I’m a “check list” kind of girl. I write checklists so that I am productive, but also because I am quick forgetful. Every Sunday evening, I sit down at my desk to determine what I need to prioritize and get done in the upcoming week. I outline the entire week, including the reading and writing that is required to stay on track for my studies, any articles that are due, any additional reading or writing that I am working on, and what (if anything) I can manage to blog that week. Sometimes, I even include in my weekly planning, the days that I am going to grocery shop, get to the gym, wash my daughter’s hair (because that is a chore, trust me!), and clean the house. Some days, I actually get through my “To do” lists and I am indeed grateful. At other times, I look at my lists and think, that’s not realistic and say to myself, “It’s not going to get done” and I need to be okay with that. The reality is that productive people are never really done with anything. At best, you and I continue to inch towards a vision, a purpose, or a goal of some sort, and if we are Type A personalities, we set other goals to work towards.
Sometimes I do get overwhelmed when I think about all that there is to be done, but I’m not as rigid and I don’t get as frustrated as I used to. Several years ago, I would get beside myself if I didn’t get through my lists and I would sometimes even get angry that everything in life appeared to pile up. My poor attitude towards work carried over into my relationships with others. I would avoid certain people because they were too much work and I would lash out if I felt like someone was wasting my time. Then God started regularly reminding me that people are indeed the purpose of ministry, and if my heart was not right towards his people then all of my “to do” lists did not matter. I read authors who encouraged me to embrace the interruptions of my days. I read spiritual leaders like Henri Nouwen who encouraged me to find rest in the Lord and to practice the discipline of presence.
These revelations of doing verses being have radically shaped my attitude towards mentoring. I had found that sometimes all that is required to mentor effectively is availability. When someone calls or asks or cries, mentoring God’s way demands that we show up! We must be willing to put our “work” aside and be present with the person God has led to us. When I was in the military, we often referred to this attitude as having an “Open Door Policy.” The “Open Door Policy” meant that unless I was in a meeting, my office door literally remained opened signaling that anyone could come into my office at any time and expect to receive my undivided attention for a reasonable period of time; expect that I would carefully consider their question, comment, or concern; and expect that I would provide an adequate response in a timely manner. As mentors, we need to cultivate an attitude of availability and openness with those God has allowed us to influence. We also need the subtle reminder that people are more important than things (even our “to do” lists) and we would do well to model Jesus’ example by welcoming those who come to us, instead of turning them away.
What challenges do you face concerning doing verses being? Are there any intentional practices (like the “Open Door Policy”) that assist you in being more available to those you are called to mentor?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013