“In every art, beginners must start with models of those who have practiced the same art before them.” --Ruth Whitman
The first sermon I ever preached was so boring that an eight year old old kid in the front church pew curled up in his mother’s lap then fell fast asleep. He even snored. Can’t blame him. I was pretty boring.
The first piece of furniture I ever built was a gargantuan behemoth of an Adirondack chair. After I gave it to my little sister as a Christmas present, we wrestled it on to the back patio. It hasn’t been moved for 15 years.
My first choir solo, a Beatles song, came out sounding more like Miss Piggy than John Lennon. That happens when you begin a song on the absolute wrong note. But the band sounded great.
Then my sermons got better, my furniture functional and even my tunes tuneful, all because someone took the time to show me how to do those things and do them well. Someone more experienced at life than me took my hand and patiently explained, “This is how to do it.” Someone saw within in me raw potential and gently helped shape that into mature talent.
We’re all made better by sage folks who taught and teach us. A skilled craftsperson. An inspiring artist. A faithful coach. A wise boss. A gentle teacher. A patient parent. They mentor us and push us to grow into our God-given talents. Sometimes they don’t even show us how. Instead they remind us that we already have a gift within. All we need is the encouragement to believe that we can do it.
There is no substitute for being mentored. Sure: we can acquire all the degrees we want. Go on YouTube and view tens of thousands of “how to” videos on everything from car repairs to oil painting to counseling. We can study from the ubiquitous “….For Dummies” book series: “Preaching for Dummies”, “Fishing for Dummies”, who knows, maybe even “Brain Surgery for Dummies”!?
Yet always, a rookie needs the help of a veteran and a greenhorn needs the guidance of a gray hair. Doesn’t matter whether it’s learning to pray, learning to walk or learning to live. This week my mentor, a wise and giving friend named Sue, passed away.
I already miss her alot, as do a score of other folks she skillfully taught. But the thing about mentoring is that it always is shifting from generation to generation. God gives us the gift of a mentor, and then God calls us to step up and become a mentor too. The student becomes the teacher. That’s the cycle of life, art, work, faith, parenting, craftsmanship, everything.
So…who in your life needs mentoring? A new hire struggling at work. A young adult trying to find her place in the world. A kid in the back of the classroom the other teachers always overlook. An inner city child still on the waiting list at Big Brothers or Big Sisters. The world is filled with folks who spill over with so much God-given potential and all they need is just one person to care. Just one. Maybe that’s you.
God makes us all, so full of the unformed stuff of life. Then, if we are blessed or lucky or both, someone takes notice and helps us grow up into just whom we are meant by God to become.
So here’s a thought. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Thank you Sue.