Rocks in the Garden of Mentoring

by Elise Arndt

We all have them! Obstacles in life. Rocks in our gardens  – the result of living in a fallen world of sin. They come  in various shapes and sizes. Some visible. Most buried  beneath the surface of fertile soil.

Your rocks may not be the same as mine. Some present  themselves as huge, heavy boulders – unmovable – preventing us from moving ahead. They manifest them selves as health issues, stages of parenting (caring for a  growing family or aging parents), finances, professional  issues, or a spouse who does not share your same Christian perspective. These boulders require acceptance, patience and navigation techniques.

Then there are those small, annoying rocks, often lying  on the surface preventing spiritual growth or ministry  from taking place. They irritate and frustrate and prohibit “young seedlings” from sending their roots deep  into fertile soil. Matthew 13:4-6 

Recognizing the rocks brings feelings of inadequacy  along with the fear that we have nothing to offer. Spiritual amnesia sets in prohibiting the activity of God to be  recognized in present or past situations.

Mentoring – An Obscure Ministry 

Just like seedlings or seeds planted in a garden with  rocks of various sizes and shapes, mentoring takes place  in obscurity, away from the hustle and bustle of life.  Mentoring deals with relationships not productivity.  Moments hidden away – sharing a cup of coffee, listening, taking time to teach someone less experienced a  new skill, ministering to those who struggle, visiting the  sick, sharing Scripture and prayer.

Few accolades come to those who mentor. Significant  time is involved. Plus, success is not measured in worldly or financial compensation. Unfortunately, the results  are rarely instant and take years of investiture.  The challenge to enter into the life of a person, rocks and  all, to share sorrows and joy, encourage, teach skills, and  equip future generations, takes courage.

Mentoring is not one of those ministries people automatically give a resounding “yes” to when asked. Outwardly, they appear honored thinking that perhaps someone sees something in them that they do not see.  Inwardly, though, they ask themselves tough questions  that need addressing – “rocks in the garden” kind of  questions. For instance:

  • ”I’m not qualified!” “Here I am Lord . . . but could you send  someone else?” 
  • “Do I have time to serve in this area? My schedule is already  filled beyond busy?”  
  • “What if I cannot fulfill what is expected of me?” ●“Is this where God wants me?” “I have family concerns  (aging parents, small children, a spouse who is not a Christian), health issues, professional pressures, problems in relationships.” 

Moses faced this same dilemma when asked by God to  lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Read about it  in Exodus 3-4 and see if the excuses he uses are similar  to yours.

Facing Our Mentoring Questions:  

  • Ability and Qualifications: 

Several years ago I was at a crossroads of entering “un charted waters” of ministry – reaching unchurched  women in my sub-division with the Gospel. To be hon est, I had little knowledge of how to do this type of ministry. Questions raced through my mind.

  • What if I failed?  
  • What if doors were slammed in my face?  
  • My reputation was at stake. I didn’t want my neighborhood  to think I was some type of “spiritual nut?” 
  • Would anyone attend? 

Readily, I admitted this to my Women’s Ministry Leadership Team. Someone in the group handed me this  quote based on 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. “God doesn’t call  the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

God knew he could equip me, but only, after I surrendered my will, my fears, and my agenda to his. I learned  to embrace this “rock” of feeling inadequate, because it  lead to a greater dependency upon God. (2 Corinthians  12:9)

My ability did not rest in MY power or confidence, but  in the work of the Holy Spirit. He empowers – guides –  teaches. He opens and closes doors. He prepares the way. He gives gifts to individuals  according to his will, (Ephesians  4:11-12) and he desires for all to be  saved and for none to perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

Just to let you know, that big step  of faith into “uncharted waters” resulted in a small beginning. Only  three women showed up for that  first meeting, but today we have  close to 30+ women from my neighborhood, meeting weekly for Bible  study.

  • Time Pressures 

The reality of ministry is this: We  will never have enough time to do  all we want to do in the kingdom of  God. Our intentions are often good,  but why do we wear ourselves out  by making ministry more complicated and time consuming than  it was? Why do we focus more on  planning than reliance on God?  And, why is the focus on developing programs rather than on people?  Often I find myself asking God to  bless the things I have chosen. Perhaps it would be more profitable  to spend time finding out what he  has already blessed and to do those  things.

The Small Beginnings of Mentoring 

So, how does one begin this journey  of mentoring when rocks of inadequacy, time pressures and so many  other obstacles face us?

  • Trust God 

It was told to me, after our 23-year old grandson died in the summer of  2019, that Jesus never asks us to understand his ways. He only asks us  to believe in who he is and to trust  and believe in his promises. (The  story of Lazarus’ death – Mary and  Martha – “Lord, if you had been  here.” John 11:17-32)

It has been estimated that there are  over 3000 promises of God in the  Bible. Do you know them? Have  you sought them out? If not, perhaps now would be a good time to  find them and put them to memory.

  • Don’t make something simple so  complicated. 

I attended a Women’s Ministry  conference where Jill Briscoe was  the presenter. One part of the conference dealt with helping women  reach their potential. I will never  forget Jill’s simple explanation of  how she trained women leaders.

She asked the question: “How does  a mother sheep dog train her pup pies to herd sheep?” The answer:  “She just lets them hang around  with her.” Just because her pup pies were bred to herd sheep didn’t  make them “herding experts.”  They had to be shown and taught  what their potential could be.  That was it! The simple challenge to  take someone “under your wings”  and let them watch and learn from  you.

