So, friends, it’s obvious that our visit to you was no waste of time. 1 Thessalonians 2:1 (The Message)
We all want to direct outcomes – and by that, we want to control how things turn out in life. It’s our human nature. We prefer things to turn out the way “we” want them to turn out, so much so that we are disappointed when the result is not as expected.
I came up with an illustration years ago on this theme. I said we all want to be great play-writers or authors – a budding Shakespeare as it were. We love to write our own script for each act of the play of our life, including the ending. God, on the other hand, wants to be the author of the outcome of the play, and take the pen out of our hand so He can write the ending He wants. Instead of handing Him the manuscript and asking Him to bless it, He wants us to hand the pen to Him with blank pages so that He can write it His way. How the play ends is what I call an “outcome”.
My mother had an analogy I liked. She said raising children is like a test of archery – at some point, you have to let go of the arrow and let it fly on its own. While you can point it in the right direction, things like winds or the elements can change its course. Life is a kind of “wind”. She also said that letting go of the arrow was the hardest part for her. That analogy extends to mentoring as well. Our role is to help our mentee figure out what the target is supposed to be in his or her life. One of the primary roles that a mentor does is to help a mentee find God’s purpose in their life, and then assist them in taking steps to achieve it.
Over the years, as I have mentored many men, I have learned that a mentor’s role does not include dictating the outcome for your protégé. Put another way, just being involved in someone else’s story does not guarantee that it will turn out the way you (or your mentee) desires. I have learned to trust God for the outcome. It is also a reminder that our influence in someone else’s life is really as a catalyst for change – and you can’t guarantee what the change will ultimately look like. As the passage in I Thessalonians 2:1 reminds us, our encounters with others is not in vain and is not a waste of time, but we need to trust God for the results of that encounter. In the NIV version, this passage is translated that “our visit was not without results.”
The desire to control and dictate outcomes is particularly true with our children. We want them to be successful and to lead vibrant and productive lives. Well, my life experiences say this doesn’t always happen, at least not in the way we wanted. When I first became a Christian, I met a man named Dave Eshleman, who seemed to have perfect kids and a perfect Christian marriage. We lost touch for a while, and when I caught up with him a few years later, he told me the agonizing time that he and his wife had with one of his daughters who had gotten hooked on drugs. It reminded me that even good parenting doesn’t assure good outcomes. There are too many variables and influences on a child’s life that you can’t control. The story has a good ending because the daughter on drugs went voluntarily to a radical rehab center that straightened her life out, recovered and straightened her life out, and has two wonderful daughters who are excellent scholars.
Another story of unanticipated outcomes relates to the son of long-time friends of my family who had a strong Christian marriage with four wonderful children. One of them, Tony, was in high school when their world changed in an instant. While at swimming practice, he dove into shallow water by mistake and became a quadriplegic. As the father told me later, “you never know what is around the next corner.” Tony’s story, after his injury, is remarkable. He managed to make the best of his lot in life. He graduated from college, and has been involved in writing, music and even goes skiing at Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe basin in California which has a great program for skiers with disabilities. Tony writes a blog:. http://fasterbarnacle.com/ Right now, he is facing a challenge of corrective surgery on his spine at the point where it was damaged some 25 years ago. Without the surgery, he could suffocate. His story is an inspiration to anyone that knows him.
One of the songs I’ve learned recently written by Matt Redman (10,000 Reasons –Bless the Lord) has the following lyric:
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
This lyric emphasizes that our attitude of gratitude should exist at all times. Whatever the outcomes in our life, “whatever may pass” or “whatever lies before [us]”, we still need to worship a loving God. “The point behind the song is this,” explained Redman to Worship Leader Magazine. “If you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.”
Our challenge is to trust God for the outcomes in life – for providing hope and courage in any circumstance or outcome, realizing that God is in charge. While we all desire to have perfect lives with perfect children who turn out perfectly, that just doesn’t happen. We are the archer in other’s lives – we can only point them in the right direction and hope and trust that they hit the target. That’s what a mentor does – he is an archer guiding his protégé’s direction in life. We can only pray and trust God for the outcome that He wants.
WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing “10,000 Reasons”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtwIT8JjddM
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