I loved whenever my friend's mommy, Mrs. W, drove us places. I watched her as her long, brightly manicured fingernails clicked against the steering wheel to the beat of the country music. I was just a little girl, but I remember thinking, I can't wait to grow up and have long pretty fingernails so I can tap them to the music just like she does.
This was my first memory of being mentored. Of course, I didn't even know what a mentor was back then. And, Mrs. W certainly had no idea she had mentored me. But, all the same, it was mentoring. I call it ORGANIC MENTORING. Because, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, each of us are mentors and we are all being mentored!
When I was in high school, there was a woman who I thought was very "cool." She wasn't "not-with-it" like my parents. (Or, so I perceived them. Sorry mom and dad!) I watched this woman. I confided in her. I listened to her. Unfortunately, she encouraged my teenage curiosity, rebellion and disrespect.
I didn't know God designed older women to teach the younger ones. In fact, I had no idea what a mentor was until my early twenties, when, as a new follower of Christ, I learned about mentoring in the Bible. I took to heart the passages in Titus 2:3-5 (NLT) Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.
That is when I began to watch the older women in my life with more intentionality.
A few years later, married and a new mommy, I realized I was a terrible housekeeper. And, it wasn't my mom's fault! I remember she taught me to clean bathrooms, to dust and vacuum, as well as how to fold clothes, iron and do dishes. However, I had no idea how to manage my own home, and care for my infant son (who never slept)! So, I sought out my first official mentor.
Thankfully, I found a woman who offered classes on home organization. Her name was Donna Otto. Even now, twenty-six years later, I use the lessons I learned from her to organize my house. I'm not perfect at all, but I'm way more organized than if I had not had her influence in my life.
A few years later, our growing family moved to San Diego. Only then, during a season of loneliness, did I fully appreciate the value of mentors in my life. After a year-and-a-half, the Lord answered my prayers and brought me to a church filled with godly women. Eagerly, I watched them, spent time with them and got to know them on Sundays, in Bible Studies and during other random encounters.These women became my mentors, and some also became my friends.
One of my favorite mentors, who is now in heaven with Jesus, I met at the weekly Women's Bible Study. From time to time, out-of-the-blue, she would call me and say, "Cathy, this is Annie. I'm just calling to tell you that 'the need is not the call.' Now, you take care of that family of yours. I love you. Goodbye." Anne knew I had a hard time saying, "no." Her simple, occasional phone call taught me a great life principle that I now pass on to others.
To my surprise, one Sunday I received my first "official" invitation to be a mentor. A young woman quickly slipped away after handing me a note she had written on the back of the church bulletin. I shuddered as I read the message, I have been watching you! I believe you are genuine and that I can trust you. She went on to ask if we could begin a mentoring relationship by writing letters with me. Eventually, we went from letters to meeting in person. I confess, I made many mistakes, but I also learned valuable lessons.
Since that experience, I have had very few of what I call "official" mentoring relationships. It's a personal preference. I always think, "If I'm going to teach one person, why not teach a dozen?" Thus, a mentoring invitation often becomes a Women's Bible Study. However, on this journey, I have discovered the most valuable lessons I have learned from the wonderful mentors in my life happen in day-to-day, natural, organic relationships and encounters. I was mentored as I watched, listened to and emulated the women I wanted to model my life after. This occurred at Bible Studies, in homes, at social gatherings, in coffee shops, and even while making copies in the church office.
God designed us is to learn from each other. If we are aware of and intentional about who we are learning from we can be mentored in a way that grows us up, matures us, and makes our lives more fruitful. Likewise, we are always being watched. It is important that we are aware of this and ask ourselves what are we modeling? What are others learning from the way we live our lives? Because most mentoring (the good, the bad and the ugly) is ORGANIC. If you have attended one of my Bible Studies on mentoring, you have heard my mantra: whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, YOU ARE A MENTOR and YOU ARE BEING MENTORED!
So, the question is Who are you watching? And, Who is watching you? What are you learning from those you watch? And, what are you modeling and teaching to those who watch you? A woman who has influenced me posted this on Facebook, "You don't have to be a 'person of influence' to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they've taught me." — Scott Adams
How about you, who might you be influencing? Who is influencing you?