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Mentoring (with Revisions)

After having spent my teens and early twenties experiencing all kinds of life hardships, including depression, addiction, rape, the death of my sister, and more addiction, God intervened into the chaos that was my life and transformed it. This isn’t a story about my salvation, although that certainly warrants writing about; this is a story about how all the things I had experienced were able to be offered up to another with open hands in service of her own transformation.

I met Amy at a Steps group meeting at my church; she was attending group for the first time, having actually just stepped off a plane - moving to Texas from New York in search of the light and joy she saw already in her sisters who had come to know Jesus. I was leading a group that morning, so something very maternal and open was at work in my spirit. When one of her sisters – who I knew already – saw me from across the lobby, she walked up to me arm in arm with Amy and said, “Kelly! Will you be Amy’s sponsor?” Without giving it a thought or a prayer, I agreed.

I don’t remember having any regrets or any feeling of “buyer’s remorse” about taking on this enormous task – you know, walking alongside someone while they sit under the transforming power of God, facilitating a real life pilgrimage out of darkness and into the presence of faith, hope, and love. Instead, I bought in with everything I had. To this day, the experience I shared with Amy still gives me chills and tears of awe and wonder. Being given a front row seat to watch someone's life change from the inside out with the help of the divine is not something one forgets, much less regrets. 

After group ended that morning, I saw Amy sitting off by herself, waiting for a ride. I asked instead if she wanted to go with me to El Chico for lunch while we got to know one another over chips and queso. She hesitantly agreed, and off we went. Amy's body language communicated how very awkward and terrified she felt. She was sort folded in on herself, hunched over a little and looking down for the most part, and completely quiet unless I asked her a question. I went into this meeting knowing nothing about her story, not a thing, but Something told me to tell her my story first. Interrupted once in a while by our waitress, I let Amy in to some of the deepest and most sensitive areas of my life. I watched as she leaned in closer, unfolding herself a little, and engaged more with affirmations and head nods. When I got to the part about having been sexually abused, she sighed big, and said, “Me too.” I knew then that this connection was no accident. 

As Amy traded me her story for mine, I listened with sadness as she told me of the abuse, darkness, and brokenness that had marked her life up to this point. God certainly had his work cut out for him, and part of me needed the same answers that Amy was seeking, for my own sake as well as hers. This initial meeting between Amy and I revealed a lot to me about what the next weeks would hold. She was hurting, and doubting the existence - and certainly the goodness - of a God who watched over the life she had led without intervening or protecting. I sensed that Amy was silenced by her own demons, the reason for her quietness being more related to her soul than her personality. 

Over the next thirteen weeks, we met together every three or four days to answer the questions in her work book, pray over the process, and talk about what God was revealing. I could see, as plain as if she’d been wearing a sandwich board with the words written in black and white, that she was growing in her trust of me and of God, finally allowing some hope to permeate the memories and despair she’d grown to carry. She began opening up more, telling me details I hadn't asked for directly, but that she wanted to share. Her prayers grew in comfortability, honesty, and belief. She started reaching out to me, asking for advice or prayer, without me having to check in on how she was doing. Amy was growing and unfolding right before my eyes. 

I should mention that somewhere around week four of that Steps semester, God intervened into the chaos of Amy’s life during one of our church’s baptism services and saved her too. Her heart broke wide open; she radiated love and joy and awareness of her sin and need for Jesus. True to her nature (as I would come to learn), her countenance was readable like it was a marquee over her life. She was different.

During the weeks of inventory, oh the dreaded inventory that comes with the fourth step, Amy was provided six different assessment sheets divided by categories: resentment, abuse, sexual sin, guilt and shame, fear, and grief or loss. Heavy topics, especially when people are four weeks into knowing each other. I remember two times specifically during this process that our relationship accelerated forward with divine help.

Once, during her resentment section, she was confessing and then praying about a family whom she lived with for a while when she had to get out of her own house. While she was seeking refuge in these people’s home, instead she only found more abuse. The family’s older son began to sexually harass and assault her and her sister, but when they came forward, the family sided with their son, rejecting Amy’s story outright. Any wonder why this ended up on a resentments inventory? Anyway, she started praying, reluctantly turning the offense over to God; it was difficult for her to even speak about it at first, much less let go of this thing, these people, who had hurt her so badly. But all of a sudden, with no objective reason one could have seen with their eyes, the atmosphere in the room changed, and her prayer changed. Her tone of voice shifted, got a little louder and a little warmer. She began to pray for healing for them, blessing for them, and believing for her own healing. When she said “amen”, we both looked at each other with eyes fixed wide open and said, “What. Was. That.” We both knew, God had shown up and supernaturally answered her prayer as it was leaving her lips.

The other time, Amy was processing through her guilt and shame. Even by twenty years old, don’t we all have enough to cover multiple pages with the things we feel guilty about or ashamed of? She was no different, and we were nearing the end of the pages. This signaled to me that we were in the section of things that she didn’t want to write at first – the shame section. Even though the words had already been written down and were right in front of her face, she got … tongue-tied, I guess is the best way to describe it. But she literally (and I don’t mean figuratively) couldn’t speak. She couldn’t read the words on the page or tell me in her own. Immediately, something told me that we needed to stop and pray, because this was enemy attack. She was getting ready to bring to the light something that had haunted her for her whole life, a weapon that the enemy had been using successfully to keep her in darkness, doubt, and held back from the fullness of joy available to her in Christ. I prayed with more spirit and fervor than maybe I ever had. I demanded that whatever was attacking her go straight to the feet of Jesus to be dealt with and silenced. I asked in Jesus’ name that her tongue be loosed and her mind be free to remember and confess. As we “amened” together, she started reading the words just as she had with every other line on the page – without problem. Again, we knew God had shown up to say yes, right as we needed it. She confessed that she felt dirty, used up, and would never be good enough to be loved by God because of the abuse to her body and soul she had endured. No doubt that if she had kept that in the dark, only in the secrets of her mind, the enemy would have whispered those words to her every day of her life. But supernatural things were happening in this girl’s life and God was clearly not going to be stopped.

I say our relationship accelerated forward with divine help because you don’t experience the palpable presence of God with someone and it not knit your souls together in some way. We continued through the rest of the weeks, growing in our friendship and in our knowing of one another’s deep darks. When we finished, I handed her twelve envelopes of letters I had written to her after each session we had previously had. We read them together and saw, chronologically, how God had transformed and transformed completely the silenced, angry, broken girl I first met into a joyful, loving, and open new creation. It was spectacular and I’ll never forget it.

When it came time for the next baptism services at church, Amy wanted to be part of it – to tell her story to fifteen hundred people and proclaim all that God had done for her. She asked me to baptize her, and I wept. I remember the joy and honor I felt standing next to her on that stage – my own knees shaking from being in front of that huge crowd – and rejoicing in my heart that I got to witness light breaking into the darkness, and overcoming it. At our church, when baptizing someone, after we ask if they believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior (and they agree), we respond, “Then it is my joy to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And it really was, a joy I knew that I wanted to have over and over again.

Mentoring Amy those few months birthed in me a call to ministry, which altered the trajectory of my life completely. I finally had vision and a passion: helping other women come into the freedom and joy I knew to be true of a child of God. Mentoring changed me, maybe as much as it changed Amy. And there’s no going back now. I’ve tasted the first fruit of this life, and I want the feast.

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