Spiritual Mentoring

Sep 26 2018

One of the hallmarks of healthy spiritual development in the second half of life is our gradual awareness of a stronger interior pull toward Christ.  We find ourselves moved to giving a clearer and fuller “yes” to God.  We struggle out of the confining cocoon of the world and pulled by the magnetic tug of Love, very gradually we take flight toward Christ.  Here is the goal of the spiritual curriculum of the maturing years, the premier lesson to be learned as we move through the every days of our second half of life. 

One of the marks of this advancing ego-self-surrender is that we begin to bear fruit, as Christ said his disciples should.  This sweet fruit is tasted in subtle yet powerful ways: a waning of inner anger, irritability, self-centeredness, perfectionism, presumption, rigidity, bluntedness, and the like, and is experienced by a corresponding waxing of God’s love in our hearts: hope, simplicity, acceptance, humility, wisdom, steadfastness, transcendence, among many other virtues.  

  The edges of worldly pragmatism are made smooth by grace, the former encumbrances of self-seeking are dismantled, and the sharp barbs of resentment, jealously, and defensiveness is slowly ground away.  We are being made new, as Christ said he would do; we’re being cleaned, polished, and in every way prepared by God’s grace for closer communion with Him.  We take on a new coat of many colors for our next necessary role in life …the role of a spiritual mentor. 

A Spiritual Mentor 

As Christ called his disciples “friends” we too are His friends.  Friends of Christ befriend others; they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one another, they mourn when needed, rejoice when called to, the even protects the vital God interests of their friends, but most of all a Christ-like friend is spiritually “there” for, or “present” to a friend.  Perhaps the most potent Christ-friend is a spiritual mentor. 

As Jesus taught his friends (disciples) what he had learned from His Father (John 15:15), spiritual mentors likewise teach in word and in deed, in emotional composure and compassion, and in tolerance and transcendence what they themselves have learned from the many lessons of love given to them by Christ.  A spiritual mentor shares him/herself as a disciple of Christ who has stumbled at times, but who is obedient now in walking the mystery of faith in this broken world. 

A spiritual mentor is a fully human being who is able and willing to take the risk of telling his/her faith walk story, not as a repeated monologue, but rather as a lived experience parts of which will surface in the mentor relationship here and there as various needs for support, stability, structure, and satisfaction surface in the mentee’s life. 

 The mentor never forces him/herself onto the mentee, never pushes to make a point.  Instead the mentor listens and in patient expectation focuses on the mentee waiting the opportune moment when the self-sharing will come out as a refreshing piece of lived experience viewed now as a lesson learned, and sometimes a very hard lesson. 

The spiritual mentor always seeks to speak from his/her God-center and to the God-center of the mentee.  The mentor is called to overlook many attitudes, views, thoughts, emotions, choices, and actions that are products of the ego-self of the mentee, that “self” that is aligned with the world.  The mentor searches for the time and topic when the mentee appears to be most receptive to a wink from God. 

The spiritual mentor role is a re-vocation, a re-dedication to Jesus in a different form.  It’s a role required of us in our maturing years, a role that gives new direction and new purpose at a time when the agitation and emptiness of purposeless infects too many of us.  Without the mentor role, says Adrian Van Kaam, “… our personality flattens out; it is robbed of the depth which comes from embracing the sufferings of friendship that bearing fruit always entails.” (Page 43, The Mystery of Transforming Love).

 The spiritual mentor approaches the mentee in respectful awe as he/she would reverently approach the altar of God, because the mentee is indeed the resting place of Jesus.  Each role, mentor and mentee, enlivens both and accelerates the profound realization of their unique divinity one to the other.  In the process the presence of Christ is more prominently placed among us all, and we take a micro-step forward toward wholeness as a community of faith.  As each of us advances toward wholeness, we all do.  Here is the fruit that Jesus spoke of so long ago – a fruit that is better received as we give it away.

 This little gem on mentoring was taken from Johnson Institute Course 100.   It is but a small bit of the immense and growing wisdom that emerges in the second half of life (or is supposed to) as we do our best to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 


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