I got the text Friday morning, “Meet me where the raw meat hangs in Bisrat Gabriel across from Negash.” It was my mentor, a twenty-plus year missionary who has done it all here in Ethiopia. Secret Professor in an underground seminary when Christianity was banned in Ethiopia, check; Administrator of a huge organization, check; Cambridge education, check; great father and husband through it all, check. This guy is where I pray God’s grace permits me to be one day. This is a man from whom I must learn; just rubbing shoulders with him is a dream come true. We sat down; ordered some Ethiopian food and he asked, “What do you want to talk about.”
From there I am not sure how we got where we got, I just know we ended up where I tend to find myself with men I deeply respect—wet eyed, asking for help. A few years ago I had a clarifying moment in my life, I stepped on Ethiopian soil and I met two of my boys—my oldest and youngest. We sat and I tried to hold back tears as I recounted mistakes, friendships I burned up, people I hurt, and foolish thoughts I embraced—all because God had done something significant in my life and I struggled to understand it. A few years removed I think I am beginning to see some clarity on it all. I can’t say I can tell you that I understand all of what God did in me, it’s mystery. I am beginning to understand that there is a reason for that mystery. Our life with God is an invitation, not a formula. As we say, “yes,” the invitation continues. As we step nearer to Jesus, take up the good life; the call grows into something unique, something for which we were knitted together by God in our Mother’s womb—our role in the Kingdom. It was in that, in God’s calling me into my role that I got confused, lost composure, lost focus on the King and the call and began to look around at my friends, my faith family, everyone else and began asking questions of them, instead of embracing my call, my role.
I am almost five years down that road, and it was with burning eyes that I told this man (who was most likely thinking he should have passed on hanging out with me) that I am only now beginning to repair some of those relationships I bankrupted. That as I am here, in the role that God was inviting me to slip into, I am beginning to regain my focus on the King and the kingdom and off my neighbors. That the call never shifted, the invitation never ceased, but my focus certainly had. Somehow in the midst of it all, I turned my ear from my invitation and began trying to construct a formula for everyone else. My conversations turned from God and amazement at Who He is, and to everyone else and how they just “don’t get it.” In truth, I didn’t get it—I did not see that this was mine—this was for me, a gift from God himself, a careful cultivation of the person I had been created to be.
My mentor did what every great mentor does, he listened, asked questions, and stepped back to let the Spirit do His work. (On a side note, if you are in the market for a great mentor, look for a listener; if someone is desperate to speak and provide you with his or her opinion, you will miss a huge facet of great mentorship—the role of the Spirit.)
So maybe you are in a place where you feel a deep pressing from the Spirit, maybe you sense God moving in big ways in your life, learn from my mistakes… Keep your attention on the King, cling to someone you respect who has some gray hair and has led a Godly life—let them listen, then listen with them to the Spirit. Reject the temptation to question your neighbors, and instead ask God to help you fulfill the unique calling He has for you.