Written by: Daniel Tay (Photos by: Zann Lee)
Lessons as a Mentee
When I was 17 years old, I was serving passionately in youth ministry and school. On the outside, it might have seemed like I was thriving, but it was all a façade — in reality, my heart was stale on the inside and it reeked of decaying masculinity.
Deep down, I knew that God had marked me for greatness, but here I was numbing myself to the constant indulgence of lust instead of love; my heart was a gaping void to which loneliness found its home. Most frighteningly, my passion for God was primarily a means to an end: it was my way of ensuring that my ministry was a success.
I was broken inside and wanted to get out of this burgeoning mess. But I was shackled with fear: would I be rejected if I was vulnerable to others about my issues? I was out of control, yet I shuddered at the discipline of accountability. There was a chasm between who I was and the man I knew God wanted me to be. As I couldn’t seem to make sense of my dysfunctions, it made me feel so small and helpless.
The reality of such stagnation soon became too terrifying, propelling me to seek out a mentor.
As a young man, my heart was looking for how men — real godly men — think, feel, and behave. I was looking for someone to guide me and navigate through the seasons of my life and, most importantly, remind me of who God is and who He has made me to be.
Due to my limited social circle, there were only a few males whom I thought I could connect with and learn from. But after much deliberation and prayer, I decided to approach my cell leader, Joseph (or Jo), about mentoring me. Jo was someone I had observed to be sincere, wise, and was convicted about Jesus. I concluded that this was a man I could learn from. Today, it has matured into a seven-year (and counting) mentorship.
Mentorship: a biblical framework to invest in the next generation
The brilliance and beauty of mentorship lie in its biblical foundation: to play a part in maturing the next generation to be lovers of Jesus and for them to fulfil their calling.
In his letters to Timothy, we see how Paul mentored and empowered the next generation. Paul constantly reminded Timothy of their relationship and the call upon his life. He also provided godly counsel on how to deal with the seasons in his life and the ministry that was entrusted to him.
The pith and core of mentoring are profoundly relational in nature, and the mentee is continually being affirmed of who God has made him to be and cheered on to live a purpose-driven and significant life.
I can confidently say that through these seven years, I have tasted the goodness of being mentored and I have come to learn first-hand the power of accountability.
Accountability: the field for freedom and sanctification
This was an area in my life where I struggled the most — my heart often waddled in the waters of fear. Back then, I thought: if I bottled my emotions and thoughts and refused anyone entry to my heart, I could fix myself. There were thus moments with Jo where I would cower away and not address the elephant in the room. I recall times where we would sit down and I refused to allow what I wanted to say to leave my tongue because I was weighed down by the thought that I had let Jo (and Jesus) down again.
The problem was that I had misunderstood accountability. More than being liable to someone of higher authority on what has happened in my life, accountability is about being postured to be vulnerable to others about our sanctification process. We may still struggle with deceitfulness of the heart and lust of the flesh, but we must choose to step outside of self-pity and disdain.
Bill Johnson aphoristically defines freedom this way: “Freedom is not the ability to choose whatever you want, but is the ability to choose what is right.” When we remain accountable to others, we are choosing righteous living. We courageously wear our broken hearts on our sleeves, in which our scars and their stories are proof of our reliance on the Holy Spirit to finish the work in us for His purposes (Romans 8:26–28) and that we have the Word of God and are intentionally walking in the light (1 John 1:5–10).
Accountability is not a sign of weakness but a mark of courage and boldness. It testifies of the soul’s willingness to live as a child of light.
In the moments when I expected judgment and shaming, Jo would constantly tell me that his view of me has never changed and that he still loved me for who I was. As I chose to expose the ugly parts of myself to Jo, he would remind me that he was still invested in me and was willing to see me live out the call which God has created me for. Through accountability, I experienced how deep the love of God was — for in my faithlessness and weakness, He would still be faithful and fierce to love.
Mentoring produces a humble heart
As I look back on the seven years of mentorship with Jo, I must confess that there have been moments where I walked out on the commitment to be accountable. I still struggle with it and the idea that there is a person who knows everything about my life and exactly what buttons to press to get to me is uncomfortable.
However, as uncomfortable as accountability can be, it highlights the flesh’s need for control. It is truly one of the best ways to experience personal breakthroughs because the heart is made to be humble, recognising its dire need for Jesus.
As the heart sits under the authority of the Word to be taught, reproofed, corrected, and trained in righteousness, we can mature to be men of God that are adequate and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17). In mentorship, someone helps to facilitate such an encounter with the living word Himself, providing hope for the next generation to be rooted in their identity in Christ and to live out lives of significance.
If you’re a mentee, may you find the boldness to be accountable and stay true to the mentoring process. Each conversation is an invitation to experience what true freedom is. In coming just as you are with an unveiled heart, you’re availing yourself to be transformed more and more like Jesus’ — tender to the Father and confident in your identity as a child of the King.