Picture me on a quiet morning in North Carolina with my book and my bible and this is my task:

Who do I need?

Who are my mentors?

Who needs me?

It’s a chilly, gray, rainy morning and I am sitting with my book asking myself these questions.  A few days later I will fly back to Tampa, sit around a table in a classroom with my girls eating nuggets and sharing these answers.  This is a tougher question then you might realize.  First off, who doesn’t feel a little arrogant making a list of people that need them?  Who really wants to admit there’s a handful of people they can’t survive without, either?  And the challenging one is the middle question because having mentors takes some serious initiative.

Luckily, this wasn’t the first time I’ve asked myself these questions.  This is the blogpost I found from a year ago when I did this same exercise for a completely different reason, visit March of 2013 with me:

I’ve shared recently some of what’s been churning in my heart about friendship.  About what it looks like to make new friends as an adult and how reading ‘My Yearlong Search for a New BFF’ really spoke to me about taking initiative.  When I wrote that I had no idea that relationships as a whole would continue to be a theme in my life.

It started in the fall of 2012 with a kind of a collapse of my current relationships, followed by the epiphany that I wasn’t seeking out new friendships, and as I was wading through those two I landed on my rump after hearing about mentoring in bible study.
Pat Layton is the founder of the first non-profit I worked for out of college.  She’s unbelievably awesome and I’m blessed to know her. I don’t think she wrote her talk with me in mind but you wouldn’t know that from how directly it spoke to my heart.

Pat broke down mentorship into three categories and I’m going to give you my version of what I heard her say:
–     Before. The people who are ahead of you in life and maturity and you want to be like when you grow up.  They inspire you and you kind of want to soak up their awesome.  You know what I mean?

–       Beside.  These are the friends that are doing life with you.  They may be better at some things than you are and you may be better at others but you’re constantly talking through the day to day and handling it as it comes, together.  I think this is what the bible means when it talks about iron sharpening iron.  And some of us our blessed to have a few people in our lives that are sharpening us daily.  This category is also important because this is where the honesty box is.  These are the people you can be the most transparent with.

–       Behind.  These are people you’re pouring into that may not be as far along as you are either in their stage of life, their finances, their relational life, or their spiritual life and you’re leading them.  You’re guiding them to where you are.  Coaching them up, encouraging them, and sharing your life experience with them.

I see an immense amount of value in having several people in each category that you actively spend time with.  This goes back to that breakdown in my friendship structure, which is – this requires initiative.  It takes time and (of course) effort to maintain relationships so are you ready, willing, and most of all motivated to keep this structure up?  That’s where I’m working on myself.  For me, more than anything else, this is requiring me to cut back the time I spend on surface relationships and really pour that time into less relationships but ones that contain depth.

As I read through her categories and nodded like a bobble head about all the great points she made about why these were important I thought – who are those people for me?  And that’s when I realized I’m not living this mentoring structure at all.  My categories are completely out of whack. 

Whew.  So the good news is – since I realized (as written above) what a failure I was at this structure I’ve spent over a year since working on developing it.  I’m happy to report I have 5-6 people in the ‘need me’, 5-6 in the ‘I need’, and I have 2 mentors I meet with about once a month or so.  More than that I want to share that this structure was made by people smarter than me and it works.  My life has more balance.  I feel more relationally healthy.  And now, I’m being intentional about going deeper with the people I need.


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