The spiral phone cord tangled together as I listened to her. “People just go out in public without any thought to what they’re wearing. This morning a girl had on a half top and shorty shorts. I muttered, ‘Someone forgot to finish getting dressed’ as I walked past.”
I snickered. Her tone of voice, the perfect sarcastic jab, even picturing how her eyes would bug out just a bit and the trademarked curl of her lip—it painted a picture I wish I’d seen.
Yeah, I’m not proud of that.
I need to say something before I go any further. This woman was like a second mother to me. She loved the Lord, shared that love with me, and encouraged me, often daily, to keep Him foremost in my mind.
I called her my Titus 2 mentor. And she was. She was also a dearly beloved friend. When we had the flu, she’d drop soup, soda, and Kleenex with lotion on the porch—drop and run. Once when my pregnancy gag reflex kept me from being able to clean up a child’s messy pants without vomiting, she drove over and not only cleaned up the boy, but she also took home his clothes and washed them for me.
He wasn’t even my child.
She taught me to love my husband, to love my children, to value and practice purity and sensibility—to keep my home. Did I say I loved her? Well, I did.
It’s one of the reasons I was tempted to ignore certain passages of Scripture when my husband and I studied a point of theology. Because one thing I knew for certain.
It would mean the end of our friendship.
I’d lose my mentor.
My children would lose the only local “grandmother” they had.
Call me overly dramatic, but I really felt like I knew what it must be like to be told to deny Christ or lose your family. Of course, I didn’t. But that’s how serious it was for me when I turned to my husband and said, “We have to do this, don’t we?”
And I was right. You’ve no idea just how much I hate to be right sometimes.
Everything I expected to happen did—and a few more I hadn’t. At the time, the rejection, the accusations, the utter abandonment by someone I loved and respected so much hurt more than I ever imagined possible.
It took years before seeing her in the grocery store and having her turn her back on my children (because of me) didn’t cut. Deep. It took even longer to stop reaching for the phone when I had a question about some point of Scripture or some parenting issue.
Birthdays, graduations, weddings—all those things that I’d always expected her guidance and wisdom as I navigated those new waters… She wasn’t there.
I didn’t weep when my daughter got married. That’s not my style. But when I saw all the wedding photos and not one of them included the woman who had loved my kids so dearly… then I wept. Standing in the shower until the hot water ran cold, I sobbed.
From deep truths of Scripture to simple suggestions on nutrition, they vanished in the wake of an email explaining why we’d decided not to return to our little fellowship.
An email I had expected to end that way.
I just hadn’t expected it to be so ugly.
And it was.
But you know what? Today I’m thankful for that part of it. Today I realize that it needed to be as brutal as it felt. I told a friend once that it felt like my mentor had fired me. She had. And today, I’m grateful.
Because you see, kindness would have been a different kind of cruel. I might have been torn—wavering. Eager to please the woman who really had invested so much in me.
I might have chosen her mentorship and friendship over what I believe is truth.
That’s a tough one to admit. Just sayin’.
But like so many things, time has taught me much. Recently, I’ve been pondering the loss of that mentor—that friend. And I see things with fresh eyes—more mature ones. What I see is the hand of God, protecting me even in my pain.
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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Fired by My Mentor
That story up there? It’s one of many I could tell—stories where my wise, wonderful, Titus 2 mentor also showed a very flawed, human, sinful side. Criticism, gossip, pride… oh, how she fed my pride. She fed it until it became obese—ravenous for the next “fix.”
We’d spend hours on the phone. Some of it was discussing how to solve some parenting problem. The tail end would likely be discussing the poor parenting practices of “Jane” at church. I’d hang up knowing that even with my faults, at least I was trying—at least I didn’t let my kids wear those clothes or talk that way to me.
I cannot tell you how painful it is to admit this stuff. In fact, I don’t even know how aware I was of it over the years. That over-stuffed pride numbed my conscience, I suppose. If I’d thought of it, if I hadn’t been so puffed up and arrogant, I might have seen just how ugly things were.
Today I can.
I can spot three clear blessings of being “fired” by her.
Learning to hate gossip.
Until I’d been severed from her influence, I didn’t see gossip for what it was. I held the oft-spoken opinion that if what someone says is true, it is not wrong to speak it. Of course, that truth also included my opinion. Ahem.
