Reluctant Mentors

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Senior year of college I started my first real relationship. We dated for a year and a half — until the minute I boarded the plane for Montana and started my assignment in the Air Force. He was a Christian from a strong Christian family. They lived in a beautiful old Victorian with the servants' stairs that went down to the kitchen (I love those!). He'd been homeschooled. His whole family life revolved around Jesus.

I was so hungry for that. My family is Christian, too, but we were in turmoil. An intervention had only made a bare, temporary dent in my dad's drinking. My grandfather, whom everyone adored, had passed away. I was really looking forward to being involved in this faith-filled family with these loving parents.

They hated me. They hated that I was dating their son. They hated when I came around. When my boyfriend told them about my dad's drinking, they didn't talk to me about it or try to be understanding. They wrote him a letter saying that "his friend" needed to forgive her father.

They were really happy when I got on that plane.

There is something deeply hurtful about being rejected by a potential mentor. You see someone who could fill a deep need. Or who you want to emulate. Or you just want to learn from like a Padawan. And they say, "Nope, I don't have the time." Or respond in a self-effacing way that makes you question your own judgment. My ex-boyfriend's parents probably felt like the greatest betrayal, but certainly not the last.

- A singer and musician who wasn't interested in helping me learn to play better.
- A business owner who casually dismissed years of self-study and refused to train me in a career I really wanted.
- An editor who refused to guide me, or even tell me where I needed improvement, but instead treated me with disdain while her frustration and anger grew.

I suppose the feelings of betrayal were increased because they all claimed to be Christians. In fact, most of them took some amount of pride in their faith. But their dismissals were total and totally unexplained.

It's impossible not to take such rejection personally, because it was personal. But when my little Calvinist heart comes at it from the other side, there is comfort. However harsh the tone of the message, the content was directed by God. He didn't want me to submit myself to these particular individuals. He had something else planned. At the time, it made logical sense to glom on to a Christian family, but what if that family weren't as healthy as they looked? What if, despite all that studying, that wasn't the career He meant for me to have? And what if He had a different direction planned for my writing that would have been derailed by that editor's point of view?

I also have to remember the times that God did give me the mentors I was supposed to have. I can't thank Donita K. Paul enough for the hours of critiquing — and hours of encouragement! — she put into my writing. S. Michael initially hired me to create printer friendly pages for Portuguese GotQuestions articles, but went on to teach me so much and give me the career I was supposed to have.* But my biggest mentor is probably my husband. It's largely Dev's example and his confidence that has tempered my serious introversion and avoidance tendencies.

And there are still things to learn from those who reject us. The business owner hired me for something else that, frankly, I'm more suited for, reminding me that I do have unique strengths that are needed. The editor's biting dismissal still exhorts me to strive to be clear in what I'm trying to say.

Seven years after college, six years after I walked onto that plane, and four years after I married Dev, my family fell apart. It was then I recognized a little how much God had protected me. The people I had long blamed for not teaching me now showed they weren't people I needed to learn from. I needed to focus on learning from God — however stumbling and imperfect a disciple I might be. To recognize that while I could certainly learn from others, I wasn't to follow them. In that way, the mentors who rejected me taught me the most important life lesson of all.

* Actually, I could just give a laundry list of what all the GotQuestions staff has taught me!

Image Credit: Pierre-Auguste Renoir; "Woman with a Guitar"; 1897; Public Domain

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships

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Published 5-20-16