As part of my Jr High Youth job at my church, I started mentoring this grade 6 girl… I'll call her Penny for the sake of this blog (not her actual name)... and it has seriously been the most incredible experience! It's been so super awesome I can't even express it properly. So I wanted to share some with you guys about all that I've learned from that!
So first I guess I'll explain how we got paired up for mentoring & what mentoring looks like at our church.
Mentoring is when we have a youth paired up with an adult mentor. It gives the youth an opportunity to talk things through, open up, share and ask hard questions that maybe they wouldn't feel comfortable doing in a larger group or in front of their peers. So, it's different depending on the age of the youth, but the mentor & mentee might go to starbucks and chat for example. Me & Penny go to park a lot (because she's 11, lol, and basically still a child)
Anyways, just a quick warning for the rest of this blog - I've never seen God move in a relationship more powerfully than I've seen it in mine & Penny's mentoring relationship. So if you don't want to read about God moving in awesome ways…. stop reading now… lol :P
Seriously though, I guess I'll start at the beginning.
Earlier this year, I was thinking I wanted to get started mentoring someone, but I didn't know which of my kids I should start mentoring. So I was thinking about it and praying about who I should mentor. Then one day I was at the church setting up for youth group, and Penny's dad was there for a worship band practice. And so Penny was around, and we started hanging out. Our conversation just flowed so naturally, and we had a ton in common, and we just clicked. And then the whole next week I seriously could not get her out of my head. God seriously just put her on my heart and I totally knew she was the one. It was extremely extremely clear to me.
So that Friday after youth, I approached Penny's dad to ask him whether mentoring would be something they'd be interested in. (He mentors some young adults himself, so I figured he'd be cool with it). And he tells a cool story for this part… (I've heard him tell it a couple times, so I'll recreate it here)… He says he and his wife were praying on that Wednesday (2 days earlier!) that someone would come to speak into Penny's life (because, unknown to me, she had been having some tough things going on in her life). How cool is that?
Anyways, so yeah they were keen on mentoring! haha!
One thing I've learned is that hanging out with an 11 year old is very interesting. It's not like hanging out with an adult, that's for sure! For one thing, kids are just way less scared of being vulnerable. Have you noticed how terrified we adults are of being vulnerable? And how restricting that can be?
For example. That first time I hung out with Penny (before I'd even decided to start mentoring her), we were just talking about whatever, and then from nowhere she just says to me "You're really cool." And I was like "yeah?" and she responded "Yes! You're like an adult but kind of like a kid too. You're just really cool. I like hanging out with you."
That interchange totally surprised me. Seriously when was the last time I told someone I thought they were cool? Why don't we adults do that more often? Like be honest about how we feel about other people? Not be afraid to love people with our whole hearts? And express that love for each other without shame? Why can't we go up and tell people we think they're cool, without feeling awkward about it?
Anyways, little does she know, with that one little interchange she changed the dynamic of our whole relationship. I knew then that she really liked me (because - woah - she told me!) The way a kid looks up to someone older. She admires me. And what that did for me, was it gave me the freedom to love on her without fear or rejection. I could invite her out to the park or to get ice cream or I could send her a nice email mid-week and I was confident that those things would make her happy and she'd be excited about them.
Sidenote - how pathetic is it that I need that kind of affirmation before I am able to love on someone without fear of rejection?
So, as you can imagine, this leads into what I have been calling a "love-fest". She loves me, and I know it. So I've been pouring into her (because I love her just as much!) and so she knows it! And it's been such an awesome relationship to be in. Because it feels so pure and full of real love. Like I could be having the worst hair day ever, and wearing mickey mouse pajamas with crocs and she wouldn't care at all. Because she doesn't love me for how I dress, and she doesn't love me for how good I am at anything - she just thinks I'm cool. She just loves me for me. And the same's for me to her. I just love her for her.
It's been so cool! This 11 year old has taught me what real love is. Maybe I'm slow on the uptake on this one because I am not married and don't have kids… so maybe this is a no brainer for you all who are farther along in life than me. But I've realized - this is how God loves us. This is the type of love the Bible talks about. He doesn't love us because we've earned it at all, or because we're "good enough" for it… but He just thinks we're cool! He just loves us for us! And I should be as moved by that to love back - the same way I've been so moved by Penny's love for me, that I just love her to death back. And this "love-fest" I've been having with Penny… this is how I should be approaching love with God and love with other people.
It's been super cool to realize all this. But get this - this mentoring story gets even more awesome and rewarding! I know - how is that even possible??
Well after we'd been mentoring a while, we kind of started touching on some more serious topics… things Penny has been struggling with recently. And not getting into too many details here - but it turns out things she's struggling with are very similar to things I have struggled with in the past. Not exactly the same… and not nearly as bad (I don't think), but very similar issues.
And so I've been able to really speak into her life. And understand her struggles. And give my point of view, and just share with her. And it has been so incredibly rewarding. I was able to share a poem with her that I wrote and she (and her parents) really appreciated it. It's actually been so awesome because I've gained a new perspective on my life. I've been able to see how God has been working in my life, even through the hardest times, and how he's using those hard times for His glory. And how He's been looking ahead the whole time and foresaw this whole mentoring thing with Penny and has been preparing me for it for years! How cool is that? It actually makes everything I've gone through so worth it. Seriously worth it, and I'd take it all again if it would help Penny at all - because I love her that much <3
The whole thing has just been really cool and super rewarding! And Penny's parents have been beyond great! They love me! (although I think what they really love is how God's been moving in our relationship, haha). But they're constantly giving me hugs, and telling me how much of a blessing I've been to them, and how grateful they are. They have seriously joined in on our love-fest! So now with them, I'm totally comfortable just being myself and not worried about whether they like me or not - because I know they do! It's awesome - I was over at their (beautiful) house the other day, just hanging out with the family - kayaking on their lake & spending time with Penny. It was just great :)
I'm leaving for the summer soon, but me & Penny has decided to be pen pals :) I can't express how excited I am to be able to spend a whole nother year together next year! And honestly, what I really want to do is just keep watching her grow up and keep being here for her! So maybe I'll be around for a while :P I've got a feeling God's not done with me yet :)