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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mentoring relationships

Mom used to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," on occasion.  Did you ever hear that adage growing up?  It kind of confused me, because I always wondered why I had to do something differently than what I saw being done.  What I didn't understand was the differences between age and privilege.  For example, when mom said it was bedtime, I balked.  Why?  Dad and mom were staying up late and got to watch more TV than I did!  So, of course, I questioned it!  I wanted the privilege which came from being an adult, but I was only a child. We are kind of like that at times, wanting more privileges, but not recognizing either the danger associated with them, or the responsibility which comes with those privileges.  Mom and Dad were adults - they chose their own bedtime. They had the responsibility to rise as the alarm sounded - ready to start their day.  They also had the responsibility of ensuring I got enough sleep to be at my best for my studies the next day at school.  I am not a proponent of the "do as I say, not as I do" kind of philosophy in life, but on occasion this instruction makes sense as it did when mom and dad ushered me off to bed.  The truth of the matter is we all need to listen to what we are told on occasion - even when we see exactly the opposite happening around us.  We don't know the ultimate reasons for what is going on, but when we are told to do something, we are wise to observe the instruction.  Mom and dad took that time after I went to bed to work on a very solid relationship together - this was evident in the 29 years they enjoyed with each other.  Their time together was cut short by dad's untimely heart attack, but what they put into their relationship as they talked into the late hours of the night, planned their future together, and even just enjoyed "hanging out time" together really showed in their relationship.  I didn't get that back then, but I do now.  I had to trust their instruction to me was for a good reason.  Guess what?  When God tells us to do something, it is usually for just as good, if not better reason!  Maybe it is about time we stop bucking the requests he makes of us like little children resisting bedtime and just do what it is he asks!

Now, young people, listen to me. Do as I say, and you will be happy. Listen to what you are taught. Be wise; do not neglect it. Those who listen to me will be happy—those who stay at my door every day, waiting at the entrance to my home. Those who find me find life, and the Lord will be pleased with them. (Psalm 8:32-35 GNT)

A friend asked me the other day how I know "so much" about some things. Most of what I have learned over the years has come because I have been in the right place at the right time.  Some things didn't come to me so easily, though. I had to really work at them and look for opportunities to learn whatever it was I was desiring to wrap my hands around.  There were those things I had learned because I was able to surround myself with knowledgeable people who could instruct me in those matters.  Then there were those things I had to learn on my own - through concerted study.  When I first went into nursing leadership back in 1990, I had to really pour over the regulations under which skilled nursing facilities operate.  There were Federal guidelines, State statutes, and County rules, plus those "rules" by which a nurse was expected to operate within known as "practice guidelines".  Now, to say these were complex would be an understatement.  One set of expectations could be stricter than another, so the strictest had to "win out".  Putting these all together took quite a bit of study - with long nights just reading and assimilating the content.  This wasn't the end because I had to figure out how this was operationalized in the the care of the patients who filled the 180-bed facility in which I was responsible to provide care.  This is where I needed the knowledge of those who had "gone before me" in this leadership role.  I needed mentors.  I needed their skill set to help me develop my own.  I was privileged to have good mentors as I "grew up" in this career - so much of what I learned was because of the path they had walked before me.

It is often being in the right place at the right time which opens the doors of understanding in our lives.  Our passage refers to this idea of staying at God's door every day, waiting at the entrance to his home.  If we want to learn more than the Bible stories, we need to sit at the feet of the one who can mentor us! If all we do is read the words from the pages of the Bible, we are like I was when I read all those regulations - I got the content, but I didn't know how to put it into practice.  We need to be at the feet of Jesus - at the feet of our mentor!  Much of what I learned over the years wasn't because I had "scheduled time" with my mentors.  It was because I frequented their presence, learning from them even when it wasn't the "official time" to learn from them.  Every opportunity to observe their skill was one more chance to learn something new. When we put ourselves in a place of being with our mentor more frequently, we find we observe opportunities for learning we might not have recognized otherwise!  This is why we are kind of directed to be in the right place at the right time!  Be in a position where you stand the best chance of learning what God is capable of teaching to those who are hungry to learn!  

We might not always understand the purpose of the place or the "restriction" of privilege we are being asked to adhere to on occasion.  What we can understand is the value of the mentoring which is occurring when we do more than just learn all the rules.  I knew bedtime was 8 p.m.  I still wanted to push the envelope on occasion.  I knew the rule - but I didn't understand the purpose of the rule.  I am older now, having observed much, much more from the mentoring of my parents.  I don't resist bedtime anymore.  Why?  I understand the purpose and I have seen the value behind it.  We learn much by being mentored - maybe even more than when we just "study" on our own.  For mentoring to really work - we need the frequent exposure to our mentor.  Just sayin!