"I'm right behind you. I think I can, I think I can be just like you in everything...maybe, if I keep stretching I can do what you do!"
John Maxwell says you know if you are a leader if people are following you. Titles or positions do not establish you as a leader.
This swan picture caught my eye. That little cygnet (oh yeah, that's a baby swan) is intently watching every gesture of Mom. When I study this picture I'm sobered to my responsibility to those I see following behind me as proteges and students. Suddenly cliches come to mind that guide me as a leader:
- Do no harm
- Be prepared
- Do the right thing
- Think before you speak
I have always been cautious about who I would follow. When my spiritual mentor came into my life I was spiritually parched. Although she pursued me to become my mentor; my skepticism caused me to stall. But once I saw her continual peace and joy I was the ardent seeker to develop this mentor/protege relationship.She listened to me with earnestness and validation. She was a constant, sure and lovely arrow pointing to God. When frustrated and spent, I would want to quit the journey to forgiveness of myself and others. Quickly and firmly she would sober me to reality with firm exhortations.
I'm an avid reader and she directed me to the writers that were key to my breakthroughs. Now 20 years later, we are peers and I thank God daily for her leadership, and she is the dearest friend I know.
Since my husband died this April she has taken up her widow mentor role. When I am perplexed she is quick to offer me godly wisdom that again points me to God's best on this widow journey.
My family and friends are keenly aware that this woman is as significant to me as anyone in my life. My children respect her as if she were their own kin.
I've been blessed with many wise Godly leaders, but only one mentor. When I look at these pictures of swans I see this elegant, holy, fun and wise woman as gracious as a swan. God mercifully sent her into my life when I was almost hopeless. I must say I wouldn't want to revisit that pain, but if that was the only way I could have this beautiful woman in my life as mentor and role model....it was worth the cost.
Now, I am mentor to one young woman in particular. I have to be myself; not an imitation of my mentor. But I hold onto my mentor's qualities that kept me going in the right direction.
As an arrow pointing to Jesus Christ, she was available, but she laid down boundaries that I never violated. She was a kind, passionate listener, but she would call me to colors when I was out of line. She understood dying to self and being alive in Christ; so forgiveness, love and strong gentleness were the only acceptable options in relationship conflicts.
Her faith in God gave her the grace to handle her own responsibilities and to never assume God needed her help with His sovereignty!
I cannot be my mentor, but I can recall why I never left her...even when she told me what I didn't want to hear.
She was genuine, transparent, vulnerable, and confident that Jesus Christ was enough.
Prayer was a major part of every day of her life.
Power through the workings of Holy Spirit was her constant message.
She laughed often and when she entered a room I'm convinced the entire electrical atmostphere was triggered to new life.
So, I look behind me and I see some "little ones." Left to my skills I'm frightened, but it has never been about me. Holy Spirit is here; I died to my "whatever" and now I trust Christ in me. Where I am weak, He is strong.
One of my favorite books in my library is dedicated to parents, Listen to the Littlest. The book emphasizes the power of active listening. Listening and honoring the "littlest" ones in my life is a big part of my calling as leader and mentor. My mentor honored me when I was her little one...now it's my turn.
St. Peter expressed the high calling of parent, mentor, leader and witness:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).