Reflections from the LFM Mentoring Gathering
At Apple Hill, North Carolina
Question: When have you last felt listened to? What was that like and how did it make you feel?
Let me tell you about my experience at the Leighton Ford Ministries gathering set in the lush mountain forests of Moravian Falls, NC. This was a retreat that was a workout for the soul. This was the first retreat where my ears were more tired from listening than my mouth was from speaking. The retreat was to model spiritual formation through spiritual direction or spiritual mentoring.
Spiritual mentoring helps keeping leaders strong for the long haul. There is an African proverb that says “If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to walk far walk with somebody”. Spiritual mentoring helps people walk the distance and thrive on the hard and painful journey of life.
Spiritual mentoring is a relationship between three people: the mentor, the mentee and the Holy Spirit. It is the process of listening to others and with others in the presence of Another. Spiritual mentoring is being a companion to someone on their spiritual journey encouraging them to notice what God is presently doing in them. It is helping someone hear and acknowledge God’s activity in their life. A spiritual mentor is one who offers questions rather than solutions, who is a safe person who creates a safe space for someone to be who they truly are.
How can we practice spiritual mentoring in Jews for Jesus? A. Be a good listener and B. Ask spiritual questions. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:7, there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak”. How do we know when the right time to speak is and when the right time to listen is? We are far too quick to speak than listen.
3 Reasons people get lost
1. They go it alone
2. They keep going forward when they should stop and go back.
3. They don’t stop and be where they are.
Spiritual mentoring is having a friend to help you find the path and not get lost.
A. How can we be a good listener? 2 pronged pitch fork: Silence and discernment.
1. Silence: Silence is like scuba diving for the soul. It takes you deep into the unseen world. Practicing silence helps you stop and be where you are. Be here now. Be present with yourself, with God and with another. “Friends can be silent together and have their hearts speak.”
2. Discernment: “To sift” or “separate”. To be aware of, have clarity. “Look, Listen and Feel”. Know when to speak and when to be quiet. A great listener not only hears what we say, but senses the unspoken desires of our hearts, and, most of all, helps us listen to our own inner voices. “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
B. Ask Spiritual Questions: It is a hospitality of the heart. “There are no right answers, only clearer visions of even deeper questions” (Margaret Guenther). What is in a question? A quest. If you answer someone’s question right away you end the quest, the journey comes to a close. The questions are not for you but for them. They are not to satisfy your curiosity or selfish motives but for the benefit of the questioner. Spiritual questions don’t just address surface issues, what is said, but asks questions of the heart and soul.
What I experienced this weekend was that spiritual mentoring creates culture:
1. A Culture of Dignity
Members of the northern Natal tribes of South African greet one another daily by saying “Sawa bona”, which literally means: “I see you.” The response is “Sikhona” which means: “I am here”. Essentially it is “cherishing and acknowledging someone’s presence”. This exchange is important, for it denotes that ‘until you ‘see’ me, I do not exist; and when you ‘see’ me, you bring me into existence.
This speaks to the powerful intrinsic human need for validation, which we all share. How many of us have had people look at us and pass us by. What this little greeting does is highlight the importance of being ‘present’ with every person we are with. Our presence with them validates their humanity.
2.A Culture of Trust
Relationships grow deep and strong when you know someone will truly listen to you. When you are known for being a good listener and asking spiritual questions, people will trust you and will open up to you. They will come to you not for your answers but for your safe presence. This creates a culture of trust where people can trust each other by being deep and vulnerable because they know someone’s not going to try and “fix” them but will be silent and listening to God before offering any “insightful” words.
3. A Culture of ‘Being’ with God
Being comes before doing. When we focus on listening to God, our holy imaginations are rebirthed and we can come to God not to “get” from Him but to behold Him. Just like a woman can gaze at a diamond ring, stare at it for hours and take in all the reflections of light, beholding its beauty because she values the great worth of that diamond, so too we can behold and gaze at the beauty of the Lord through the admiration of silence. Silence is really the greatest form of awe. Silence is the ancient pathway to connect and abide in God.
QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES:
What if our missionaries were known for being attentive listeners?
What if supervisors had some silence before trying to solve a problem or answer a difficult question?
What if Branch leaders practiced asking spiritual questions of their missionaries?
What if Jews for Jesus helped the next generation of leaders find themselves and their path by asking really good questions instead of trying to offer answers?
What if we could extend the ‘shelf life’ of a missionary and her ministry by caring for the soul and by involving her in spiritual mentoring?