Dark. Those years were dark and depressing, full of unacknowledged questions and hurts without balm. He didn't handle them well, these trials. He lashed out at friends and family. He complained bitterly to God. He raged against anyone whose shadow touched his lacerated theology. Those years were as uncomfortable as a stuffy car six miles from a rest stop when you really have to go and construction has stopped traffic.
This young man, like Job, wished he had never been born; but he also never lost his faith in God.
My pastor mentioned a study that found young adults who have five or more Christian mentors are far more likely to retain their faith than those who don't have a mentor. This makes sense to me. As I consider the many unofficial mentors in my life, I notice the following:
- Mentors remind us of God's faithfulness. Because mentors have already walked a similar road, they can talk about the bumps and struggles they had in their travels. But through it all we are reminded of how God gives us the grace and the provision we need. This was certainly true for me when we were in the adoption process and stuff started not making any sense. It was amazing to have others share their stories of God's faithfulness in similarly painful situations.
- Mentors give us space to question. I had one professor in Bible college who made it very clear that he wanted to meet with us, one-on-one, on a regular basis. I was in his office every week. I asked him tons of questions about life and how to apply what we were talking about in class. He taught a film class of mine, and even though we never discussed any of the deeply troubling questions I had about God, seeing his faith in light of the road he had traveled helped reinforce mine.
- Mentors provide an outside perspective. The sun slanted through the trees as we walked together between his office and his next class. The conversation lasted no more than three minutes. But in that time I said, "I don't see God changing me." He replied, "He is. It's hard to see, especially when you've grown up in the church and have been at this all your life. But God's working in you, Luke." That conversation changed my life.
- Mentors recount the mercy of God. Mentors can be real with us in a way that isn't common in church. We can discuss sin and struggles on a personal level. I remember well the first time a youth leader verbally admitted to needing mercy in an area I struggled with too. The fact that God continued to use and love him gave me hope for the future. I also no longer felt alone. God hadn't given up on me! So how could I live better in light of this mercy?
- Mentors demonstrate God's love for us. If people take time out of their lives to pour into me, how much more does God love me? Mentors can speak of God's love because they are also demonstrating it to us. These very real reminders can carry us through many dark nights.
Here's the cool thing: Mentoring isn't just for kids and young adults. Judy has already shared about homeschool mentoring. It's a great read and very encouraging!
Much like the theology I learned through books, I'm finding that my faith has been bolstered by the mentors in my life. They have struggles I can learn from. They have hope even when I do not.
Have you found mentors to be beneficial in your life? What do you think of the idea that mentors help keep kids connected to Christ in a time when their peers may abandon their faith?
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester
P.S. I realize that we, as parents, can do many of these things as well. May you find ways to walk with your children through the challenges of life.