But removed from my gossip partner, I found that I was less inclined to do it. Again, not because I was suddenly so great and godly but because when you’re removed from a tempting situation for a time, you can see the temptation when it returns. And what I saw, I didn’t like.
Have I managed to eradicate gossip from my life? No. I probably never will. But I feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit now in a way I never did back then. And you know, that makes it easier to resist the temptation.
Kindness… I learned it again.
This is probably the hardest one to admit, but during those years, I forgot how to be kind. If a mom struggled with parenting a difficult child, it was because she didn’t do it right. She needed to be stricter, more consistent. When a teen girl showed up looking more like a red-light district advertisement than one of the King’s daughters, I didn’t need to utter a word. My scathing opinion radiated I’m sure.
But removed from the influence of one who fed (possibly without realizing it) my natural arrogant self-righteousness, I began to see it for what it was. Once I’d been fired, I learned just how much of a thunder-puppy I’d been. I learned how ugly that was. And if you don’t know what a thunder-puppy is, I’ll define it for you.
Thunder-puppy: (n) A person who is often considered wise beyond his or her years and has confidence in his or her knowledge of how everything should be without any grace in how they insist others apply that knowledge.
I realized recently just how unkind I had been during the first fifteen or so years of my marriage, and when I traced it back, I realized it was due to her influence.
Relying on Scripture alone.
There’s a certain irony in this one. You see, I was a part of a fellowship that prided itself on having only the Word of God with which to interpret Him and His Word. We didn’t have “creeds” or “catechisms.” We were oh, so spiritual that way.
Yet, over the years, I’d learned to call and ask her opinion of this or that. Ask her what it meant to live out a verse. See how she lived out this passage. During the first fifteen or so years of marriage, my understanding of Scripture was filtered more through her lens than anyone else’s.
But when she “fired” me, I learned to go to the Word alone instead of someone’s opinion of it. Add to that another irony.
I’d first been drawn to our fellowship in another state—by another mentor of mine.
Missouri—1985. I was fourteen and starving—I thought for Biblical understanding. Looking back, I was starving for the Lord. But I assumed that the prayer I’d recited when prompted a few years earlier had done the trick, so I must just need to understand the Bible better.
I’d go to Mrs. Jan’s house and we’d talk. You know, she never got tired of the questions I’d ask about this or that. But man, I grew weary of her responses. I’d say, “What do you think about speaking in tongues?”
She’d never answer like I wanted.
Instead, she’d say, “Well, let’s go see what the Bible says about that.” And in seconds, a Bible would be open and we’d be poring over the words of the Word, trying to figure out just what God had to say about it all.
It happened over and over and over. I’d ask about baptism, KJV only, wearing pants, head coverings, tithing, grace vs. truth. Mercy vs. justice. Never once did she answer with anything but, “Well, let’s see what the Bible says about it.”
Cooking dinner? She’d stop and pull out the Bible. Eating dinner? She’d reach over for it and read between bites. Driving in the car? She’d have her son look up this verse or that. Doing homework? Same.
I’ll never forget the day she said, “Well, let’s see what the Bible says about that,” and I blurted out, “I don’t want to know what the Bible says. I want to know what you think!”
She didn’t reprove me. Nope. Mrs. Jan just waited for the light to flicker on. And it did. I distinctly remember saying, “Ooooh…”
My other mentor was like that somewhat, but she knew that I knew we go to the source of God’s wisdom—the Word. It wasn’t her fault that I relied so much on her—that I was so lazy. But I slowly became so over the years.
Being cut off retrained me to go to the Word and the Word alone—first, anyway. Only after that did I ask an opinion or for help. It taught me to rely on God again—God rather than man (or woman!). This one thing alone was worth the pain of rejection.
Learning to turn first to the Bible again was worth getting fired.
I need to clarify something.
These things in my life—they’re my fault. Another young woman under my mentor’s guidance and influence would likely have had an entirely different experience. This woman loved the Lord. She urged me to do the same. But she wasn’t good for me, and I never saw it. I do now.
So as much as I miss her, and I do terribly sometimes, I’m grateful for that day when I sat down and wrote the email that would change our lives.
I’m grateful that she fired me.
Please, if you take nothing else from this post, consider this.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)
If the person you go to for Scriptural counsel does not “stimulate” (as the NAS puts it) us to do what is good and right, then regardless of their love of the Lord and a heart’s desire to serve Him, that person is probably not the best choice of a mentor for you.