Friday, February 29, 2008

The Culmination of Discipleship

I always wondered about the details of discipleship. I heard Dr. Grant say it is: "being accountable to and for someone." I heard Susan Hunt say-in the context of Women's ministry-it is a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman. Either way, I felt discipleship was portrayed as a mutual learning experience with a kind of give-and-take relationship. It was not simply the mentor mentoring the mentee. Though I always heard it to be the case, I never really understood how discipleship could be so mutual a learning experience, such a simultaneously, edifying endeavor, an equally, encouraging scenario. This I never understood-at least not until I walked through my mentors' hard times right alongside them.

It seems to me that there are stages of discipleship. One is the intentionality stage where either one or both parties covenant to interact and take part in each other's lives. I say one party right along with both, simply because it is often the case that souls such as myself either do not think they want to be mentored initially, or they do not realize that someone is actively mentoring them. In the intentionality stage, I think of things like e-mails, phone calls, and coffee get-togethers where mentor and mentee sit down with the express purpose of "getting to know" each other. Then maybe an invitation to dinner and an opportunity to see home life-or at least the surface of home life. In the intentionality stage of discipleship, I am still convinced that the majority of responsibility for intentionality falls on the shoulders of the mentor. If it were any different, would the mentee need mentoring?

Somewhere along the way intentionality gives way to a more relaxed involvement in each other's lives. It is no longer necessary to schedule coffee every other week because interaction seems to be more of a given, a dependable guarantee of the open door policy. Intentionality is not altogether thrown to the wind by any means, rather it takes on a new and necessarily more creative role. Familiarity does not do away with intentionality, rather it necessitates it all the more. With the involved interaction stage comes a closer and more vulnerable look at home life, character, and peculiarities. When I think of involved interaction I think of assisting in a move-whether it be books or an entire house-I think of grocery shopping, games, and planning Christmas parties. Involving each other in the ordinary stuff of life, whatever happens to come up, making sure the other person has an opportunity to help or take part if it is at all appropriate or possible. In this involved interaction stage, I still see the weight of intentionality falling on the mentor's shoulders, but an equal willingness must be displayed by the mentee to not only accept the interaction, but to actively involve his or her self in it. This is the beginning of mutual edification.

Not until recently did I recognize something that I will call intercessory discipleship. It is the relationship that has made its journey through the oft-times monotonous ordeal of intentionality, to the enjoyable involvement of just being a part of one another's lives, and then is confronted by the yet uncharted waters of trial and hardship. The foundation of trust was laid early on, but never tried so unforgivingly as with the advent of heartache and trial. To truly know a person is to see what that individual is when he or she can no longer help it. It is the showing of vulnerability by the mentor that ultimately is the most profound lesson, not so much the telling of it. The telling resides in the intentionality stage, even in the involved interaction stage, but that is merely the foundation. The "AhHa" moments come strongly and unexpectedly to the mentee after having witnessed how to walk through adversity well. The intercessory part comes when you know the person so well that words are unimportant, nothing needs to be said, there is a mutual understanding, and in that is comfort.

That is where the mentee, properly trained by a godly mentor, exemplifies what Christ said to His disciples in Matthew 10:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master...

It is a culminating opportunity when disciples can lavish the love and intentionality that has been shown to them back on their mentors. Is this the "be all" and "end all" of discipleship? No. But it certainly is a wellspring of hope and comfort along the journey of life.

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