I have a growing, lifelong list of secret mentors. So secret, they may be entirely oblivious to the rank they hold in my personal hall of fame for those who have, together, radically shaped my life.
Certainly family has shaped me, as a good spouse, parents and family members do. And formal mentor relationships have shaped me. But I am talking here of individuals that did not necessarily have official expectation placed on them to invest as they did, yet chose to and probably don’t even realize the impact they made (… make).
My first set of secret mentors is made up of those who, with only a seconds-long interaction, spoke and planted a seed.
An English teacher told me I could write. A church worker said my encouragement mattered. My youth pastor told me I could lead. A Spanish instructor said I was a natural. A boss told me to set my sights higher than her job. The wife of a supervisor told me I could solve problems. A colleague said it was ok to change when I became a mom.
With each brief and passing comment, in the context of relationship, these people called out something I didn’t otherwise see. They pointed out potential and possibility. They called forth vision.
The next set of secret mentors are those that gave me a chance at something. They poured water on seeds and in some cases, removed weeds.
A family let me be part of their ministry start-up. A peer went against the system to open doors. A supervisor helped me learn to make a pitch and then an ask. A boss gave me responsibility at a young age. A colleague said I could speak on a stage. Another said I could represent. And a leader gave me space to focus in a new way.
Each opportunity created a safe way to practice something new, to make mistakes and to improve, with support along the journey. They enabled growth.
By Life Examples
And my third set of secret mentors are those whose examples I have watched or do still watch closely. Their lives instruct me on a regular basis.
The adviser who shared how not to do it. The leader who won’t stop learning and growing. The one who is resolute in personal priorities. Another who serves with great humility. The friends who sacrifice for family. The wife who loves her husband well. The mom who is amazing with her kids. Those that don’t pretend to have it all together.
These mentors show how, even in the face of demands, you can live and love and lead well. They reflect values and make me believe if they can, I also might. They ground me and help direct my roots.
My Prayers For Secret Mentors
Undoubtedly, we are not made to flourish in isolation. We are dependent on others, by design, in order to mature into what God has intended for us. The past and ongoing collective input of my secret mentors has formed and will continue to shape my life. The mysterious thing is just how God ordained each of them and others to speak, offer and show in an orchestrated sequence that has built exactly toward today. And I believe he has more yet to come to help grow me still.
If you are reading this and happen to find yourself in one of these hall of fame lists, though possibly insignificant to you at the time, it was huge for me. “Thank you” doesn’t seem enough. Still… thank you. You have nurtured my life. I pray blessing on you.
I ask God regularly for an abundance of these kinds of influences in my children’s lives, at just the right time and in just the right order. I pray for the friends, friends’ parents, teachers, mentors, role models, supervisors and others that will be used in a moment or a chance or a life testimony to direct their steps. And I pray for their possible spouses and for similar influences on them.
I also pray that I will garden forward with words, opportunities and examples that might be used of God to nurture others. For his glory.
And my prayer for you, reader, is that you don’t underestimate the power you hold and the way you can be used to build into someone else. Even in something that seems small or simple or unofficial. It may be the exact ingredient God will use next.
Words that call forth vision. Opportunities that enable growth. And examples that guide healthy roots.
Some plant, others water… God brings all harvest. Amen.