I had the great honor of marrying my wife, Jessica, three years ago this upcoming July. At the ripe age of 25, I'm no expert. But I’ve learned that marriage is hard yet beautiful work, and it has taught me my utter dependence on God’s grace in order to love my wife like He does.
And I’ve learned the value of a mentor.
Two or three Sundays a month, my friend John wakes up early, before he takes his family to church, to meet me for breakfast at Cracker Barrel (that classic slice of middle “Amurica”). We talk, we eat, we share prayer requests, I seek out his advice, we study the Bible and other books, and we commiserate over how the Cincinnati Bengals always choke in January.
It's not complicated. It's not rocket science. We just do life together. It has been tremendously good for me and my relationship with Jessica. John's investment in me will have ripple effects in eternity, as his friendship has better equipped me to glorify the Lord in my marriage, in the workplace/community, and in parenting someday.
Friendship with a Vision
My friendship with John has convinced me that one of the greatest practical steps many young couples can take to enrich their lives and marriage (same holds if you’re currently married, engaged, dating, or single) is to seek out a mentor. This is not a legalistic rule of successful married couples; I’m just speaking out of my own experience. Seek out discipleship from someone whose walk with God, marriage, and parenting inspires you.
“Discipleship” may sound like an overwhelming spiritual term, but it’s really just mentoring. In my college days in The Navigators ministry, a friend provided me my favorite definition of discipleship: “Friendship with a vision.”
Paul outlines the process in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Discipleship, having someone investing in you while you invest in others, is important in all aspects of the Christian life, including marriage.
So, if you don’t already have a mentor, I strongly encourage you to seek one out.
Finding a Mentor
For qualifications, look for someone you admire. Is there someone in your life or church whose character, marriage, and parenting you admire?
Look at their professional and personal reputation: are they respected in the community for their integrity, character, and humility? Do you aspire to have a similar witness for Christ?
Look at their marriage and family dynamic: Do they make you think, “Wow, I really want to love my wife/husband and kids the way that he/she does?”
If this person meets the criteria, don't be afraid to reach out. It’s not nearly as hard as asking someone on a date! Just approach them with the idea.
Some couples like to meet together with an older couple; that’s great. Other times, people like to meet one on one with their mentor and not as a couple.
You might prefer the former if it’s an activity that you and your spouse really want to do together. Or you might be like me and choose the latter because it allows and encourages you to open up more.
Never let fear of being a “burden” get in the way of asking someone to mentor you. Most of the time, people are incredibly humbled and honored that you look up to them and admire their walk with Christ. Maybe they’ve even been praying that God would give them someone to mentor.
On the flip side, if they really don't have time, they’ll tell you. Don’t take the rejection personally. Just ask someone else; chances are you know several folks in your life who would inspire you.
Tips for Being a Mentor
You don’t have to have a counseling or theology degree to qualify as a good mentor. But you should reflect on a few things:
Have you loved Jesus and your spouse for a number of years? Is your fellowship with Christ and your spouse growing and deepening as the years go on?
Be honest: if someone replicated your marriage, would that be a good thing for the kingdom?
Now relax! Normally, if someone asks you to be a mentor, they see fruit in your life. Remember: God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the younger person to initiate the mentoring relationship yourself if the situation is right.
Is there a young man/woman, single or married, who could use your wisdom and experience to help him/her through the trials of beginning a family and career. Do you know a young person who’s struggling in these areas? Is there a young couple at your church whose fellowship you enjoy?
One rule: men should only mentor men and women should only mentor women. It keeps everything above board.
Becoming a Mentor
The lessons you’ve learned and the wisdom that others have shared with you are meant to be passed on to the next generation. I’ve found that God has a way of putting someone in my path for me to invest in, just as others have poured into me. Each spiritual generation has the joy, and the responsibility of passing on what they’ve learned to the next.
This spring (if this weather ever changes), I imagine I will be golfing with one of my buddies who's newly married, when he'll ask me "Hey man, two questions: ‘How come I keep slicing it off the tee?’ and ‘Marriage is harder than I expected...I'm struggling. How do I love my wife better?’" Setting aside any mystical Legend of Bagger Vance references about his golf swing, I really look forward to offering the same wisdom and godly advice to him that John has shared with me.Media: