Discipleships, Mentors, & Spiritual Growth

This past weekend I had a request to write a post about how a young wife can find a Biblical mentor in real life.  It is a fantastic question, and something I wish I knew to do earlier on in my marriage!  We are about to leave on vacation tomorrow, but I just had to get this last post out before leaving for a week.

I remember I had one woman I looked up to in college that was living a beautiful, godly life, one I definitely wanted to emulate. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough or pushy enough to ask her if she would be willing to take me under her wing and guide me along in my choices.  She even tried herself to set me up with another mentor that she thought I would love, but I carelessly threw away the opportunity by procrastinating and never getting in touch with the other woman myself.  It was something I always set on the back burner, and never took seriously.

One may ask why do we have mentors?  Why are they actually needed?  One of the main reasons why we need mentors in our life is to have someone wise and important to us in order to bounce ideas off of, to ask questions to, and to ask for direction when we’re faced with a difficult or confusing situation.  It is not good to allow ourselves to be an island, there is even Scripture condemning various aspects of isolating yourself, or going about battle plans (life plans) without having several counselors in order to ensure your success.  We are not supposed to do life successfully without people to reach out to, with no one to remain accountable to, and no one to subtly keep us in check when we’re straying off course.

We desperately need mentors in our life so that we are continuing to grow in spiritual maturity.  Part of that is having someone who stops you when they see you are doing something counter to achieving your goal of spiritual growth.

I’ve found that not having at least one mentor that you are transparent with is a very dangerous situation to be in.  Personally, there was a time when I got myself into so much trouble that could have been completely prevented had I been confiding in a mentor and allowing that kind of interjection in my life.  I even realized it when I was paying the consequences of making a truly idiotic decision, and it was right then, at about 25 years old, that I decided I needed to be far more intentional about bringing in good women into my life that could help me avoid awful pitfalls from acting without biblical mentorship.  Your goal is spiritual growth, keep that in mind and avoid engaging in activities that reek of immaturity.

Can your husband be your spiritual mentor?

LOL oh how I wish things were so simple.  The short answer?  No.  Long answer?  Yes and no.  Your husband is for sure, a wealth of resources in offering you advice and spiritual leadership, covering you and offering protection, as well as calling out your sin and what you may be doing wrongly to yourself or others.  He has spiritual authority over you, and deserves your respect for his thoughts and advice on what you should be doing.  I’m lucky in that my husband is even capable of teaching me his life skills of how to deal with people, so in this one way, of course he can be considered a kind of mentor.  But as far as female mentorship, your husband is not a woman, he is not a feminine being that understands a female experience, there are many things he cannot advise you on simply because he is not an older woman in a more progressed life stage than you.  Can he take an educated guess and probably do pretty well?  Of course, but it’s my opinion that it would put undue strain and pressure on him to try to advise you in the way a older, wiser, female mentor would be easily able to do.  Why ask him to fill a role that another woman is biblically admonished to do for younger wives?

There have been many times that one of my mentors has subtly challenged me to be a better wife by encouraging me, or to look at a circumstance differently by telling me her perspective on the matter, or to appreciate what I had rather than feel sorry for myself when I was upset over something trivial.  It’s been incredible to be able to have wise women who are trustworthy enough to be so transparent with.  They’ve done life with me, prayed with me over very personal issues – some regarding social media at times when I was being attacked.  They’ve challenged me with this blog, with the people I choose to support or the questions I choose to answer here; there has even been an instance when one has been able to help me see something I was doing wrong – when I was allowing myself (and the blog) to be taken advantage of in her opinion.  One recently suggested that I don’t allow negative comments at all, because she was angry on my behalf that someone from our real life would feel emboldened by anonymity to leave a hurtful comment criticizing my husband and our marriage.  If I didn’t have these women in my life, and truly in my life as far as knowing what I’m up to on the internet, I would have more incentive to sin or act without spiritual maturity simply because of having no real life accountability to keep me in check.

