As Christians, we may look for someone more spiritually experienced than ourselves to guide us in our journeys with God. Examples of mentors from the Bible are Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Naomi to Ruth and Paul to Timothy, among many more.
I feel fortunate to have had two people in my life that I would identify as spiritual mentors, although I wouldn’t have identified them as that at the time. We have never formally acknowledged the role, but if the definition above is correct then that is what they are!
As a young Moabite woman, [Ruth] must have seen something special in Naomi – why else would you leave your family and travel to a strange land with no prospects? Maybe she had sat at her mother-in-law’s feet listening to stories about her God.
I met the first in the church I attended while I was a teenager with many questions. She was happy for me to turn up at the family home without phoning beforehand, with whoever I felt like bringing. She accepted me for being me and in doing so gained my trust. Because I trusted her, I could talk to her about things I may not have talked to my parents about, and she took time out to gently advise me about God’s perspective of these issues and supported me with her prayers.
My second mentor was similar: we met when I went to uni and moved churches, so this time it involved many Sunday lunches! The issues I had were bigger and the need for advice and counselling was more crucial, as was my need for Christian company. She prayed with me and for me and for all those I brought to church.
My life in my twenties was not straightforward spiritually, but I know that both these women prayed for me through it; they modelled God’s love to me in the way they lived and in how they loved me. I believe this is crucial to the role of a mentor and what distinguishes a mentor from a teacher; they walk beside you and instruct you as you go along.
This reminds me of the story of Ruth in the Bible. As a young Moabite woman, she must have seen something special in Naomi – why else would you leave your family and travel to a strange land with no prospects? Maybe she had sat at her mother-in-law’s feet listening to stories about her God. Maybe Naomi did what was asked of all Israelites to do in Deuteronomy 6 and kept God’s commandments ‘on her heart’. Whatever it was, when Naomi urged Ruth to go home to her own family, Ruth said, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you, Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay, your people will be my people and your God my God’ (Ruth 1:16).
Not everyone will have benefitted from a mentor in their lives, but it is never too late to ask; on the other hand, maybe you could be a mentor for someone else. It is something to be entered into prayerfully and with wisdom, something worth asking God for guidance on. Whether mentor or mentee, there will be benefits for both people.
Karen Smith, The Church of God in Crowborough