Many years ago, a young woman on the staff of the church I worked at set an appointment with me. As we sat in the atrium of the church, at a square table… she made a few comments about how she respected my leadership and asked if I would mentor her. I wondered how she even knew who I was?! It was a staff of several hundred people, and I was fairly new there.

What went through my head was, “My life is barely holding together at the moment…. Why would you want to learn anything from me?”

What came out of my mouth was, “I don’t think I can commit to being your mentor, April… my sons are still pretty young, and I don’t have much capacity for more than I’m currently carrying between my work and home responsibilities.”

What went through my head and what came out of my mouth were both true and could probably apply to many of us right now.

I could tell she had mustered the courage even to ask me, and her neck got a bit blotchy as the anxiety of asking someone to be their mentor registered on her skin. I really did like April, and definitely wanted to encourage her journey… I just couldn’t see being her mentor (or anyone else’s for that matter).

Out of my love for her, I added, “But hey… if you ever just want to grab coffee and hang out for a bit, I’m of course willing to do that! I’d love to get to know you more.”

Now some 15 years later, April has grown and developed her teaching, writing, ministry and executive leadership skills. She’s become a mom through a radical journey of infertility, adoption and natural pregnancy. She’s become a writer. Honestly, I’m proud to say I even know her. And she has a kickin’ marriage to boot! April rocks pretty much everything she touches.

And, believe it or not, for those 15 years, I’ve been her mentor. There. I said it. (Or wrote it, I guess).

She claims she tricked me into mentoring her, and she’s right! She did. Her sneaky path was breathtakingly simple: she continued asking me out for coffee every once in a while and asked me questions. Great questions. Prepared in advance questions. Questions that I had never exactly thought about before, but once she asked… an idea would come to mind… and more often than not, by God’s grace, it was actually helpful to her.

I share this story for two reasons. First, many of us have much to offer one another through this life… and yet are either so overwhelmed by our own struggles or discouraged by them that we don’t see how we yet may be helpful to someone else. When April first asked me to mentor her, at some level I felt I couldn’t be responsible for one more person in my life. I could be a friend, but I couldn’t take on the responsibility for her growth.

But of course, that was never what she was asking.

To you who are up to your eyeballs in the drama of your own life – Kudos! Stay the course! Keep at it! Like I was, you may be intimidated and unwilling to take on the responsibility of someone else’s growth. Get rid of the “M” word if you need to, but please still make yourself available to those who are on the journey behind you. I’ve seen how my staying with April; simply and actually caring about her soul, her work, her family, her calling, has made a difference in her life. I’m so glad she didn’t let my “no” stop her from pursuing time together. I’m so glad she tricked me.

And a second reason I’m sharing this story is for those of you who are seeking a mentor. One thing I consistently experienced in April was her quest for wisdom. Whenever we would meet, she had specific things on her mind. Specific challenges she was facing. Some work-related, some family-related, and some that were between her and God. I never felt like it was my job to uncover where she needed to grow and then help her see what steps to take. That was her job. I was there to address her questions. She was always hungry for more of God, more clarity on her purpose, or how to navigate challenging work scenarios.

As I mentioned, April’s questions sometimes unleashed in me answers I didn’t know I had inside! I can attribute this powerful dynamic to a few things. The main one, though, is that in my own journey with God I am learning to keep asking for wisdom. And when wisdom comes, it’s from God, and we can all stand amazed. It wasn’t up to me to know things.

Sometimes, even April would feel stuck. I can recall two separate occasions when she reached out because she could tell she was shutting down emotionally due to the pressures she was under. At those times, she’d say “I’m feeling stuck… I suspect it has to do with x,y,z…. And I just need you to ask me some questions.”

Even when she didn’t have the questions herself, she knew she needed some gentle prodding and she reached out for it.

One of the biggest observations I’ve made of life as a result of my relationship with April is this: I’ve been an eyewitness to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

I have seen that there is very real power in asking. In seeking. In knocking. Her life has, of course, been a huge gift to me and she challenges my leadership, my calling and my walk with God as well.

One last thing about April. I’m just one of about ten or more women and men in her short-list of mentors she reaches out to regularly. She has truly, for a very long time, surrounded herself with multiple sources of wisdom, counsel and encouragement. Her life bears the fruit of such humility and wisdom. There is so much wisdom even in the way she has sought wisdom. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of April! If you’d like to learn more about her visit her website!

So how about you, Grit & Virtue community? What are the questions that you are currently asking about your life? Do you know them? Take a few minutes to write them down, and then pray through them, for sure. But then – take someone you respect out for coffee. Ask. Seek. Knock.

See what doors might open to you. There are dreams God has given you to dream, and by His design, we just can’t get there alone.

Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone? If not, how can you take steps toward developing those relationships?

Mindy Caliguire
Mindy Caliguire

Mindy founded Soul Care, which aims to increase “soul health” in the Body of Christ. She has also served as the Director of Transformation Ministry at the Willow Creek Association, and currently serves on the senior management team at Gloo. She and her family are based in Boulder, Colorado.

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