And for women who use social media, accountability seems to be something that is largely missing.  It has become a strange phenomenon for women in particular (though men do, too) to be unduly harsh and hyper-critical when attacking someone online under the guise of anonymity.  They can be the sweetest, most normal person to your face in real life, however, without feeling an accountability to others and to God, they can somehow let out their true feelings about you in a verbal lashing online.  The only good thing that comes from something like that is you now know what they’ve truly thought of you all along.  But the case remains, even online, we all need accountability, having at least one mentor that you spill the beans to meets that spiritual need.

So… How do you find a mentor?

1) Be picky – When picking out a personal mentor whom you’ll confide in and let into your life, there is very good reason to be extremely picky.  For one, you should not value the opinion of just anyone, if you can tell someone has an impure heart or motivations toward you, if they judge you on appearance alone or display a two-faced demeanor, their opinion should matter very little, no matter how old or “wise” they appear (because they do not have a pure heart).  Just because someone is your elder does not mean they are spiritually mature.  Be picky in who you allow to criticize or advise you, not everyone (or even most people) understand you, care about you enough, or know you well enough in order to give you the advice you truly need.

2) Don’t be picky – while I just pointed out that not everyone should be considered a good spiritual mentor, at the same time, you don’t want to be too picky to where you are left with no one at all to mentor you.  To some degree, any older woman that is in a progressed life stage than you (or more mature) may be able to offer you great advice on some things, maybe not all things, or as well as a true mentor would be able to, but definitely some things that you may not yet understand.  Do not only look for someone who is your perfect idea of your mentor while excluding everyone else who is capable of giving out tidbits of truth.  I have found that acquiring many different mentors in my life has been by far the best thing because they have unique life experiences.  One in particular is in her 80’s, so incredibly wonderful and vastly spiritually mature due to her diligence in the Word and her sheer age.  She is the grandmother of my friend.  She has personally helped me to grow beyond my flaws and imperfections – things she herself said she used to have that were unique, we are the same exact personality, and felt compelled to help me grow in personally using her life experience to guide me along.  This kind of experience is invaluable to a young wife looking to grow more spiritually mature.

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What happens when one of your mentor friends sees a glass vase break at your party… she gives you several more for free because she loves you!

3) Look for someone who is living the life you would want to be living.  For a real intense mentorship, it is crucial that you only pick someone that you admire in many ways, someone who’s life you’d like to have someday.  A godly woman who is self-controlled, manages herself well, manages her children and her household exceptionally, and above-all, treats her husband like the spiritual leader of the family.  She must exhibit having a firm grasp on displaying the fruit of the spirit, not acting rashly or immaturely, not behaving in ways that go against godly conduct.  Not being disrespectful to men – strangers or men in her life – is a big thing to watch out for.  I once thought a woman seemed like a worthy role model, completely had her life together, older and from what I could tell, wiser, that is until I saw her tell another man to “**** off!”

Basically, you need to be very careful who you look up to, because you will find yourself repeating their attitude and behavior unconsciously if you aren’t careful.

4) Get yourself out there!  I would never have met any of these women if I stayed shy and insecure in myself like I used to be (I truly was!).  It takes guts to reach out to others, to let them into your life that close so that they can see and know your personal flaws – but there is no better way to live than to let others do life with you and help you overcome your struggles! It has been so refreshing to be loved for myself, flaws and all, to have women who love me wholly, who call me to do better, and who are also friends who pray for me in these things.

Now I’ve had the honor and great pleasure to experience this from the other side – from being a mentor to younger women, and it always astonishes me how hard it is for them to get over that hump to really pursue mentorship for themselves.  They want it so bad, know they need it in their life, but it is hard to take that final step of making it a reality.

5) Be intentionally growing in the Word yourself.  You should be reading God’s word daily, seeking out His advice each morning or night, going to Bible studies with other women and female leaders where you can find future mentors.  You cannot expect to have wisdom, maturity, or a great mentorship just fall into your lap from the sky, you need to be intentionally growing on your own as well.

