Monday, March 28, 2022

What Happened When I Agreed to be a Mentor?

If anyone had told me that fateful day in 1996 how my entire life would be impacted if I agreed to "mentor" a woman just fourteen years my junior, I wouldn't have believed them.

I met Tiffany Pate when asked by one of her friends to lead a Bible study for a small group of younger women. It's almost funny now to think back on that time because I was still so far from learned in terms of doctrinal knowledge, but apparently being a few years older and willing to study was sufficient in their estimation-- so I took the plunge. 

Tiffany asked complex and thoughtful questions. She had a hunger and thirst for knowledge of God, but more than that, for a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. She wanted to know what she believed and why she believed it and she was never content with superficial or incomplete answers. We had lengthy conversations about subjects that concerned her, and honestly, few things are more motivating in terms of getting you to dig in and study scripture than having someone ask you tough, insightful questions. 

When I shared a post recently on social media about the value of mentoring relationships, it occurred to me that there are a couple of reasons people might have for not pursuing one. Maybe there are more, but I would imagine these are primary:

1. I don't feel equipped (I don't feel I have the time and it might require too much of me.)

2. I don't know anyone who would want to have this sort of relationship with me.

Scripture compels older women to teach younger women (Titus 2). and this isn't something we can dismiss or excuse ourselves from. The chapter prescribes a specific mandate for both young and old:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 

So back to my story about Tiffany. The misconception that the mentor is solely the giver and the mentee is the fortunate recipient of the benefits of the relationship is regrettable. The blessing of walking alongside another younger believer as she explores what being a child of God means for her life cannot be measured, but let me share just a little of our story for example.

There were no text messaging options back in the day. We had real voice conversations about motherhood, being a wife, church attendance, modesty, self control, anger, family dynamics, fears, confusion, doubts, and worries. But in every instance, the conversation came back to trust and faith, belief and confident hope that, "He who began a good work in (us) would be faithful to complete it." (Philippians 1:6 paraphrase)

As our relationship grew, Tiffany got to know my children. Interestingly, she had a beloved sister of her own born on the exact date as my daughter, so she became something of a "big sister" to my child as well. How sweet of The Lord to let me mentor one who would later mentor my own daughter. 

When my "mama" heart was broken over things that broke the heart of my daughter during her college years and beyond, Tiffany cried with me and prayed harder than just about anyone I knew.  Honestly, this "mentee" of mine was a gift from God during many of my own difficult days and I loved having her constant assurance of prayerful understanding, concern, and compassion.

So many times she ministered to me and to Leslie, and one day she called to say that she had met Leslie's husband! You would have to know details that time and space won't allow me to share here, but suffice it to say that she was right. She had a gut feeling that a young man she randomly met would become my son-in-law and six months after she told me about this confident impression, a meeting was arranged and they were engaged shortly thereafter. 

Tiffany hosted a baby shower when our first grandchild was due, and one day around that time she called me with frightening news. She had gotten blood work done at a routine check up that indicated something was wrong. Tests and more tests later, she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.

Words fail me to describe the roller coaster season that followed, but we had great hope for her and there were prayers offered in faith that she would beat this evil foe. And when she touched Leslie's pregnant belly as she carried her third child, Tiffany smiled a tearful smile and confidently said, "this one is a boy."

My precious mentee. My friend. My daughter from another mother. My treasured and beloved sister in Christ, Tiffany Pate, did not live to see that baby BOY's arrival. But she has seen her Savior face to face and she has left a legacy of love and faith that will impact me until the day I meet Him, too, and see her again. And that boy, his name is Pate. I have five living grandchildren (and one in heaven) thanks to the prompting Tiffany felt when she met Steven and just "knew that he was Leslie's husband."

Since that time, I have been blessed to have many other "daughters" who have special places in my heart and I treasure them. Each is a precious, unique gift from God. These relationships challenge and grow me in ways I cannot quantify and I am deeply grateful for their presence in my life.

So, why should you consider becoming or seeking out a mentor? Because it will change YOUR life.

      ~in loving memory of Tiffany April Smith Pate, April 29, 1973-March 31, 2010. ~

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