What Makes Mentoring Meaningful
When I was 14, my parents invited Jim for dinner. Although he was ten years older than me and an attorney, all through dinner he treated me with respect. After that evening we spent a lot of time together, doing things like going out for dinner, hiking throughout the Bay Area, seeing movies, and just hanging out. Nine years later I’m able to look back at all the ways God used Jim to help me grow into the person I am today. I am convinced that Jim’s love, care and patience have helped me to know and love Yeshua in a profound way.
The one thing that stands out to me whenever I think about that time is the respect that Jim showed me. Also, Jim really listened to me as a friend. Too often, in their attempt to give helpful advice, mentors can sound and act more like parents, rather than a much-needed older brother or sister. Young people have many authority figures in their lives — parents, teachers, employers — but mentors don’t need to be that. Jim was successful in helping shape my life because he didn’t push too hard.
Jim also didn’t try to get me to open up to him. In fact, I wanted to open up to Jim because he showed his trust for me by opening up about his own life. He told me about the struggles that he had gone through while growing up. I knew that whenever I was with him, I had the liberty to ask for advice or be open about what was happening with me—but I never had to. Sometimes we met and didn’t talk about anything in particular; other discussions were deeply spiritual. However, Jim never forced theology down my throat.
Because Jim showed his constant care for me, I began to speak to him about everything. Eventually, our conversations evolved into deep, spiritual discussions that I couldn’t even have with my parents. Jim walked me through many spiritual topics, such as apologetics, and those discussions gave me a firm foundation for my faith as I entered college.
Left to my own devices, and without Jim’s input, I believe I might have fallen away from the Lord under the pressures of the godless atmosphere I encountered at school. Although I knew my parents were there for me during that time, their position as authority figures sometimes made it difficult for me to listen to their advice. As my mentor, Jim was in a unique position to counsel me when I needed it.
Young people need to feel significant. Jim initiated most of the times we met together, and that made me feel important. He was a busy lawyer, but he took time for me.
To this day, Jim and I remain friends. We e-mail and talk to each other on a regular basis. I know that if I ever need guidance, he is the person I would go to because he has made me feel that he is always there for me.