My Mother-in-Law, My Mentor, A Legacy

I was a college student when I came to know Jesus. It was my husband’s mom (we were just dating at that time) who became my first mentor. At the time I didn’t realize this but now I understand that she was intentionally walking alongside me during this first phase of my formation as a Christ follower. This mentoring relationship looked most like a friendship. I would sit at her long kitchen table and watch her peel potatoes and listen to her talk about marriage. Other times, we would come back to the house to find her pouring over her Bible study, timeline in hand and all, and she would excitedly share what she was learning. Or sometimes, it just looked like sharing a meal and discussing college courses. Because I had come to trust her and respect her, I opened my life up to her and she could very easily speak truth and love into my heart. We didn’t go through a planned Bible curriculum. We were simply involved in each other’s day to day lives. And as she observed my life and I asked her questions about hers, she would always point me to Jesus and showed me how to apply his ways to my life.  It wasn’t that she had all the answers. In fact, if she were alive today, we would probably differ quite a bit on some things. But it was her own love for God that kindled my affections for Him in a way that drove me to find Him myself. What a gift she was to me and I will forever be in debt to her for leading me to know the One who created me.  My mother in law is no longer present in this world, but her legacy lives on through those she influenced.

We’re spending time in Titus this week. This letter was written by Paul to Titus, his “child in a common faith.” The purpose of Paul’s letter was to instruct Titus on how to continue to develop and lead the churches he had established in Crete. Tucked away in the second chapter we find a few verses that have become a portrait of Christian mentoring. Often times, Titus 2 is associated with women’s ministry. However, we do a huge disservice to Paul’s writing here if we leave it there. Ultimately, this instruction was meant for the building up of the entire church.

Listen as Paul instructs Titus, with gentle authority, to “teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned

Paul outlines what needs be taught and that it should be taught by example, so how can we actually make this teaching happen in our culture? We start by understanding that the aim in mentoring those in the family of God is to teach people to treasure Christ above all else so that they can discover who God  is and His ways in this world. Through life on life mentoring relationships, we can stir the affections for Christ in the hearts of those around us and help them live into who God created them to be. As that happens, this becomes less of a list of do’s and dont’s and more of a response to living out of who God created us to be.

Mentoring seems to be a bit elusive.  This kind of relationship can be difficult to weave into an individualistic culture, such as what we experience as North Americans. The most ideal way mentoring happens is by observing another’s life and letting them observe ours, which can be difficult when our doors are always closed. There are personal choices we can make, even though we live in a culture that so highly values the needs of the individual over the needs of the group as a whole. We can train ourselves to value dependence instead of independence. We have to learn that it is okay at times to be subject to others as opposed to autonomous. We have get out of our comfort zones and risk letting people into our life. As we venture down this path, which is the most life-giving path for the Christian pilgrim, we will find other wounded and hungry souls to connect with, to learn from and with whom we can be vulnerable. And there is a very good chance that it is through those deep friendships that God will bring healing and health to our hearts.

Titus 2 is not about some sort of buddy system, as Susan Hunt says. It is about being our brother’s (or sister’s) keeper. It’s about walking with others, caring for their souls and continually pointing them to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It is more about being a wise and loving presence then an advice dispenser.

As we are coming to the end of our Legacy series, let’s think about how mentoring can impact our families. All parents mentor their kids. We ask them things like how hard is it to remember to brush your teach (teaching hygeine), please stop licking the table (have you ever heard of manners?), we help them study (you’re not living here forever), or we do baseball drills like make them put on catcher’s gear and throw baseballs at them and argue that “yes, this really is a drill!” (now that is just a parenting perk). We also teach them more serious things like how to be a loyal friend,  serve others and handle disappointments. However, as Christian parents, we have the responsibility to mentor our children in the ways of our Lord and Savior. We must not neglect this spiritual element. The paths of the wayward are open and easy so it takes a discerning and committed parent to constantly guide our kids back to God’s path of truth and wisdom.

I came across this quote the other day from the book “Deep Mentoring” by Randy Reese and Robert Loane. As we consider our development, the influence of our family must not be underestimated. Families pass on to their children a way of seeing and being in the world. What we were not taught in the everydayness of our lives, we caught along the way. And it is not until well into our own stories that we realize the particular blessings and hazards of what was passed on to us.”  As parents we are our kids first and most important mentors. Our kids are learning from us everyday.

We start out this whole parenting gig with the best of intentions. We record every feeding and dirty diaper, we plan to read to them for hours a day, and you better believe there will be no screen time ever and they will know the whole book of Proverbs by the time they are 6! But then… life. We get tired, they get older and the demands and time available are obscenely disproportionate. We’ve got one baby crying, one toddler playing in the toilet and a kindergartner setting booby traps of water buckets and string around the house. Or maybe you are through that season but have a job that never gives you a moments rest, a teenager who slams the door more then looks you in the eye, and a parent who has fallen ill. And we succumb to weariness and let the most important things fall to the wayside. Falling to the wayside is what the enemy of our souls offers us.  However, God offers another way. He offers us His grace in our weakness.  He will help us accomplish the tasks He has ordained for us.

There is no manual to follow, no rules we must die by. Discipleship looks different for every family. The healthiest mentoring of our children will happen as they see their parents loving and knowing Jesus more and more. Life organically offers opportunities to share what we are learning about God. Don’t close your children out of your love for God. They need to see a real person love God and live obediently to Him. What a privilege it is to disciple our families to know and follow the One who loves them the most, the one who substituted himself for their sins and the only one who can bring healing to our broken world.  Mentoring is a gift and I pray that our church would answer the call to a life that is willing to meet people where they are, walk alongside them and point them to Christ.  Blessings to you as you seek to leave a godly legacy.

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