I remember the first time I stepped onto her porch. It was a hot summer day in Maryland, and I was highly encouraged to go because this woman was offering a Bible study for young women, which was exactly what I needed. Although I was raised in the church, I was a young Christian at the time—only a year into my personal relationship with the Lord. I was unsure about a lot of things, so I waited pensively on this porch for a stranger to answer the door and welcome me in.
The door opened, I entered, and then Mary entered my life with her smile, warm hugs, and homemade bread and snicker cookies. It was Mary who cracked open the Word of God and taught me his truth. It was Mary who prayed me through some of the most difficult times. It was Mary who became one of my closest confidants and advisors. It was Mary who corrected me during the many times I was wrong.
Mary was an older white woman, a devoted wife, and stay-at-home mom who homeschooled her children. I was a young African American girl from South Carolina and a full-time student aspiring to become a naval officer. On the surface, it seemed like our worlds couldn't have been further apart. We embraced each other, listened well, shared our stories, and my taking the risk to enter the home of a stranger, and her opening her heart and home, birthed what turned into a beautiful relationship.
That's the splendor of the redemptive work of Christ and the unity God wants to see in our mentoring relationships, but first we must be willing to take the risk. It can be intimidating and hard to be vulnerable and choose to trust another person with what we share from our lives. This can be one of the many obstacles we have to overcome in a mentoring relationship, but God has called Christians to be in community with each other, and mentoring is one opportunity where we can do life together.
I enter mentoring relationships because I want to be changed by God. So I intentionally place myself in situations where I can learn, grow, and be stretched by others. It's a humbling decision to listen more and talk less (James 1:19), and it's a humbling decision to submit myself to another person out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
The unity of the body of Christ
Mentoring can be even more intimidating when we exit our comfort zones and embrace racial and ethnic diversity in our mentoring relationships, but it's critical that we mentor with the theological understanding and conviction concerning God's heart for unity, specifically concerning this type of diversity in the church (John 17:20–23).