“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”—Proverbs 19:20
Doing things “my way” is not a biblical concept. Scripture encourages us to learn from others on our journey to become more like Jesus, and one way is through mentorship. A spiritual mentor is a person who cares about you and wants what is best for you. They know that the most important thing in life is to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and they encourage you to take measures to grow spiritually. This helps us become mature in our faith.
One of my first mentors, Major Lorraine Gerard, gave me this advice: as you journey with God, look out for a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy. A Paul is someone with mature faith who teaches, inspires and shows you the compassionate grace of God. A Barnabas is someone who shares your beliefs and walks beside you in your journey—someone of like mind, but not afraid to offer accountability. Then there’s a Timothy, a person who looks to you for guidance and direction. They see and hear in you something different, and they wonder why. They see a mentor in you.
This advice, given so many years ago, has proven valuable in many ways. People come in and out of our lives for a season and a reason. Those who make the most impact seem to stay longer. That’s the way it has been with my mentors.
One Paul in my life, someone a few steps ahead on the journey, has been my brother, Ivan. He taught me the importance of prayer, worship and Bible study. Together, we have searched the Scriptures to find the right direction for my life. We have discussed the books he has recommended. I have gone to him for advice, counsel and wisdom. He has shown me what it looks like to live like Jesus, even when times weren’t easy. As I grew in my faith, I learned through his example and the example of Jesus. It was Ivan and my sister-in-law, Louise, who encouraged me to enter training college and supported me in many ways.
My Barnabas, the one who walks beside me, encouraging and holding me accountable, is Captain Michelle Cale. We attended an officership information weekend together and, as God planned it, entered training college at the same time as part of the Heralds of Grace Session. Even though distance separates us, we keep in touch to encourage each other on our journeys. We read Scripture, pray for each other and talk about our ministries. We share our experience of how God is working on, for and through us. We have supported each other through illnesses and stressful ministry and family issues. God put us together for such a time as this.
I also have a Timothy, someone I mentor and walk alongside, encouraging her to rely on God’s provision and faithfulness. We first met after a chapel I led at my ministry unit, where I shared a quote by Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” She was intrigued and came up to ask me about it, giving me an opportunity to explain the reason for my hope (see 1 Peter 3:15), and to share my faith in a loving, faithful God. We started to read Scripture and pray together.
People come into our lives at different stages of our journey with God. Some walk in front as a guide, some beside as a friend and some follow behind as a student. God uses each of them to teach us, guide us and draw us closer to him.
Captain Donna Downey is a chaplain at the Meighen Health Centre in Toronto.
Illustration: agung fatria/iStock via Getty Images Plus/Lisa Suroso
A Guide to Mentorship
Looking for a resource to help you develop healthy mentoring relationships? This guide, created by Major Beverly Ivany, offers prompts to spark conversation in 25 areas—such as family dynamics, setting goals and exploring spiritual gifts—to help mentors and mentees get to know one another, build trust and explore the spiritual journey together. Here are a few examples:
What do you expect of a mentor?
How regular is your devotional life, and what’s involved?
Identify two or three significant people who have influenced you in your spiritual walk. How have they impacted you in a positive way?
Why is it important to know what you stand for in a post-modern world?
Why is accountability important?
What do you want to say to God right now?
Who could you mentor?