We are made up of many things: our genes and the physical and mental characteristics they grace us with, our experiences and the choices we make within them that mold the character and make the man [or woman] we now present to the world. In who we are we exhibit small and large bits and pieces of all those who have passed through our lives, both physically and in the various forms of media through which we meet them, from books and articles to movies and television, and now in email and weblogs. It is this last media connection that I want to look at today.
From our parents and siblings, who were the first to give us parts of themselves, then friends and teachers, television and movie characters, as well as favorite characters in books (think of a whole generation influenced by Harry Potter while kids from my time period grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys) and comics, our chosen heroes in sports or other areas of endeavor and later the coaches and mentors who shaped our efforts. For my purpose I want to look at Christian preachers, teachers, and disciplers as a distinct set of coaches and mentors (I think the analogy is apt), especially as they are now appearing on the web, in weblogblogs.
As we move on in life, coaches and mentors become much more significant to us. The part of their contribution that I want to look at today directly relates to the level of permission we give them to confront us or to try and change our behavior, and in the end, us.
It is a given that friends enjoy the ability to confront each other. The fidelity of our relationship, part of why we are friends in the first place, allows us the latitude to say what the other doesnt want to hear. But if you think about the underlying concept of a coach or mentor, confronting failure or places that need improvement (saying what you dont want to hear) is the essence of their raison dêtre (reason or justification for being). That is why I prefer to think of people like the apostle Paul as my coach and mentor. Using that image I give him permission to correct me, to call me to task, and even to make me seriously uncomfortable.
The same thing happens with those whom we welcome into our circle of weblinks, those blogs we frequent time after time. We go back to a writer because for one reason or another we have found something in them, their writing, their opinions, their transparency perhaps, that strikes a cord in us, and as a result we give them permission to challenge us, to ask us questions that go to the heart of our being. Now we may not acknowledge that directly to them, but by our returning to read them, time after time, we are treating them as coaches and mentors, as distant friends if you will, in whom we have imbued a level of trust.
It is probable that over the months and years of our reading blogs that the list of those we regularly visit will change, at least for most of us. By the grace of God, certain people will move in and then out of our circle of mentors. This is to be expected, since each person has a unique gift to give us and as we change and grow our needs will change also, hence those to whom we look may also need to change.
So, both those whom I visit and those who visits me will vary, which doesnt mean I wont visit old friends and mentors once in while and likewise have people visit me again after a hiatus. Who comes and goes is not as important as how well we befriend and mentor them while they are here. After all, being reformed, I believe that God sends my visitors here for a purpose and if I am true to the gifts and calling God has given me, I will be a true friend and mentor to them at the same time.
I can hear the objections. You dont even interact with most of the people who regularly visit your site, so how can you make the claim that you are a friend and mentor to them? Good question. The definition of a friend I find most useful for this framework comes from Homer (Greek philios), where in his Odyssey (4.29) a friend was someone you welcomed or entertained as a guest and therefore finds its truest meaning in hospitality.
With that in mind, by writing with a mentoring and coaching style, not being (except on rare and necessary occasions) dismissive and never rude, but always open and engaging, in essence hospitable, am I not being a true friend to all who come and stay awhile in my domicile?
So, that is my goal from now on for Beyond The Rim , to be a friend, mentor, and coach to all who accept my hospitality, to those whom God sends my way. If I fail in that charge, do not hesitate to call me to task, for if you are a regular visitor you can be as much a friend to me as I am to you. Let me know when I am too much Bob Knight and not enough John Wooden (basketball examples of a turbulent and sometimes boorish and aggressively confrontative coach versus an historic example of the best kind of mentoring.) And don’t hesitate to comment and enable us to interact on a more personal level.
Grace and peace to your day and may God always help you find the person you need to interact with at each nexus point of your life.