with kindergarten boys and girls many years ago. And I’ve personally had some terrific mentors in my life, as well. Both as a writer and as a pastor, I’ve had some men who walked patiently alongside my stumbling life, offering wisdom, friendship, and love as I tried to navigate the path God had designed for me.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” It’s quite a responsibility to mentor someone, I think. To have an attitude like Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. And I love the idea that God’s grace is expressed in various forms, over and over again, in the likes of us. One of the most common questions people ask about ‘mentoring’ is “How do you find a mentor?” In all honesty, I’m not sure mentors are ‘found.’ It’s more like they’re ‘noticed’ or ‘discovered.’ And, when I reflected on the conversation I had with my mentor friend the other day, one of the things I realized was that I don’t think I found my mentor. I think it was more like he noticed me. He paid attention to my life in ways that might be difficult to even define. Perhaps the ministry of ‘presence’ might describe it best.

A word of encouragement and invitation, then: Take a bit of quiet time today to reflect on who you’ve had in your life whom you would describe as a mentor; And while you’re at it, perhaps ask yourself, “Who am I noticing in my world, today, that I can dispense the grace of God to, in its various forms?”

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