Full Circle

Full Circle

It was a warm spring day in the small market town where I lived in rural Asia and from my window I could see the glint of sun-kissed rice paddies along the hillsides. I was listening to the siren-like cry of the lady pulling her cart of steamed buns on the street below my apartment when my phone buzzed and a text came in: Monica jiejie, are you home?

Cali* was a young woman, fresh out of teacher’s college, who I had been discipling since she was in high school. She carried her fresh faith quietly, but passionately. She was the first Christian in her family, and one of only a handful of believers in our small town. I admired her perseverance and desire to share her faith lovingly with her parents and friends. That day, I figured she was coming over to chat about life or drop off oranges for my kids.

Minutes later she was sitting cross-legged on my floor in tears. “Monica, my parents are separating. They were screaming and yelling horrible things to each other. What am I going to do?”

I listened as she poured out her fears and frustration. I held her, while holding back well-meaning words of advice that I knew would flit into oblivion the moment they came out of my mouth. This was not a time for me to talk. It was a time for me to listen. She was in pain.

A pain I knew all too well. Flashback 20 years…

I am sitting on the floor of my high school Bible study leader’s house, hyperventilating and sobbing my guts out. I just learned my parents’ marriage was falling apart and repair looked impossible. It was terrifying as a 17-year-old to navigate a looming brokenness, especially when nothing had seemed amiss. My leader, Lois, wrapped me in her arms and wiped my tears while rocking me gently, saying nothing.

A few weeks after the initial blow, Lois and I were sitting in her kitchen. She was making me a snack while listening to me vent angry and frightened words directed at God. She waited until I was done talking and then said something that didn’t feel super comforting at the time, but gave me pause:

I know you’re sad and angry, I know what it feels like to feel betrayed, abandoned, and alone, honey. I’m here for you, and I will walk this with you. God can handle all your pain and is grieving too. I know it doesn’t make you feel any better, but trust me: God is going to use your story to be there for others who are hurting in the same way, someday. Something beautiful will come out of this.

Yeah. That didn’t make me feel any better at the time, but I’m glad she said it. In the following years, her words began to ring true.

In college, a friend stormed into my dorm room sobbing, “You’re parents are newly divorced too, right? I just found out my dad is leaving my mom.”

A girl in the youth group where I volunteered as a leader asked if we could talk after Bible study: her parents were getting a divorce and she knew I’d understand.

When I lived in Kenya, one of my Kenyan teammates and I developed a deep bond after sharing our similar family stories. Despite cultural differences and church traditions, we found solace in one another’s empathy as we continued to heal and grow in our faith.

And then there was Cali—sitting on my floor expressing words that had come out of my own mouth so many years ago. “What am I going to do?”  In an obscure autonomous region in Asia, things had come full circle. Lois had been right. Years later, I was able to offer Cali hope from my own experiences as well as Truth found in God’s Word (just like Lois had for me).

Lois was my mentor for many years and is still a friend and someone I greatly admire and respect. I have also had other women serve as mentors in my life- some have been for a season, and a few have been and will be life-long. They have taught me what it means to listen, and withhold judgment, making the relationship a safe space to be vulnerable. They have taught me to speak the truth in love from a point of authenticity, not criticism. They have offered insights and wisdom into challenging situations I’ve faced. They have honored my individuality, giftings, and passions, pressing me to be more like Jesus, not more like them.

Mentorship can be professional, educational, parental or spiritual (or a combination of things). It can happen organically or transactionally. It can take place side-by-side, or on a Zoom call across an ocean. I can be a friend to many, but only a mentor to a few. Mentorship, in my view, demands a high standard of responsibility and commitment to a person who is looking to me for counsel and example. I count it a privilege to serve as a mentor, and be a mentee as well.

I no longer mentor Cali due to proximity and our new seasons of life, but we remain close friends and often send each other encouraging messages and family pictures. I am so grateful to know she is discipling others in the same way I was there for her, full circle, by the grace of God.

*Name has been changed

How about you? Have you had a “full-circle experience” in the realm of mentorship? Do you have a mentor you would like to honor today, please share with us in the comments below?

Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

9 Comments

  1. Emily Jackson May 6, 2020

    What a beautiful reminder that God can use the hard times in our lives in unexpected ways. Thanks for this post, Monica!

    1. Monica F May 12, 2020

      Thanks friend!

  2. Sarah Hilkemann May 6, 2020

    I really love the idea of mentoring as a circle- there’s both a giving and receiving, not just taking in. Thank you for sharing this, Monica!

  3. Nancy Mauger May 6, 2020

    Monica, your story reminded me of my own full circle. Lucille was an “old lady” at the time and she took it upon herself to mentor many young women. When God was teaching her something, she would call on the phone and say, “Girl…..Why, God is doing the most amazing thing…..” When Lucille got jazzed about a new study, she would share it with me and with her and with her and her. After I moved overseas, Lucille continued to mentor me through paper letters. (Yes, I am the old lady now …I moved overseas before e-mail existed.) And you know what, I have all of those paper letters….still. One study that we did via paper letters was Experiencing God. I learned a lot. Fast forward, 27 years. I just finished studying Experiencing God with a TCK (her parents are from the country I serve in but she grew up overseas.) She asked me to mentor her when she returned “home (?)” because she knew that I understand what a TCK is. What a joy it is to sit with this beautiful young lady and be the “old lady” that Lucille was with me. Several years back, God in his mercy allowed me to be on Home Assignment in the US when Lucille passed. What a joy it was to celebrate her life with the many other people she mentored.

    1. Monica F May 12, 2020

      What a beautiful story of Nancy of a “full circle” mentoring experience. What a blessing Lucille was to you in your journey, and then you passed on all that wisdom and love to the TCK you mentored when she returned ‘home.’ Thank you for sharing such an awesome example of God’s faithfulness through mentorship!

  4. Becky DuBois May 7, 2020

    Monica, I don’t know if you remember me from all those years back, but I was thrilled when I began to see your articles in Velvet Ashes. The articles are always great and extra special when they come from people I know personally. I really was challenged by “They have honored my individuality, giftings, and passions, pressing me to be more like Jesus, not more like them.” and also “I can be a friend to many, but only a mentor to a few. Mentorship, in my view, demands a high standard of responsibility and commitment to a person who is looking to me for counsel and example.” How I pray that God will enable me to fulfill this role in better pressing other to be more like Jesus not me as I work with students preparing for overseas service. Thank you!

    1. Monica F May 12, 2020

      Becky! Wow, what a blessing to read your comment- I squealed with delight when I saw your name:). Of course I remember! I’m so touched knowing that you have read my posts- thank you for reaching out! I too am challenged by the call to mentor someone in the footsteps of Jesus, when I am such an imperfect person. I trust and hope that Jesus uses me in the ways others have mentored me. And I’m sure He has done that CLEARLY in your own life! It’s wonderful hearing from you. With joy, Monica

  5. Julie Eygabroad May 7, 2020

    Beautifully written by one who was like a daughter to me.. Her walk with the Lord is truly an inspiration. Praising God for His faithfulness in her life.

    1. Monica F May 12, 2020

      Julie! What a gift to receive this comment! So thankful for you and your special role in my life; grateful for your example and your loving support!

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