What I mean is that we see God as one who gives us a few tantalizing options. If we pick the right door then we’ll live in His “blessings”. But if we pick the wrong door we’ll end up zonked with a diarrhetic goat.
The younger we are in our faith the more likely we are to view God like Monty Hall. I’ve especially noticed this in working with teenagers. They stress out (and in someway rightly so) about big decisions like where to go to college, who to marry, how to get rid of zits, and what career to strive for.
For this stage in life having a godly mentor is invaluable. At 22, John Ryland Jr. found himself stressed out about who to marry. He thought he had figured it out but was sorely rejected by the young lady. In the midst of his discouragement he turned to his mentor—John Newton (See pp.88-97 in Wise Counsel for free here as Letter 7).
Newton’s response teaches us a good deal about mentoring. I want to highlight four things.
1. A good mentor will help you see God’s hand.
Ryland was undoubtedly taken aback by his rejection. When you feel like you know the direction God is leading you and then the way is suddenly closed up it can be quite disorienting. We need wise people in our lives to help us see God’s hand.
Here is how Newton counseled Ryland:
Worldly people expect their schemes to run upon all fours, as we say, and the objects of their wishes to drop into their mouths without difficulty and if they succeed they of course burn incense to their own drag and say “This was my doing”. But believers meet with rubs and disappointments which convince them that if they obtain any thing it is the Lord must do it for them.
For this reason I observe that he usually brings a death upon our prospects even when it is his purpose to give us success in the issue. Thus we become more assured that we did not act in our own spirits and have a more satisfactory view that his providence has been concerned in filling up the rivers and removing the mountains that were in our way. Then when he has given us our desire how pleasant is it to look at it and say “This I got not by my own sword and my own bow but I wrestled for it in prayer I waited for it in faith. I put it into the Lord’s hand and from his hand I received it.”
2. A good mentor will accentuate the positive.
Ryland was in a good deal of pain about this rejection and likely felt a bit like a failure. And so Newton found words of encouragement for him. He reminded Ryland that God had enabled him “to commit and resign your all to his disposal”. In response to this Newton said, “You did well”.
Without a good mentor we’ll be tempted to see things in black and white. Our failures will be complete and our successes will be without blemish. A good mentor speaks reality into our successes and failures.
3. A good mentor will shine a light on your future steps.
If a blind man leads a blind man they’ll both fall into a pit. This is why its silly for a teenager to counsel a fellow teenager about the future. Neither of them have lived it. We need people who have lived what we are going through now to help us see what the future looks like. Newton does this for Ryland when he says this:
If I judge right you will find your way providentially opened more and more; and yet it is possible that when you begin to think yourself sure something may happen to put you in a panic again. But a believer, like a sailor, is not to be surprised if the wind changes, but to learn the art of suiting himself to all winds for the time; and though a poor sailor is shipwrecked, the poor believer shall gain his port. O it is good with an infallible Pilot at the helm, who has the wind and weather at his command!
Newton had walked the path that Ryland was now on. And as a good mentor he helped him see what might be coming his way next.
4. A good mentor will consistently reassure you of their love.
I love the way Newton ends his letter to Ryland on this topic. After sharing how busy he has been he says,
“If I did not love you well, I could not have spared so much of the only day I have had to myself…But I was willing you should know that I think of you and feel for you, if I cannot help you.
If nothing else a good mentor will help you realize that you aren’t alone. He/she is going to walk with you no matter what direction you take. It’s good to know that someone loves you deeply and cares for you. Good mentors aren’t shy with sharing their devotion to you.
We need good mentors. And we need to be good mentors. There is a good chance that you are Ryland to someone and Newton to someone else. Be a mentor with these qualities. Likewise seek out mentors with these qualities.