Interpreters take information from one context and turn it into usable, helpful information in another.
Parents are interpreters. They help their kids interpret what’s happening around them. Kids come into the world without a clue, but they start asking questions as soon as they can talk. “What does this do, Dad?” “What does that mean, Mom?” Parents use their knowledge, experience, and language to help kids understand the world around them. All along the way, they get better and better at interpreting things for themselves. As the kids become more aware of relationships, they start caring more about what other people think, and interpreting the world gets super hard. Striving for independence, pride makes it hard to let their parents help them interpret what’s happening inside them and in the world around them. Right, wrong, or rained out, they ultimately become their own interpreters. They come to their own view of the world, their own ways of explaining things, and their own translation of their story. Many of these interpretations are wrong, leading them to believe lies about themselves and cheating them out of God’s grace and forgiveness. That’s where mentors come in.
Mentors are also interpreters; we help interpret reality for our mentees.
We help them interpret what it means to be a Jesus-follower. To be transparent and vulnerable and, in so doing, connect with other others and with God in a way they didn’t know existed before. We help them interpret God’s Word but also interpret their own stories.
Mentors benefit from evaluated experience. We’ve been through a lot of life. We’ve misinterpreted all kinds of stuff and suffered the consequences. But we’ve learned from our experience. This maturity helps us see things from a longer-term perspective. It allows us to see relationships on the other side of transactions.
We can listen to a mentee describe an ongoing argument with their spouse and interpret what’s happening because we’re above the fray and don’t carry the same history and emotional baggage. Here’s a real-life example. A good friend and his wife were struggling; his wife told him, “I feel like I have no voice in the decisions you make for us.” Years ago, my friend John taught me that whenever a wife says she “has no voice,” her husband hasn’t connected with her feelings. It probably has little to do with the actual decision. Knowing this and having seen it lived out in others, I was able to help my friend interpret his wife’s words (i.e., what she was really saying). And because he trusted me and valued my life experience, he got the message.
Nobody masters the software of people. Only the God who wrote the code knows every detail of every person He made. But after spending a year with a mentor who’s been where they want to go, Radical Mentoring mentees graduate knowing a little more than they did before, and now they have each other…they have a team of interpreters to walk through life alongside. More importantly, they’re equipped to help those coming behind them interpret their stories and make sense of their lives and the God who loves them so pervasively.
Scripture: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)
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