Thinking about mentors

I am acutely aware that I am getting older. One very real factor that drives this home is the increase in the number of funerals I could/should attend. Some of these are untimely and way too early.

But, some have been after a long life well-lived. But they still hurt nonetheless.

I just learned of another death yesterday. I had known him since I was in junior high school when I attended summer camp and he was the camp leader. Later, in college, he hired me to be a counselor and subsequently kept hiring me back with increasing responsibility through waterfront and then to be an area director where I led the high school program that involved lots of camping, backpacking, hiking, canoeing and other such fun things among other tasks. Most importantly, whether he knew it or not, he was one of my best mentors.

Mentors are hard to pin down. I think back over my life and I can think of a few people who I believe were very good at mentoring me. The most successful were the organic mentors – the relationship just evolved into that. I have asked people to mentor me in the past and that has not really worked out as I don’t tend to ask for their help and they are not really so engaged in what I am doing that they can offer help just by being around.

But, this man was a mentor to me. When I was working as a young counselor, we would pester him with so many theological questions (it was a Lutheran camp, after all). His answers were infuriating most of the time. Like, “Does it matter?” when you asked if Judas was in heaven or hell.

Now, I understand he was pushing us to a mature faith and not one with so many didactic and concrete questions.

He had his challenges and some of his choices later in life gave me much pain as I had a hard time holding on to him as a mentor. But, when I look at the grand scheme of the time we walked together on this earth, he was a good friend, a kind soul, a strong mentor and someone who will be missed.

I hope he has found peace in his heart. As for me, I am still searching for that.