I was having lunch with a friend of mine the other day, and we started to discuss our investment in two young men that we mentor. We reminisced on how mentoring was so much easier when our mentees were younger and how, now that our young men are teenagers, things have gotten a lot harder. The little boys who used to run up to us and give us a hug now seem to be too cool to even be seen with us. The excitement on their faces when we used to pick them up has been replaced with a look of annoyance and despair. Our young men used to love spending time with us; now it seems like they'd rather be shot than to be seen with us.
My friend seemed to be at the end of his rope. He had tried a number of ideas to engage his mentee, and none seemed to work. I know the feeling, and odds are that if you speak to any parent of a high school kid, they know the feeling too. Anyone who has worked with high school kids has been there before. Teenagers are tough! They are trying to be gain their own independence, but aren't quite mature enough yet to handle it. They are exploring the world and figuring out where they fit in. They are breaking away from authority and venturing out to experience life on their own. It can be messy, that's for sure.
As I sat across from my friend listening to him vent, a lot of things went through my head. I thought about the question, "What is our job when mentoring young men who do not have a father?" I thought, "Is it our responsibility to make sure they succeed in life?" And an even more dangerous thought came across my mind: "Is this even worth it? Are we even making a difference? It seems impossible."
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit showed up and spoke some truth over our conversation. The Lord reminded us of The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 and challenged us to really explore what He had for us in that passage.
A quick synopsis of The Parable of the Sower: a sower goes out to sow seeds. He starts tossing seeds all over the place. Some get eaten by birds, some land on rocky soil and couldn't grow. Some of the seeds got burned up by the sun and some of the seeds got choked out by the thorns. But some of the seeds feel on good soil and they began to grow to produce grain. Some produced a little grain, some produced a little more grain, and some produced 100x the amount of grain that was expected!
I think this passage has a lot of gold for us to dig up when it comes to mentoring and dealing with youth. I think God's word answers a lot of the questions that my friend and I were pondering.
"What our job when mentoring young men who do not have a father?" - I think this passage makes it clear that the only job of the sower was to toss seeds. Whether you are a parent or a mentor, the only thing we can do is teach our kids what we think is best according to God's word. Our only job is to toss out as many seeds as possible.
"Is it our responsibility to make sure they succeed in life?" - I will answer my question with another question. "Who is responsible for making the seeds grow that the sower tossed out?" The Lord! This should be great news. It is not up to us! It's not our responsibility to make sure our kids succeed in life. That's God's job! The only thing we can do is toss out as many seeds as possible and trust that The Lord will take care of the rest.
"Is it even worth it? Are we even making a difference? It seems impossible." If you toss out 100 seeds and only 1 seed catches, is it worth it? Yes! Of course it is! What if that one seed that catches ends up multiplying 100 fold? You got yourself a world-changer. I believe that whenever you invest in the life of another person, that investment will always bring back a positive return. You might not be around to see it, or the person might not have the skills to express the impact that you had, but rest assured that you are making a difference. It might not even look like how you wanted it to look, but God's way is always better than our way. My own testimony is proof of this. People poured in to me year after year after year, and no visible fruit was evident for a decade! But God is faithful. He was doing work behind the scenes. Nothing is impossible with God. He can soften the hardest of hearts and can bring home those that are the furthest away.
So yes, it is worth it. Keep tossing seeds out and trusting the Lord with the results. Have hope that your investment is in good hands with Jesus Christ. It is not our job. It not our responsibility. It isn't even on us if things don't work out as we planned. God is in charge and he has a plan that is far greater than ours. He is good and gracious. He is sovereign over all. As long as we keep loving on his people and pointing them towards Jesus, I think we're going to be in good shape.