I have been mentoring a young man for over seven months now. We have plowed through some rough terrain in his life stemming from rejection, abuse, and overall bad decisions. At the beginning, the hike looked pretty daunting. Our style of discipleship is a bit uncommon. He comes over on Saturdays about 7am; we talk and dig in for about 90 minutes; he then eats breakfast with my family and me; then we go outside and work together for a few hours. It’s actually a lot of fun. I’ll never forget the look of fear and joy on his face when, after teaching him on several occasions, I told him to go get the farm tractor and drive it over to where we were working! More is accomplished, it seems, “in the field” than in any office. I’ve given him great things to read, and I’ve seen his hunger & desire to read and know more increase. Things have been going well.
After missing one Saturday, we sat down again last week for our normal routine. I was anticipating good stories and him peppering me with questions about God, the Bible, and lots of “how to’s” in regards to living a life for Christ. Instead, he told me stories of things that happened due to decisions he made that were similar to the ones he was making when we started meeting on day one.
Overall, I’m wired by God to be somewhat detached. This allows me hear hard truths & information, deal with it accordingly, and then move on with relative ease. But this time I was arrested. I could feel my heart sink. Strangely it wasn’t anger I was feeling. As I listened, my heart was…hurting. With every word, I was increasingly surprised and wounded. I was shocked on two levels. The lesser was because of his poor decisions; the greater was that somehow my heart was aching because I cared for him much like a father hurts for a son when they error.
My first words to the young man when he was finished telling me the whole and honest truth was, …. “Do you know…that…you….have hurt me?” In all my years of mentoring, this was the first time I’d ever said this to a mentee. But I couldn’t hide, for some reason, what I was feeling. And I sensed that God wanted me to let him know this.
I said it not as manipulation, but as a way to be vulnerable and honest right back with him. As I shared, God was instantly showing me that he needed to see that his decisions didn’t just affect him! As he was growing in relationship with me as a spiritual son, and I with him as a spiritual dad, he needed to know that his decisions had further reaching repercussions.
The rest of out time together was strong and God allowed me drill into the subject of true remorse and repentance. We discuss the fact Jesus was the number one person he grieved. I explained that all men’s decisions have echoing effects. We don’t live in a vacuum; we can’t live in a vacuum; and therefore the choices we make affect others. Period.
This is the reason that being in close community with other men feels so paradoxical. We want the community and camaraderie, but fear the accountability and thought of letting a buddy (or mentor) down—much like we’ve been let down by others. But we cannot run away from it. Jesus pressed into his disciples. They learned from Him. They grew to be like Him. Jesus loved them. And they hurt Him….many times. Thankfully, He loved them and forgave them. He led on with and through them. Mountains were moved in that effort. And last week, as God was welcomed into our conversation, I saw another mountain of pain begin to crumble in my mentee….and in me.
Written by Jon Sommer
Reclaimed by Jesus in 1981; Board member of Reclaim since 2013; Husband and father of 4; colors outside the lines; must have adventure; desires to help men find the real, wild, untamed, loving Jesus