Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mentorship - Shaping People's Lives

Is there someone in your life you respect or admire? Someone who is a positive influence?  Someone who helped shape the person you are today because they cared enough to take time to listen and teach you?

Parents, aunts, uncles, family friends, teachers, grandparents, and pastors all make a significant difference in the life of a child if they are willing to take the time to listen patiently, teach, and when necessary, lovingly discipline.  As adults we can hone our talents, gifts and faith if we are able to find a knowledgeable person who is willing to mentor us in our quest to learn and grow. A great example of the influence an adult can have in a child’s life is seen in the initial rule of King Joash of Judah (2 Chronicles 23–24:1-14)

Let’s take a quick look at Joash’s relatives leading up to his reign. Joash’s grandfather, Jehoram, starts his reign by killing all his brothers – presumably so no one will usurp his throne. He worships pagan gods, leading all of Judah into idolatry. Eventually he is afflicted by what is termed “a severe intestinal disease” (2 Chronicles 21:18) and dies an agonizing death. The last verse of 2 Chronicles 21 sums up his reign succinctly by stating, “...No one was sorry when he died.” Ahaziah, Joash’s father, reigns as king of Judah for only one year before he is killed. The historical account of Ahaziah includes the words, “...He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord...” 2 Chronicles 22:4. Trust me this really isn’t the way you want the historical record of your reign as king to read!

Joash’s grandfather and father aren’t exactly a positive influence in his life, but wait until you hear about his grandmother! When Athaliah (Joash’s grandmother), finds out her son is dead she goes on a killing rampage targeting the entire royal family because she doesn’t want anyone ruling in her place. Talk about dysfunctional family!

Joash is just a baby when his grandmother goes on her killing spree and would certainly have perished. His aunt who is married to Jehoiada, the high priest, intervenes and steals Joash away, hiding him in the temple. He remains there for six years under the care of his aunt and her husband, Jehoiada. (2 Chronicles 22:10-12)

Eventually Joash’s evil grandmother is overthrown. At the tender age of seven Joash becomes king and is guided, taught and mentored by Jehoiada.  He reigns for 40 years and, “...Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:2) Now that’s what you want to see written on your epitaph as king! As long as Jehoiada is alive Joash thrives under his instruction and walks faithfully with the Lord.

Next week we’ll look at the flip side of Joash’s story. We’ll see what happens in the absence of a mentor and explore the damaging effects of peer pressure.

Early on in my career I worked as a secretary for the co-ordinator of a department in one of the hospitals in Winnipeg. I was in my early twenties and still very impressionable. I learned many lessons from this wonderful lady. She modeled exemplary work ethic, positive attitude in the midst of a stressful and chaotic department and she always had a kind word of encouragement for her staff. Each morning she would come into the office with a big grin on her face and say, “It’s a great day”, and you knew she genuinely meant it.

By watching her I learned you can choose the attitude you have each day (and a positive attitude is way more fun than a negative attitude), I learned to work hard and to serve people and I learned to manage stress in the work place (that one took a few more lessons over the years before I mastered it, but I caught the early glimpses of what stress management should look like).  It’s been 20 years since I worked for her but last year I took a few minutes and wrote her a note explaining the impact she made in my life and how much I appreciated the things I learned working for her. 

Joash’s life could have been very different had it not been for the patient instruction of Jehoiada.  My career may have been very different had it not been for the influence of this lovely lady in my early working years. Never underestimate the impact you can have on someone’s life. Look around you. Is there a young person you can help by offering some guidance? Do you need someone to mentor you in your faith journey? Has someone new started in your office and needs a little help?

Comment below if you’ve mentored someone or been mentored yourself.

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