When I wrote the last post about Elijah, I thought I was finished exploring 1 Kings 17-19. Then, as I re-read the final verses in chapter 19, I realized there were a couple additional points to consider. Two principles apply to us who lead. By the way, just in case you were about to dismiss this post because you don’t see yourself as a leader, I believe every one of us leads on some level. So, please keep reading!
If you’ve read my past few posts, you’ll recall:
- Elijah’s cumulative stress plunged the mighty leader into a pit of despair.
- An angel began Elijah’s restoration by tending to his physical needs.
- God spoke to his weary soul with a gentle whisper.
- God revealed to Elijah he wasn’t alone.
Elijah’s story wasn’t finished yet.
The great leader still had work to do, and to do that work, he needed help. The final two verses of this story reminded me of a couple important principles of leadership. First, we all need to consider seriously the privilege of mentoring. Today, I’d like to take a peek at this principle. Secondly, we all need to be thinking about our ‘exit’ strategy, a topic I’ll explore in the future.
So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field…. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders….Then he [Elisha] went with Elijah as his assistant. (1 Kings 19:19 & 20 NLT)
Several years ago our pastor posed a question during a sermon—a question I continue to contemplate. Pastor Miles asked,
At first, I dismissed the inquiry with the fleeting thought, nobody, but as his sermon progressed, the question persisted. Well, I guess I’m kind of a mentor to my two daughters, I thought.
By that time, though, I knew this wasn’t only a question the pastor asked, but it was a thought God wanted me to consider.
Okay, God, is there someone else?
Immediately, a woman came to mind. She was a bit younger than I. Our life journeys were similar. During that Sunday morning service, I realized that when this young wife, mother and marketplace worker sought out my advice, I was, in fact, mentoring her. Furthermore, God wanted me to take the responsibility seriously.
After that sermon I became deliberate about our relationship. I made a point to reach out to her periodically. I became more intentional about my observations and ‘atta girl’s.’ I sent her an occasional note of encouragement. I made sure she knew I was ‘for her,’ and wasn’t using my position as a woman who’d ‘been there; done that’ as a license to criticize or offer unsolicited guidance.
Eventually, the relationship transitioned. In fact, the woman I was mentoring surpassed my ability and expertise. I feel pride in her accomplishments. Even as I want my two daughters’ and three granddaughters’ success to surpass mine, I feel that same way when I’m honored to play a part mentoring any woman on her journey.
In addition to benefiting a mentee, however, the relationship often serves the mentor. Elisha became Elijah’s assistant. From our previous glimpse of Elijah’s story, we saw the pressures of his prophetic duties almost destroyed him. Elijah needed an assistant! As Elijah’s assistant, Elisha would be learning from a truly great prophet. I’d definitely call that a win/win affiliation.
Yesterday, an incident I had reinforced the reciprocal benefits for mentee and mentor. A young woman approached me after church, offering to help with some technological challenges I face in preparing an upcoming workshop presentation. You know what? I need that woman’s expertise! As we chatted, she expressed some of her hopes, dreams and challenges, and I realized I probably had some insights to offer her. I’m hoping our encounter will grow into a win/win relationship.
In conclusion today, I want to ask you two questions. First, the one my pastor asked:
I’m praying God will give you the gift of ideas as you investigate the answers…