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.WLI