Some key points I learned from our sermon last Sunday regarding discipleship:

  • You should be persistant in your faithfulness.  This means that you always obey, always do what is right, whether in the presence or absence of a spiritual leader (your husband) or mentor.  This means that you feel accountability for your actions done in secret, that you are obeying all the little tugs of the Holy Spirit, continuing to travel in a direction God wants you to go in, and stopping once you feel it is time to stop or turn the other way.  This means that you are not anonymous, you represent Christ to the world because when you speak, you are one of His representatives.
  • You should be making intentional effort to obey and do what is right.  We are called to “work out our own salvation” in Philippians, which means to grow ever deeper in spiritual maturity.  Part of this intentional effort is to go where there are women’s Bible studies, seek out women to mentor you or pray with you.
  • You should have a radical reliance on Christ to finish the work He started in you. Part of working out our salvation in fear and trembling is allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and grow you – relying on Him to do this because He is faithful.  If you desire spiritual growth at all, you need to realize that is something God has given you as a gift.  We are constantly referred to as gardens in the Bible, with God being the Gardener.  Different people may water us, tend to us and help us along in our growth, but only God causes the growth to occur by working in and through us.
  • You should be seeing a Christ-like Transformation in yourself.  You need to be reflecting the attitude and character of Christ.  “Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God, faultless in a crooked and perverted generation….”   It was ironic that when Christianity was first starting, the people of the movement were mocked and called “Christians” which literally meant “little Christs.”  People loved to mock them for representing someone so good, so perfect, and yet so far from what they could ever actually achieve.  Something that was meant to deride and mock these first Christ followers, was actually a true compliment and turned out to be a good thing.  We should be “little Christs,” we should look like Him, reflect Him in our attitude.
  • People should be able to see an obvious difference.  The end of the former mentioned verse continues like this “… so that you shine like stars in a world of darkness.”  We should be unmistakably bright, brilliant, shining out from others like stars in the night sky.  Unmissable, unmistakable.  A holy race, a chosen people, a royal nation.  But we also shouldn’t look at the darkness with disgust or disdain… we must look at it with compassion because we used to be that.
  • Ending thoughts: Your spiritual transformation is more reflected in what you do secretly on Monday-Saturday, than what you do on Sunday.  You can’t grow yourself, trying to be like Jesus without letting Him guide you is missing the point.

“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 HCSB

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Reflections on this Father’s Day

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It’s hard to find words to express all the feelings I feel this coming father’s day weekend.  I’m so grateful.  Grateful to have a husband who is a wonderful father, who is so good with our boys, demonstrating his love for them so beautifully.  He shows them what a man should look and be like, he gives them an example of what a strong husband who deeply loves (and always teases) his wife looks like.  And our oldest son loves watching his example!  I couldn’t be more elated with this man I chose, Father’s Day for me means honoring him and all he does for us, honoring the man and father I’ve watched him become throughout the years we’ve been married.

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I feel grateful that I had an amazing dad growing up who is still here to offer me help and guidance as he watches me being a mom to my kids.  He reminds me of what’s really important in life (not always cleaning), is always there to talk about anything on my mind, and constantly lets my older son feel like a hero at their house (and not eat any vegetables!).

But I also feel deep sadness for our society, because I understand that for many people – both men and women – father’s day is becoming increasingly painful or even meaningless.

We are in the midst of what I’d call a Fatherhood Crisis.  You see it everywhere when you see children in school with learning disabilities or with deep emotional wounds stemming from divorce, or men who are emotionally shattered because they aren’t allowed to see or have a relationship with their kids because of a vindictive ex-wife.  We see it when we hear of men who lose that critical role of father because they aren’t in the house anymore, they still see their kids and have a relationship but their impact has been significantly reduced as their role has been replaced when their ex-wife picked a “new dad” to impact his kids in ways he may not like or agree with.  We see it when we realize just how many kids are growing up without a father in the home at all, and the astronomical tie to future drug use, alcohol, sex, and involvement in crime that accompanies that fatherlessness.

