It’s been more than four years since I last met with Beverlee in her living room over a cup of steaming Lady Grey tea and chatted about life, ministry, and relationships. She invested in me, a barely-one-year-into-marriage new seminary graduate beginning to counsel and serve on staff with a church plant. She was an older woman with decades of experience in ministry, including overseas missions and full-time campus ministry. She was not strong during those two years we met weekly. I did not know it, but she might have: those were the last two years of her life, and she suffered from complications of diabetes that often robbed her of sleep and forced her to be homebound.
Yet she taught me more about mentoring, discipleship, gospel-centered friendship than almost anyone else in my adult life so far. Her legacy of gracious, selfless love and care for others even in the midst of her own pain lives on while she lives in glory. I hope to continue that legacy by sharing with you some of what she taught me.
1. Gospel mentoring flows out of weakness, not strength. She was physically weak for most of the two years that we met together. She easily could have complained and focused on her own pain and ailments, seeking my comfort and prayers. I certainly did pray for this dear woman and seek to comfort her, but it was not because of her complaints. The pain was written on her face, and yet she repeatedly asked me how I was doing; what she could be praying about; and entered into what seemed like my petty struggles (in comparison).
2. Offer what you have. She could not leave her house, but she reached out to me through phone calls, invited me weekly to come for tea to chat and pray, and tracked me down in my busy, cluttered life of overcommitment. When I first began mentoring and discipling younger women, I was a college student with more free time than I realized. I met with a small group of younger women weekly for one to two hours of Bible study and prayer, and then sought to meet individually with each member weekly outside of that time. After graduating from college, I volunteered with a campus ministry, and discipleship and mentoring took a similar shape then, too. Fast forward 10-plus years, and my life as a pastor’s wife, mom to twin preschoolers, and part-time counselor does not allow me to devote the same kind of time to mentoring. Yet it is freeing to remember that mentoring involves offering what I have. And what I have is much less than before—but I still have something to offer. Meetings now take place in the evenings, during nap times, or on weekends. Sometimes they include meeting somewhere my kids can play. If I meet with a younger woman even once a month, that’s my “regular” meeting during this season of life.
3. Mentoring begins with prayer. She prayed for me when I wasn’t with her, and we prayed together when we met weekly. She followed up about what she was praying for. It was no secret that the power she depended upon for her own strength came through prayer. Only Jesus sustained her during her most painful days and nights.
4. Mentoring at its simplest is being intentional to care for another. She initiated getting to know me when I first came on staff with the church plant she helped to start, and she intentionally “took me under her wings.” She would call me if we hadn’t seen each other for a while, and she invited me to meet regularly for the soul respite I so desperately needed.
5. Gentle challenge embedded in love is an essential part of mentoring. When I had a petty complaint about marriage, she gently challenged me to love. She gave examples from her own life about love as thinking of your spouse often during the day, and then telling him about things that brought him to mind. She shared everything with her beloved Collier, as he did with her. And she encouraged me to do the same—speaking words of reproof into my life as needed.
Do I follow Beverlee’s example perfectly? Far from it. And she herself would be the first to remind me, if she could, that she was not perfect herself. But the call of following Jesus in the ministry of mentoring is a call to lay down your life for another. It’s a call to find the grace and strength needed in the midst of my weakness in the cross, not my false notions of self-sufficiency. It is to offer to another the life I have found in Christ and to encourage her to seek life from this source with me. Until the day when instead of seeing dimly we will, like Beverlee now, see face to face the Glory to which we witness.