Formations 08.08.2021: The Most Important Lessons

Proverbs 4:1-10, 20-27

Did you have a mentor (or two, or more) when you were a teenager? Even if we were blessed to have had loving parents with the means to provide for our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, honesty demands that we acknowledge that they didn’t do it alone. Who were the coaches, the grandparents, the schoolteachers, the youth ministers, and others who poured a little bit of their lives into yours?

Maybe these people taught you things specific to the nature of the relationship: the books of the Bible, your family’s history, or how to shoot a free throw. Usually, though, we remember most the lessons that slipped in under the radar. We learned the importance of being honest and respectful. We learned the value of hard work. We learned how to win with grace and lose with dignity. The Bible calls these things “wisdom,” and we could all use a refresher course every now and then.

Jessie Green is a single mom in Springfield, Missouri with a heart for teenagers aging out of her area’s foster care system. She is currently working with two young men, aged seventeen and eighteen, donating two to four hours per month and meeting face to face with each teen for an hour every other week. She is committed to teaching her charges the kinds of life skills that you can’t find in a class or a textbook.

This kind of attention can mean the world to the recipients of a mentor’s attention, but Green confesses that it is also something she does for herself. “Outside of being a mom or my job, I really didn’t have anything that I did for myself, for my identity,” she says. “It really motivated me to find something that was important to me.”

It is an experience that Green recommends to anyone. Her advice to others is to “jump in with both feet. It seems very intimidating but it’s not and it will be one of the most gratifying things that someone can do with their time.”

Mentors can change everything for a young person. Even in biblical times, people understood that young people can benefit from a devoted teacher. The book of Proverbs was written in part to teach young men to become capable members of the royal court. In that light, there are occasional admonitions—such as in today’s passage—to listen to the instructions of one’s elders and establish priorities that will lead to whole and successful lives. Get wisdom, the biblical writer says. It is more precious than anything else, and it will guide one’s path rightly.

And thank God for the people God sends into our lives to teach us the most important lessons.

Claudette Riley, “Single Mom Mentors Teens in Foster Care so They Have a ‘Chance at Successful Life,’” Springfield News-Leader, 24 Jul 2021 <https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/2021/07/25/single-mom-mentors-teens-foster-care-so-they-have-chance-successful-life-casa-southwest-missouri/7882785002/>.

Discussion

• What challenges did you face in your adolescent years? What lessons do you wish you had learned then?
• Who have been your mentors? What did they teach you? How?
• What does the biblical writer say about wisdom, honesty, and doing the right thing?
• How can adults serve as role models for these things, not only for teenagers but for each other?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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