We see it when we wonder what to do about Hook-Up culture, when we realize just how depraved our youth and singles are becoming.  We see it when we see mentally ill mass shooters in the news, many of whom had no positive male role model in their lives to show them real masculinity.  We see it when we see the degradation of a society who has never been taught to respect authority, or who believe rioting and looting is an acceptable means of venting black youth’s anger, a race that has long had a massive fatherhood crisis.

Fathers are immensely important to society, and the wounds that are left when they are violent or absent simply do not heal if left to fester on their own.  My own dad was great growing up, but he was never perfect.  He often had moments of wonderful strength, wisdom or guidance to give me – and there was never any doubt he believed in me and thought I was beautiful, but he still made typical mistakes as any human parent does.  It’s tragic to me, however, that not everyone grew up with a loving, strong, gentle, encouraging dad.  The places where my dad failed were very minor, however, they still left wounds that needed to be healed by my Father in order for me to become the woman I am today.

Only God is the perfect father.  Only He can heal the wounds we receive in our lifetime, and only He can make you whole.

I was reading an article in Women’s Health magazine a few weeks ago that was about the wounds a daughter feels when her father is missing in her life.  The article gave 4 different types of dad-wounds with a solution at the end of “How to Heal.”  It covered the emotionally distant dad, being abandoned by your dad, having a dad that was a sperm donor, and having a dad who died.  The most interesting thing about this article was reading the effects of having these kinds of fathers left on their daughters, deep wounds that impacted them well into adulthood.  Here are some interesting quotes to reflect on this Father’s Day,

Fathers who are emotionally distant (or not there for other reasons such as divorce, estrangement, etc.):

“Per a 2012 study, daughters of detached dads reported lower self-esteem than women who grew up with engaged and accessible males.”

Fathers who abandon their families or who aren’t there for their daughters for other reasons:

“Plenty of research shows that girls whose fathers leave the family are more likely to lose their virginity earlier (as young as 15, according to one study) than those with a pops who’s present.  Those daughters are often not emotionally mature enough for the act, and they can find it harder to trust men, explains Linda Nielsen, Ph.D., a professor of educational and adolescent psychology at Wake Forrest University and aughter of Between Fathers and Daughters.”

The effects of having a Sperm Donor for a father:

“It’s telling that she broke down when her donor father called her beautiful,” … “That’s what a woman wants to hear from her dad – that she’s special, beloved, praised.”  Jennifer clearly lacked paternal love and affection during her childhood, and she also had no role model for manhood. “That makes it hard to distinguish between different kinds of men and recognize a nurturing partner.”

“A study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that three-quarters of donor-sperm children want to meet or develop a connection with their donor father, but the majority would not consider having children of their own using donor sperm.  They’re well aware of what their own kids could be missing out on.”

Positive Effects of a Father in a Woman’s Life:

“BODY IMAGE: A January 2015 study found that daughters who had caring and friendly relationships with their fathers frequently had healthier views about food and better body confidence – making them less likely to suffer from eating disorders – than those who had less kind and more overbearing dads.

SOCIAL LIFE: Girls who enjoyed positive and “warm” interactions with their papas during playtime as kids were more apt to develop strong interpersonal skills, according to a study in the journal Fathering.  This may be because dads who regulate their child’s excitement levels in a sensitive (as opposed to harsh) way are teaching their children empathy and reciprocity.

INTELLIGENCE: Doing mentally stimulating activities with daddy during childhood – reading, going to museums, playing games – is linked to having a higher IQ at age 11, and still at age 42, per research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.  During these brain-building moments, dads can share what they know with their kids, making them smarter in the long run.”

The Necessity of Faith & The Devastation of Losing It

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For a little over two weeks, our city was rocking with an ongoing party that is celebrated every spring in commemoration of the battles of San Jacinto and the Alamo.  We affectionately call it “Fiesta” or party.  It always occurs in April… and it is always full of day and night parades, kid activities, delicious foods, dancing, loud blaring live music all over downtown, honking everywhere as people are stuck in what seems like eternal traffic jams, and epic drinking that occurs downtown at night.

