Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 21, 2016
Mentors help us believe in ourselves
A mentor is a wise and trusted teacher or counselor. The key word is “trusted.” Mentoring occurs when a student admires and believes in a counselor’s instruction.
Mentors give us self-confidence. An example of a great mentor is Bela Karolyi, legendary coach of the US Women’s gymnastics team. In Olympic competition, as his gymnasts step up to perform, you can hear Karolyi quietly saying, “You can do it! You can do it!”
Those four powerful words can motivate people to do their best in almost any endeavor. To have someone believe in you does for your mind what eating spinach did for Popeye’s body. To a large extent success requires confidence in your own ability to achieve your goals.
I learned the basic lessons of life from my parents. They taught me to value family, farm life, good food, reading, honesty, worship, relationships and hard work. In my adulthood I realized that without ever using the words, my parents had mentored me to believe in myself. They never belittled me or criticized me to the extent that I doubted my self-worth.
When I was 13 I met “Brother Si” Mathison. He was my pastor, the first preacher who took an interest in me. He was more than the man who preached on Sundays. He “connected” with me. For the first time in my life I became interested in my spiritual life
Though I did not recognize it at the time, Brother Si became my spiritual mentor. I admired him but even more I trusted him; he knew my name and I could talk to him. In time he became the most important influence in my life – the role model who sparked a desire in me to become a pastor. I never lost the desire to be like him.
During his last years Brother Si spent some time living at Wesley Gardens Retirement Home in Montgomery. I visited him there more than once. We talked and prayed together. I thanked him for his friendship and his prayers. He had prayed for me daily for half a century. His wife Mary and his sons John Ed and George had been like family to me since my teen years.
When Brother Si died I was unable to attend his funeral. My disappointment was tempered by my conviction that Brother Si would not be there either. He was already in the company of the Father. His sons, like brothers to me, would merely celebrate his life and bury the body of the man who had been my spiritual father. For 50 years Brother Si had been to me what Saint Paul had been to Timothy, a wise and trusted counselor, teacher, friend – and mentor of the first order.
Brother Si taught me, as the Apostle Paul taught Timothy, to trust the counsel of the Bible. That was important since our culture, much like Timothy’s culture of the first century, is prone to question the authority of the Bible. A preacher who doubts that God inspired the scriptures is like a lost ball in high weeds. Brother Si motivated me to believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. From that conviction I have never wavered.
Mentoring can be expanded to include persons we know only through their writings. Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher, persuaded me to think of deceased persons like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Thomas a Kempis, Oswald Chambers and others as mentors.
This idea allows me to embrace Saint Paul as not only Timothy’s mentor but my own as well. As I read his wise counsel in the Bible, Paul becomes another mentor and role model for living my faith.
Look back over your life and name your mentors and role models. Give thanks for those who said, in many different ways, “You can do it!” And consider yourself especially blessed if you live long enough to hear some younger person say, “Thank you for mentoring me.” + + +