Unexpected Lessons: My Journey with Sister2Sister Mentoring

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Tonight at Sister2Sister, we will continue diving into our  theme “You Are Made in the Image of God.” Tonight, the middle and high school girls will make collages of the “perfect woman,” and together, we will take those perceptions of beauty apart and see the differences between what our culture and the God who created us and called us “good” say about being human.

This couldn’t be better timing. Because on Tuesday night, during a routine chat with Bryce over Facetime, I realized that maybe I need to learn this lesson more than they do.

Because as we chatted through our iPhone and iPad cameras, I noticed my face. Specifically, I noticed my nose. The nose I never really liked because of its largeness and how it hooks like a beak at the end. The nose that is so different from the ones of my classmates and friends and family. The nose I apparently still don’t like. And I noticed how uncomfortable I still feel in my own body. And I felt ashamed and incompetent.

Because until then, I had been operating under the illusion that I had this all together. I thought I was confident and comfortable enough to lead this lesson. I thought I could lead these girls without having to work on my own stuff. Once again, I was proven wrong.

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When I first started my work with Sister2Sister, I expected to grow in my ability to discipline, maintain control and order, and teach life lessons. But I never expected to become more humble, more comfortable in chaos, and learn more than I taught. I expected to hear the girls open up about their struggles. But I never expected those stories to challenge me to confront my own life of pain and privilege.

You see, I expected to change lives when I became a mentor. But I never expected my life to change in the process..

But that is exactly what has happened. Because these girls have taught me that I can’t expect people to open up without opening up myself. I can’t expect people to grow without growing. And I can’t expect to lead and teach without others leading and teaching me. I can’t live in relationship with others if I’m simply seeking them out to make myself look and feel better.

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that some of my greatest teachers have been the “high-risk” kids, the kids from the areas in town you’re “not supposed to go to,” the ones we’re supposed to “fix” and “save.”

When am I, and when are we, going to realize that maybe we all need saved from our own Savior complexes?

Because these girls continue to teach me, time and again, that I am not here to fix or save them, or to have it all together, or to be their best friends, or to have all the answers.

No. These girls have taught me that I am here to journey with them, to be with them as I am, to be their leader and companion, and sometimes to even say “I don’t know.”

And these girls have taught me that in so many ways, they are wiser than me, and they have so much to teach me, about love, community, and being a Christian who acts out of love, not out of a shallow need to validate myself in the eyes of God.

So yesterday, as I finally took time to work on my prayer life, I thought about my girls and all they have taught me and all the things they have challenged me to confront. I thought about this project we will be undertaking together, and I hoped and prayed that it would be every bit as transforming for me and my mentors as I hoped it would be for my girls.

And this is the prayer I prayed for them:

Thank you for my girls, for the ones that love me and challenge me, the ones that trust me and are uncertain of me. Thank you for teaching me through them, about grace, love, mercy, my own prejudices, my own ignorance, my own pain, my own weakness, and also my own gifts, my own strengths, my own leadership.

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Help me grow in community with them. Help me be quick to listen and hear. Help me be quick to embrace and be patient. Help me to open my arms wider. Help my heart to break more and be healed. Help me to keep my mind, heart, eyes, and ears open, and make my feet swift in action and my hands open, calming, and healing.

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You have given me a great gift in this community. Forgive me for taking it for granted, for seeking validation from my own Savior complex instead of through your Love. Thank you for your grace and love, patience and rebuke, strength and humility.

Thank you for reminding me that I learn and love through what I have and what I’m willing to let go. Thank you for showing me that leading is as much about humility as it is about being firm. And continue to fill me with love so that instead of seeking validation through them, I may instead seek to love them all the more, as they are and where they are. Help me to keep seeing and finding you.

Thank you for healing my blindness, making beauty from the ashes of the pain of my soul. Help me to heal from the inside out.

Help. Thanks. Wow. Amen.

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