Look around and see who holds hands, who acts kind to one another, who opens the door, who prays for one another or for other couples.
LIFE IS MUCH EASIER WHEN YOU HAVE SOME HELP FROM THOSE WHO ARE FURTHER ALONG THE
Their wisdom and insight will prove to be invaluable in your own journey together. Mentoring is becoming even more important as much of the population today comes from homes that experienced some kind of fractured family.
You may have never lived with both a mother and a father. How are you supposed to know what an intact family looks like? Who is going to model for you how to work through conflict if your own parents decided to abandon their marriage?
How do you find a mentor?
Look for a couple who has the love that you’d like to have. We have experienced many mentors: Bill and Tina, who equipped us while we were dating and engaged; Tom and Barbara, a couple we lived with to save to go to seminary and who simply modeled the daily habits that build a long-lasting love; Jim and Sally Conway, professors and authors who equipped us to balance marriage and ministry.
Look around and see who holds hands, who acts kindly to one another, who opens the door, who prays for one another or for other couples.
We would stand in the back of the church and scan the crowd for greyhaired couples who were showing fond affection and tenderness, then we would sit behind them in order to meet them. During greeting time, Bill would ask, “You look in love — how did you do it? How do you create lasting love?” Usually, they said, “That would take a while to answer. Why don’t we have lunch?” For a young couple on a tight budget, this was a double blessing — free advice and a free lunch!
Look for a couple who has done what you want to do.
Some careers have unique marital pressures: physicians (especially OB-GYN!), politicians, ministry and clergy couples, CEOs and entrepreneurs, and media or military personnel. Look for a couple who have not only survived in your particular fishbowl but thrived and found a life that has served them and their families well.
Look for a couple who lives in your world.
They will be stronger mentors if they live in your neighborhood, are a part of your work world, or attend your church. You will be able to see them in a variety of circumstances, and they will be there to answer those day-to-day issues and questions that may crop up.
A great way to discover a marriage mentor is to join a marriage enrichment class offered by your church or by organizations like United Marriage Encounter or Marriage Savers. (See www.smartmarriages.com for many options.)
By attending a class or conference with a group, you will meet couples who are interested in having a strong marriage, and some of those couples may have some wisdom to share.
Look for a couple who shares something in common with you.
We have three sons, and we have enjoyed having mentors who raised all boys. We have benefited from mentors who are clergy couples and ones who are writers and speakers. We have enjoyed attending sporting events with sports-minded mentors, exercising with them, or even vacationing with them.
Look for a couple who is willing.
They don’t have to be perfect — no couple is! They don’t even necessarily need to be trained marriage mentors or professional marriage educators. They just need to have a strong, stable relationship themselves.
Make a list of two to five couples who might be willing to mentor you. Decide which couple might be the best fit and invite them to dinner. See how the dinner goes.
Ask them questions about how they met, what advice they would give to newlyweds, and how they have navigated tough circumstances or obstacles. If this dinner goes well, make a follow-up appointment for coffee or dinner. Ask them if they would be willing to spend some time with you.
You might suggest they lead you and some friends through a marriage enrichment book if they enjoy teaching. You might ask if they would just be willing to meet for a meal on occasion or be available for questions as they arise. Be sensitive about the amount of time they might have available for you. Decide when you will get together next, and make sure to thank them for their willingness.
Mentors can have an incredibly powerful role in your life and in your marriage.
When Bill was at Talbot Seminary, he took classes from both Jim and Sally Conway. They were best-selling authors at the time. A couple years after graduation, when Bill accepted the call to be a lead pastor at age 28, he knew he needed the wisdom of a seasoned pastor.
He made a list of 10 godly men, then ranked them 1 to 10 on who had done what we were trying to do: lead pastor, writing, speaking, and had a happy marriage and raised godly kids. He phoned Jim Conway and made a request to meet for lunch once a month.
Bill simply brought his questions each month, month after month. These lunch meetings soon extended to double dates where Sally also poured into my heart.
Then the Conways said to us one day, “We believe in you two. We believe you have a strong enough marriage to be marriage communicators. We want to build into your life and ministry by co-authoring a marriage book with you.”
They kicked open the door to publishing for us.
In addition, as the Conways got to know us better, they saw that we had a need to have surrogate parents. Of our four parents, only my mother had faith in Christ. Jim and Sally offered to believe in us.
When I was writing my first book for women, Jim knew my alcoholic dad had never read any of my writing, never bothered to hear me speak, and had no understanding of what it meant to be a director of women’s ministry or pastor’s wife, so Jim said to me, “Pam, if you need a dad to believe in you, to acknowledge God’s giftedness in your life, to applaud you, pray for you and encourage you as you serve Jesus, I will be your dad.”
God has a mentor or a mentor couple to pour into your life — and God is also calling each of us to mentor and pour into the lives of individuals and couples he places on our hearts and in our lives.
Adapted from 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make by Pam and Bill Farrel (Harvest House).