In our gardens of mentoring there  are simple ordinary people, loved  by God – some beautiful, some  with weeds in their lives, others  with “skies the limit” potential – all  seeking to learn how to navigate  through a sin-filled world.

Keep mentoring simple and creative. No one is asking for a “six course meal” when a simple cup of  coffee is all that is necessary. You  don’t even need to meet in your  home or theirs. A quiet walk in the  park or a walk around a shopping  mall can take us away from distractions.

Boundaries on time need to be established. Not hard to do if you  establish them early in your relationship. Personally, there are  some I meet with seasonally – summer, fall, winter and spring. Some  monthly. Others upon need.

  • Learn to Listen With Your Eyes. Our youngest child, Dan, at age  five, came home from kindergarten excited about his day. I, busy

preparing dinner for the rest of my  family, kept my head facing the  kitchen sink where I was peeling  potatoes. Frustrated, Dan finally,  said to me “Mommy are you listening?” My response, “Of course  I’m listening.” I even repeated back  to him what he had told me. His  response stunned me. “Well, you  might be listening with your ears  but your weren’t listening with  your eyes.”

Words spoken are only part of the  listening process. The eyes play an  important role in listening to the  heart. Be sure to listen with your  eyes. Looking into someone’s eyes  permits you to detect fear, joy, apprehension, excitement, loneliness,  sadness and all other forms of emotions.

  • A look in the rear-view mirror. If you look long and hard enough  in the rear-view mirror of your life,  you see glimpses of how your life  took shape. You will see the activity  of God.

Looking back gives us confidence to go forwards. It  causes us to remember God’s amazing grace in sending the right people, at the right time, to speak light  into darkness, encouragement into despair, and God’s  Word to guide us through decision-making.

This revelation caused me to take a deeper look and  examine those people who took time to influence my  Christian and professional journey. They were simple  people – wise women and men who spoke truth and  encouragement. They didn’t think of it as mentoring.  They thought of themselves as being available to what  God wanted them to say and do.

Looking into that rear-view mirror I also saw the many  people I mentored -unintentionally mentored in simple  ways. This not only moved me to give thanks to God  for his timing, but also gave me confidence to forge forward in this ministry of mentoring others.

“Don’t despise the day of small things.” Zechariah  4:10  

In the book of Zechariah we see a man by the name of  Zerubbabel –a man called by God to rebuild the temple  in Jerusalem. Around him lay huge boulders, stones  and debris from the Babylonian army that destroyed  Jerusalem. On this desolated sight, he was to build the  temple. I am sure he wondered, “Where do I begin?”

Zerubbabel is told by the prophet Zechariah, not to despise the day of small things or small beginnings.

Most great things usually have small beginnings – a  pearl formed in the shell of an oyster – a baby growing  in the darkness of the womb – a seed buried beneath  the surface of the earth. No one sees with the naked  eye the growth but they do witness the beauty of what  is produced.

Mentoring is a process. It takes time to develop and  grow. At first you may have only one person who  seeks you out. Be thankful for that one. You may not  know the principles of mentoring but that one person  can teach you a lot in a short time.

Live Life Naturally 

No one is born into this world an expert at anything  except sinning. You and I were not born “mentoring  experts.” Mentors fail. Mentors have to learn with all the rocks surrounding them. They become frustrated.  At times, they resist the Holy Spirit. They treasure  their free time doing their “own thing” rather than  investing in things of eternal value. They force minis try to happen instead of letting God lead. Mentors do  many things wrong. Yet it is through these experiences that they understand the grace of God, repentance  and forgiveness. Life’s struggles are what have hewn  them into the men and women God chooses to use.

If you like it or not, people are watching you. They  watch how you behave under stressful situations. The  qualities of integrity, patience, compassion, love, a  godly character or a particular skill may be something  that is lacking in their personal life – all by-products  of the Triune God living in us – is what causes others  to seek you out.

Our Lord is very capable of doing his work alone,  yet he chooses and equips us through the power of  his Holy Spirit to be his representatives on this earth  to minister to his people. So when those feelings of  inadequacy appear, unworthiness, or “I have nothing  to offer,” remember who it is who is calling you – the  Holy Spirit. His purpose: to have others see Jesus  alive in you.

Take the step into “uncharted waters” and be surprised at what our Lord can do with one person who  is yielded to his purposes.


Elise Arndt resides in Troy, MI and is author of A Mother’s Touch and A Mother’s Time. She has been a Bible teacher, and international conference and retreat speaker for thirty five years. Elise has presented Bible studies at events hosted by “Hearts at Home,” LCMS, LWML and numerous non-denominational conferences. Elise develops, writes and presents Bible studies for women. She has over 13 years of experience hosting a radio talk show and speaking on radio stations WMUZ and WUFL.

Elise’s greatest experience comes from being wife to her pastor husband of 53 years, mother to 5 and grandmother to 13 and Women’s Ministry Director at her church. But, she has also gleaned a wealth of experience from the years she served the Ipili tribe in Papua New Guinea with her husband. It was there she learned the deep truth of Job 42:5 which is the basis for much of her teaching.

Elise’s teaching style is in group interaction, storytelling, Powerpoint presentations and teaching. Her passion is in encouraging women in their relationship with Jesus Christ, getting women into God’s Word and neighborhood ministry.

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Posted on: February 13, 2021, by :

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