She wore white—a cotton t-shirt and jeans cut off at the knees. I’d been told not to wash my hair with shampoo, not to use hairspray or cosmetics, not to wear perfume—nothing with a scent.
I felt ugly sitting there in the sweats and a t-shirt she’d left waiting for me in her garage—with my hair washed and hanging in my face. No makeup. Just the plain, normal me.
She asked me a lot of questions that day—encouraged me in many ways. I’d picked up the deplorable habit of saying “god” in a rather irreverent and dishonoring way. She didn’t admonish me with Scripture. I think she knew that I needed anything but to be whipped with the Word right then.
It was a rough time in my life. I don’t want to get into why, but I arrived lost and floundering. And when I threw out yet another irreverent reference to the Lord I loved so much, she offered gentle admonition. She looked up at me with grief filling her features and said,
“You’re too lovely to talk like that.”
I wonder if she ever knew how it affected me.
I’d been reproved about various things in my life—often. By friends, family, those in the church.It’s part of a young person’s growth, I suppose. And though, like anyone, I never liked it, I didn’t object to it in principle.
On the other hand, I remember being at another woman’s house a few years before that. They did things differently than my family did. Sometimes when I was there, I talked about it with her—compared the differences.
Look, I don’t want to pretend I that I couldn’t have sounded like an insufferable know-it-all. No, I’ve no doubt that I did. At twelve, you are still learning how to be tactful.
However, I’ll never forget her lost opportunity—the words:
“I can’t wait for you to grow up and have a house of your own so I can come over and criticize everything you do,”
They crushed me. No adult had ever deliberately spoken unkind words to me—words intended to wound.
Yep. She lost the chance to teach a girl hungry to learn.
If she’d just said, “Do you realize you sound critical?” If she’d just said that, I would have been mortified—but in a good way. I would have apologized. I would have asked how I could learn without being offensive.
But she didn’t do it. She only ensured that, no matter how much I wanted and needed to learn, I’d never ask her. And you know, not because my pride was hurt, although I would have assumed that as a girl. No, it would have been because you can’t trust someone who will lash out at you like that.
She had much to teach me, but not the lessons I think she would have preferred to teach.
You see, from her, I learned why it’s important to be patient with youth. And, in a twist of irony, I’m fairly certain that without her, I would have been even more naturally impatient than I am today.
From her, I learned forbearance with those who are unkind. From her I learned what kind of person I didn’t want to be, how I didn’t want to respond to annoying people, how inquisitive chatterboxes can annoy people—so when I had half a dozen of my own, I’d be a little more understanding.
Instead, a woman housebound in a scent-free bubble showed graciousness and that made me want to learn them—to emulate her in that way.
One single day with a woman I never saw before or again—it changed my life. Just a piece of it, sure. But it definitely changed it.
When I deserved a scolding, she gave me that “soft answer” and it definitely turned away the temptation to anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
She didn’t set out to be a mentor, I’m sure. She just wanted to encourage a young girl who was lost and alone, trying to understand what the Lord was doing in her life. But one day, with one kind sentence—she became a mentor whose only “session” with me never left my mind or heart.
They both taught me from Ephesians 4;32, to be precise.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Unlikely mentors… both of them godly, beautiful women.
No, really they were. One couldn’t handle the harsh, artificial scents of the modern world–they’d kill her. But her gentle spirit, her loving acceptance, her kind and gracious reproof–no lovelier perfume has ever sent its way heavenward.
As for the other woman, well, her lessons never left me, either. I’m sure I sound unforgiving, but I’m not. I promise. But I’ve kept the day—and several similar instances with that woman—in my mind over the years because I knew how easy it would be to become just like her in situations like those.
And maybe some future girl who received my impatient, snappish, ugly retort would get it on the one day she couldn’t see past it. Maybe it would be that one last thing that sent her running far enough away from Jesus that she couldn’t hear that soft, tender call for my harsh, strident tones echoing in her mind and heart.
I don’t want to be that person. I just don’t.
They say a mentor is someone who “disciples” you over a long expanse of time. Both of these women did, although I haven’t seen either of them in thirty years.
How did some unlikely “mentor” make a difference in your life?
I decided that I needed an infusion of Ephesians 4:32 in my life, so I’ve created a coloring page in both NAS and KJV.
To get your free coloring page, just leave a comment (about unlikely mentors and your version preference), and I’ll email it!
To get my other coloring pages, click the image above or go HERE.