I’ve been asked to mentor someone at work. In fact, over the last four years I’ve been asked numerous times to mentor someone at work. This year it was formally added to my performance objectives to mentor someone at work – that’s the beauty of work, it defies logic.
The troubling part for me is that basic elements are completely missing from the equation – “who” and “what” are never really explained and I can only guess that my corporate host wants some part of me to be infused into the lives and experiences of others and honestly, I don’t know where to begin.
It was easier being a mentor to fifth grade boys, they learn by watching. Take them camping, take them out for a hamburger, build a black powder rifle or a checkerboard with them...basically live with them and let them visually soak in every aspect of your life. I’m not sure how to do that in an environment where you’re legally not even supposed to notice if you’re meeting with a man or a woman, a sinner or a saint, a follower or a faker. The very characteristics that make a person unique are intentionally to be left aside leaving me nothing but stark, grey, “relativism” to work with. In a world where “all things are equal”, middle grey quickly becomes the baseline.
At work, one of the most sought-after aspects of “me” is my stories and experiences and how that rich tapestry of 50+ years somehow ties back into the day-to-day dealings of an office furnishings industry. My job is to somehow crack open my heart and my head and spill all that sunshine on the people around me, and the thought of it horrifies me. They don’t know that all that pretty warmth and sunshine comes from a violent firestorm located 93 million miles from earth. If they did, they’d likely recant their desire to learn from me.
My stories are a fine balance between the life of a dreamer and that of a pathological liar. Are they willing to walk that line? My stories came from watching a dear friend die at far too young an age from a cancer that neither he nor his family deserved. They came from a lightning bolt on an early June morning. They came from a friend who called me in the middle of the night from the bridge where a decision to live or die was being made. They came from the homeless guy that I sat next to and shared my coffee with and from the kid in Ecuador who was sizing up my feet because he wanted my shoes. My stories come from the endless nights and endless beatings of a special daughter with a special condition, those stories are not about her – they’re about the desperate level that we occasionally operate at…they’re a coping mechanism. Are these people willing to open themselves up that much?
As a mentor of fifth-grade boys, my lessons were easy: I’m a sinner, saved by the grace of a loving God who has a pretty cool plan that I’m the most important part of (but not the biggest part). I have to somehow convey this without saying “God”, without the admission of “sin” (sin is a relative thing you know) and everyone deserves “grace” simply because “its fair and equitable”. It seems to me that the fundamental principle that makes it all work is flawed and I don’t’ know where to begin.
My life is a precarious testament to the Jesus that I so want to meet, so want to share. I want to share him because he’s the only way to make sense of so many disparate things in such a complex system. If simplicity is the key to explaining complexity then Jesus is the answer to life – but that message is easily dismissed and expressly forbidden in my performance objectives. I’m left with nothing but stories without purpose, examples without meaning and complexity that will reject simplicity. The words of William Blake ring in my heart:
This life’s dim windows of the soul
Distort the heavens from pole to pole,
And goad you to believe a lie
When you see with and not through the eye.
My life has been shaped such that I now see through the eye and the cost of that exchange was mighty. It caused God to cry (John 11:35) and drives brilliant minds to suicide and my task now is to share that wisdom and I tremble at the implications. I was unsure that anyone would care to listen so I asked a dozen people if they’d be interested in being mentored, I assumed only two of the dozen would accept.
I was wrong.