This weekend my love and I let our son spend the night with his Nanny (aka Grandma) so that we could go to the night parade – one of the last Fiesta events this year.  We’d never been to any of the festivities at night, and although we’d heard how drunk the city gets, we completely underestimated the massive amount of drunk people we would encounter.  This event alone was said to have brought out hundreds of thousands of people into our downtown area – 600,000 in 2011.  To say it was nauseatingly packed is an understatement.  But it was also fun, and full of excitement!

We watched some of the parade with it’s beautiful festive floats and costumed Royalty, and then decided to make our escape to the Riverwalk underneath the street level.  It was peaceful and romantic there, with only a few families and lovers seeking solace from the crowded streets above.  We relaxed at a bench along the quiet, dark river, and watched a wedding reception across the way.

On our way back, we passed a view of our city from across a bridge over looking the river and some towers lit up in fiesta colors reflecting in it – the view made for a beautiful picture so we decided to stop.  A man started approaching on our right, and I told my husband it needed to be a fast picture….  He came right up to us and said something we both couldn’t understand.  My husband, being Batman, immediately was aware enough to know this could’ve been a set-up… strange man comes out, obviously drunk, mutters something intelligible, gets us off guard, and then his comrades come out to rob us.

Aware he would pull me away if it was truly dangerous, we talked to this man for awhile.  He asked us if we believed in an alternative.  Alternative what?  An alternative faith… like in something else – anything else… other than God.  He was young, probably 30’s, and dressed well… I was reminded that everyone seems to get drunk at Fiesta.  All shapes and sizes.  He was educated, and talked about population problems he learned at our University, all the poverty in the world, and how there was just no way there could be a solution to solving anything.  He constantly asked us questions about what we believed concerning God, sin, and problems in the world, particularly the over-population problem he learned about at University.

I majored in the science field, and I worked with colleagues that also believed in the over-population problems.  I talked with him about how I knew that the people behind the teachings were usually Atheist, and the solutions they posed were inhumane.  I told him some of their solutions: mass abortions, mass killing of the elderly that were too sick to care for, or who elected to be killed, or communist control of how many children certain population areas can have (like China), which of course, would be controlled by forced abortions.  You could even go the Hitler direction and commit genocide of a group that is becoming in your eyes, too populous.

He was disgusted by these suggestions, but I pointed out that there really are no other solutions other than these, which is what those who back this teaching want.  They are the same group publishing articles in Europe about the ethicalness of after-birth abortions – also known as infanticide, prior to them coining this “after-birth” term.

He asked my husband various questions about his walk with God – and why it all made any difference.  My husband let him know parts of his testimony, and I could tell the man was struggling with understanding.  The man then asked us probably the hardest question we’ve ever faced, would we give everything away – everything we owned – if God required that of us?  My husband answered quickly, yes, all that he had was because of God – nothing belonged to him.  I was honest and said yes, but that it would be extremely hard.  We talked some more about God and Him being there for us through some of the hardest times, emotionally and financially.  Who knew that we would be witnessing there on the street to this man?  He had been sooo depressed and numb when we had started talking to him, but we left him warm and smiling with him apologizing for being drunk and taking some of our time.  We exchanged warm hand shakes and I think just the fact that someone had listened to him – had cared enough to hear him out on his concerns – helped him in a small way.

We never got the picture.  But we got to touch someone else’s life with our love.

On this Holocaust Rememberance Day, when so many fellow Jews, elderly, diseased, and mentally retarded were so carelessly and intentionally murdered, under the guise for The Greater Good, I can’t help but connect it to what we heard last night.  Without faith, life is very depressing.  Faith is the unwavering assurance and belief in what we hope for, in things that we haven’t yet seen.  When you lose faith and hope, life becomes over-whelming… purpose doesn’t seem to exist… human life loses it’s dignity and becomes disposable.

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