“Hello?” I said into the receiver. It was 2006, before cell phones had eradicated the need for landlines.
“Kayla, hi. This is Allison.”
My mentor! Why was she calling? She rarely called between our weekly meetings. Every Tuesday morning I strapped Bright into his car seat and headed to the housing development on the hill behind Wal-Mart. There at Allison’s house she and I would slurp spinach smoothies and nibble on banana muffins in the quiet of her (almost) empty nest, while my 2-year-old son careened her white rug in a boyish flurry. Couldn’t whatever she had to say wait until Tuesday?
“I am calling to talk about Bright’s behavior,” she said.
My neck went hot.
“I’ve seen you flicking at his knuckles when he doesn’t obey,” she went on, “but it’s not working. He is far too old for knuckle-rapping. You need to break out the big guns. He needs a spanking.”
My blood turned to jelly as emotions of all kinds presented themselves. First of all I was angry! The nerve of Allison, who I thought was my friend, calling to chastise me like I was a child.
But in the next in the moment I realized, I did this to myself. Before Bright was conceived I sought out a mentor, someone under whose watchful and loving eye I could grow and mature as a woman of God. I asked Allison to become my mentor not because I needed another “friend” to pat me on the back and tell me how great I was. I had enough of those. I asked her to become my mentor because I could see her lovely, God-fearing daughters striding beautifully through their teen years. I could see her healthy, happy husband radiating love and wholeness. And I could see the peace in Allison’s sparkling eyes as she handled what came her way with grace and wisdom. I could see who and what she was, I just couldn’t see how to get there. I needed her to teach me.
But if she’s right, I thought next, then I’d have to spank my sweet Bright. Could this be? Had the time really come for that? I’d been thinking parents only spanked their older children (shows what I knew). Bright wasn’t even potty trained. I would have to remove his diaper to give him a spanking.
But the truth was Bright hadn’t been obeying me for months. The knuckle thumps were yielding no fruit, and I knew it.
Tearfully (though she couldn’t see my tears) I thanked Allison, who had been waiting patiently on the other end of the line while I digested her words. We hung up and I cried. I cried from hurt – because let’s be honest, it hurts when another adult confronts us – and I cried from grief, for it was the end of era. Babyhood was gone, and parenthood had begun.
But I’m here to say that by the grace of God I now have a respectable, obedient 9-year-old son who might not be the boy he is today if not for the courage of my precious and irreplaceable mentor Allison. And it didn’t stop there! Oh no. That was just the beginning. Over the last decade Allison has proven herself over and over to be a literal beacon for me, guiding me through the darkness when I couldn’t see past my own breast-milk stained T-shirt. She has walked me through spiritual warfare, failure, fear, tough relationships; you name it. And she has been there in the good times, too, cheering for me and celebrating with me. She has passed on recipes and titles of good novels to read. And now that we live overseas she sends me care packages with seasonings and soup mixes, vintage aprons, comic strip clippings, and once a brand new pair of red Tom’s! She is my big sister in the Lord and I love her.
If you don’t already have an Allison, get one. Don’t hesitate another day. Start praying about whom God would have you ask. Be sure she is older than you, preferable at least 15 years, and be sure she shares the same views on the sticky issues (like parenting and discipline styles, drinking, modesty, entertainment, etc.) for she will be a pattern for you. And most importantly, make it very plain from the get-go that you want her to be a sharpening tool for you, not just a shopping partner or a fun lunch date (though Allison is a great shopping partner and a wonderful lunch date, to boot). Your mentor must be given full authority to speak into your life, come what may.
And finally I’ll say this: start praying about being a mentor. The Body is full of women younger than you who long to be guided. Be available to them, and if one of them approaches you about mentorship, don’t say, “Yes” right away. Pray about it in earnest, for being a mentor is a lifelong responsibility. As a “mentoree,” it is one of my greatest wishes to be at Allison’s side when she is say 95 and I am say 80, holding her hand and watching as her sparkling eyes pass from this world to the next. I will weep that day and yet I will rejoice, because God saw fit to give me the immeasurable gift of a mentor.
What has your experience with mentoring been?