Commander Data, the android Starfleet officer from Star Trek: The Next Generation, wanted to be human. He made friends with the crew of the Enterprise, but no one best helped him understand what it meant to be human than Captian Jean-Luc Picard. Obi Wan Kenobi, the epitome of a mentor in pop culture today, was trained and instructed by Qui-Gon Jinn. In turn, Obi Wan taught Anakin (which didn’t go over all to well) and later Luke Skywalker. Luke in turn was later taught and instructed by Yoda in the powers and use of the Force. The Doctor, from Doctor Who, has companions that he teachers and takes on journeys with him in time and space, learning more and more about themselves and the world around them. Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod had Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramierez (an obscure reference to the little known sci-fi movie Highlander). Ralph Machio’s The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi (not sci-fi but still important) and Corey Matthews had Mr. Feeny (okay, that’s Boy Meets World, again, not sci-fi).
Throughout the tales and stories of our era, and millennia before us, the protagonists of lore have always had mentors. They’ve always had a teacher. They’ve always had someone to guide them along the way in better understanding themselves, in better understanding what they are to do, in better understanding how they are to live.
The word mentor comes from the character Mentor from the Greek story The Odyssey. Odysseus leaves his palace and family to fight in the Trojan War. He leaves his friend Mentor to help instruct and watch over his son Telemachus. Mentor teachers and instructs this young man in what it means to be a wise and noble ruler. He walks with Telemachus through tough times and helps him discover who he is.
One of the things about mentoring is that it isn’t always intentional while other times it is very intentional. We work side by side with other people. We help teach them along the way. Other times, we take time out of our day to sit with people, to talk with them, to help the process what they’re going through.
Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is a marvelous example of intentional mentoring. He takes these 12 ramshackle guys and calls them to follow him. Along the way he instructs them in what it means to follow him. Twice he sends them out to do his work. Other times he teaches them in riddles while still other times he’s quite blunt with them. Yet the whole time, he walks with them and helps them understand themselves better and fuller in who they are in light of God.
The thing about mentors in sci-fi (and other stories as well) is for the most part, mentors must leave or be left behind in order for the one being mentored to fully grow. Obi Wan had to die in order for Luke to be able to grow in his knowledge of the Force and meet Yoda. Yoda had to die so that Luke could then step forward in a new role in leadership. Data left Captain Picard in an effort to save his mentor. In the last gasp of Data, Data fulfilled what he had worked towards, being human, in his self sacrifice to save Picard.
Jesus himself had to leave his disciples. They didn’t want that. They wanted to stay and learn more from him. Yet Jesus himself says that it is good for him to go. If he didn’t, then the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come so that they could grow even more. They had to take that step forward and grow in their own knowledge of their selves before God and take on new roles of leadership. Eventually the disciples would mentor others in the faith.
Mentoring takes time. It takes thought. It takes intentionality to be effective. I have had mentors for years. And I try to be there and help others understand themselves and grow as well. My desire is to see people grow in their knowledge and understanding of who God is. My desire is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. And as I work with mentors, I too see how I’m growing and learning and in turn am able to help mentor others along the way.
Sometimes we feel inefficient. There’s no way we can be an Obi Wan or a Yoda. There’s no way we could be a Picard of the Doctor. You don’t have to be them. Be yourself. Be who you are. You have been given your experiences in life which in turn can help others walk through their life situations. You have been given what you need right here, right now to do so. You don’t need the starship Enterprise. You don’t need a light saber or knowledge of the Force, and you don’t need a TARDIS. You need to be you and allow God to work through you to mentor someone else along the way.
How can you be a mentor? How can you be mentored?