When I look back on my teenage years, I can clearly see that there are two women who profoundly affected my life. They never called themselves my mentors, but that is exactly what they did, during a time when I desperately needed it.
I have always been very close with my parents, and could talk with them about anything, but there is something different about having an adult choosing to spend time with you, even when they have no obligation to do so. My parents kind of have to love me and think I’m wonderful. 😉 These two women voluntarily met with me, filled me with their words of encouragement, and built me up in ways that I will never forget.
The first one was a Sunday School teacher. One fall when I was in junior high, the Sunday School committee had a lot of trouble finding a Sunday School teacher for my class. All of the other classes had teachers – had them for weeks, and yet there was our class, still teacherless.
In junior high, when things are a bit insecure at the best of times, that seemed like a big deal. The girls would get together and talk about this. What was wrong with us? How come no one wanted us? I expressed these thoughts to my dad, who was the Sunday School Superintendent at the time, and he was moved to action.
He approached a woman in our church, and told her about how we were starting to feel like we were the problem, the reason why no one would volunteer for that Sunday School class.
She immediately agreed to teach it.
And she kept on teaching it almost until I graduated. She loved us like crazy. We could just tell. And so we loved being with her. She showered her words of affection on us, and constantly told us how fun, wild, and crazy we were, in the best way possible.
She had us over to her house, she spent tons of time with us outside of the “official” Sunday School time, and most importantly…she took me out for coffee. I felt so grown up. And she’d ask about how things were going in my life, and then she’d really listen. She would speak spiritual truths into my life that I still remember to this day, and pass on to other people.
She passed away a few years ago, and I am so sorry that I never told her how much she meant to me, and how much she blessed my life.
The second lady, on the other hand, is alive and kicking, and still bursts into my life every now and then with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm that she had all those years ago when I first met her.
I met her at a time when I was ready to give up on church. Not God, just church. I had heard the term “church family”, but had never really felt like it was much of a family. But that’s a longer story that you can read about here.
Anyway, she attended the new church I was very, very hesitantly trying out, and she greeted me as though her life was now complete, just because I had walked through the doors of that church. I was shy and insecure, still in high school, and lacking confidence in many ways. And there she was, refusing to let me be shy, laughing at all of my jokes and stories, sincerely interested in every detail of my life, full of smiles and hugs and encouragement.
She is the reason why I went back to that church the second time. By the third time, I was realizing that it was just a really great church in general. I will always be thankful that she took the time to draw me in, to make me feel noticed when I felt invisible, and important when I felt insignificant.
She asked me questions, and took the time to listen to the stuff going on in my life as though it really, really mattered to her. I knew that I could drop in at her house any time, and she would fill me up chips and homemade salsa and joy, and she helped me to see that no matter how confusing or hard life was, laughter could be found in everything.
I think back to the experiences with those ladies, and how they impacted me, and I wonder how many teenagers there are today, feeling lonely, insecure, invisible and insignificant.
I wonder how many adults there are out there who missed out on having a mentor when they were younger, and inside they still desperately need that type of relationship. They’ve learned to hide it better now, but really, they still need a listening ear, many words of encouragement, and someone who becomes a safe place for them.
I know that for me, it is not an exaggeration to say that mentoring changed my life. It is still changing my life. (More on that another day!) And I think that the need for it in the Church today is very great.
I believe that if you want to change the world and impact people in the greatest way possible, you do it one at a time.
This post is part of a series. Here are the links to the rest of the series:
Part 1: Embarking on a Journey
Part 2: Sharing Some Personal Stories
Part 3: So How Do I Find Myself a Mentor?
Part 5: What Do We Talk About Now?