Three Principles of Mentoring I Learned from Elizabeth and Mary
by Sharla Fritz
Conflict. Never fun. Often bewildering. When I was a new pastor’s wife, I experienced a conflict with a member. Nothing serious, but I was in a situation I didn’t know how to handle. My husband had four years of training as a pastor, but I had zero preparation in being a pastor’s wife. I had no classes for information, no professors for guidance. I had no idea how to solve this tricky situation in the church.
I think we all find ourselves in predicaments like this. We enter a new job or different role. We walk on unfamiliar ground and wish we had a map, or at least a guide, for the journey.
The Bible tells of a young woman who also struggled with a new path in her life. One day an angel visited Mary and told her she was chosen for the most important job any woman could have—she would be the mother of Messiah. It was a role many Hebrew women desired, but it was daunting, unfamiliar territory.
Thankfully, after the angel Gabriel told her the news of the impending pregnancy and birth, he shared the news that Elizabeth—Mary’s relative—was also going to have a baby. God knew Mary would need support and so He provided Elizabeth.
What can we learn about mentoring from these two women?
God will provide the mentor we need. God may not send Gabriel to your house to tell you who your perfect mentor is or who should mentor, but just like He did for Mary, God provides the right people in our lives to help us on our journey. He will provide someone like Elizabeth—someone who has a strong commitment to God and believes His Word. When I needed guidance in my new role as a pastor’s wife, I prayed God would supply just the right person to give me advice.
We can take the initiative in seeking out a spiritual encourager. Like me, Mary knew she needed some encouragement and support in her new role. And so, she wasted no time in going to see her cousin. Luke tells us, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40).
When I was in my sticky situation, I reached out to Bea, a pastor’s wife I knew and respected. I asked if I could meet with her and pick her brain about this difficulty. She graciously agreed and through her advice, I was able to handle the problem.
Our own life experiences prepare us to be mentors. Elizabeth didn’t become pregnant until she was “advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). I’m sure she would never have chosen to wait so long to become a mother, but the long delay in parenthood enabled her to become the perfect mentor for Mary. She wouldn’t laugh in disbelief at Mary’s preposterous story about an angel and a miracle birth because her husband had also had a visit with an angel. Elizabeth was pregnant even though humanly speaking it was impossible. Elizabeth knew the sting of reproach even though she had done nothing wrong. In her day, women who were not blessed with children were often suspected of secret sin. Elizabeth experienced
“reproach among people” (Luke 1:25). She would be able to give Mary advice on how to deal with the gossip and criticism that were sure to come.
My friend Bea had a few more years of experience than I did in the role of pastor’s wife and had also experienced sticky situations with people. She would not have asked for these difficulties, but the problems she went through helped her guide me through my conundrum.
In the body of Christ, we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). So pray for the right people to help you on your life’s journey. Don’t be shy about seeking out a mentor when you need one. And remember, that whatever you are going through will help you mentor someone in the future.
Sharla Fritz is a WLI ambassador. She is the author of five CPH Bible studies including the new book Enough for Now: Unpacking God’s Sufficiency. Sharla regularly speaks for retreats and women’s events. This article is an excerpt from her presentation “Christ-Connected Women: Elizabeth and Mary.” You can find out more about Sharla at sharlafritz.comWLI