I never really had the privilege of a mentor, someone who would walk with me through seasons of doubt and confusion and teach me about the glories of God. Someone who would exhort me to think about Christ better. Someone who would challenge me to stay attentive to the Word of God. And I’m a pretty substantial introvert. So I never really cared. Now, years later, I can’t help but feel like I missed out on something special in my most formative years.
Despite not having a “Titus 2” type of relationship with anyone, God was still faithful to me, and the Holy Spirit still taught and directed me toward rightful thinking. I attended Bible College, I read feverishly and frantically, and I committed myself to praying often, though there were certainly seasons of weakness and wandering. Now, as a devoted participant in my local church I see the vast value of mentorship. I see how my walk with God could have been more effective and fruitful years ago. How my suffering could have been alleviated. How my stubbornness could have been nipped in the bud.
Nevertheless, I know that God’s purpose and plan for my life has been good and gracious. He’s been far kinder to me than I deserve. I don’t come to you today encouraging you to be a mentor or a mentee, as someone who has experienced such luxury. I come to you as someone who looks back at the passing years, faintly in want, wondering what could have been different had some mature woman took me under her wing.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about Elijah and Elisha—the covering of Elisha with Elijah’s mantle, symbolically passing on the role of prophet. I think about the fact that Elisha whole-heartedly gave himself to the ministry of being a prophet. I think about the miracles that they both performed. But more than anything, I think about the fact that Elisha would not leave Elijah’s side prior to his being swept up by a chariot of fire.
“Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them walked on.” 2 Kings 2:6
This was the third time that Elijah had encouraged his protégé to stay behind. Elisha refused. This was a man he loved. This was a man of God who had taught him numerous things, things that may not have been known by anyone else. This was his mentor. His friend. His family. Elisha rejected the notion to leave his beloved.
Clinging is important. Clinging to those we love is a natural response, an imprint of the Imago Dei. Clinging is the result of recognizing that we need one another. We need older saints in our lives. We need younger saints in our lives. We need peers. This is further demonstrated in the lives of Naomi and Ruth:
“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.'” Ruth 1:16-17
Similarly to Elisha, Ruth refused to leave the woman who was her family, her spiritual conduit to the God of Israel. Because of her faithfulness to Naomi, Ruth was grafted into the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Ruth’s oath to her mother-in-law was not something superficial or flippant. Ruth was willing to give up her biological family, her home nation, and the pagan gods that came along with it to cling and serve Naomi. Naomi had chosen to love her, too.
In both the case of Elisha and Ruth, there was a mutual edification in the friendships they had formed. Elijah was lonely, depressed, and grieved, asking that God would kill him when God gave Elisha to him instead. Naomi was a destitute widow, returning to her homeland when Ruth refused to leave her side. These relationships exhibit to us an intense, godly love. A love that will not let go of family. A love that endures like Christs love for us endures.
I think our modern, fast-paced culture has lost sight of this quality. We live in a society where everything is disposable. Relationships are replaceable. Jobs are expendable. We even treat our churches as dispensable. We allow misunderstanding to drive wedges between our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is almost as if we look for opportunities to drop people from our lives, waiting patiently for a misspoken word, a forfeited apology, or an offhand remark.
But our relationships with one another should be indispensable. Devotion toward God is often expressed in our devotion to one another. As an outlet for his love of the Lord, Elisha followed Elijah until he was swept-up by an ethereal chariot, even still calling after him, “my father, my father!” And then he mourned for his friend, mentor, and father. Now gone-up to heaven, tearing his clothes, he grieved the earth’s loss of the prophet of God. That relationship wasn’t disposable. It was necessary. It was true love. It was mentorship.
Likewise, Ruth expressed her love of the Lord in her refusal to leave Naomi. She was willing to leave behind everything she ever knew—customs, culture, bloodlines, and gods. She counted it all as loss because she knew the surpassing greatness of Naomi’s God. Ruth loved Naomi, and she expressed her love of God by clinging to her fervently. Naomi wasn’t a disposable relationship to her, something temporary and soon to be forgotten. Ruth was bound to her, heart and soul.
So, while I never had an older woman, mature and strong in the faith pour into me, I can say with confidence that mentorship is vital to the Christian life and to the flourishing of our local churches. Perhaps because I have never experienced it and can thereby see the deficit in my own spiritual formation that I can urge each of you on the importance of mentorship. Mentorship isn’t merely depositing information into a younger peer’s mind. It is deep involvement in their spiritual health. It is investment in their eternal soul. Its loving profoundly, teaching diligently, and exhorting them to walk worthy of the call of God.
To the older, more mature saints: please steward the gift you have, the gift of a close walk with God, by depositing your wisdom into the upcoming generations. Sacrificially give that extra hour a week to a coffee date. Tie a thread around your finger to remind yourself to intercede on their behalf before the throne of God. Cling to those God has entrusted you with.
To the younger, less mature saints: don’t forsake the invitation of mentorship. If need be extend the invitation yourself; ask people in your church, one by one, to walk with you through the fires and beauties of knowing and loving Christ. Cling to those God has entrusted you to.
We need each other desperately.
Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.