Hope for Halfway: Some thoughts for mentors
At my house last week, it was a little crazy. The previously uninitiated had Covid, while I played taxi-driver to my husband who had a newly broken thumb, all while trying to complete some key projects. So, by Friday evening I was entertaining my favourite escapist activity: holiday planning where I’d rather be. A walking holiday of the South Island, Aotearoa New Zealand sounded perfect – mountains, bracing air, and greener than green as far as the eye can see. As I traced my imaginary route, I came upon this, the only available accommodation in one remote spot:
Yes, when my feet are sore and my muscles are aching from an active day traversing wild terrain, yearning for a bath and a hot meal, we arrive at Hope Halfway hut! It looks like a Hobbit’s garden shed, and according to the facilities listed, there is water (from the stream) and a non-flushing toilet, but at least there seems to be a mattress!
As we reach the mid-point of the year and June begins, I wonder what “hope halfway” is looking like for you, and for those you mentor? Reflecting on the landscape of your year this far, has it been rocky ground you’ve covered or a gentle hike so far? How are your muscles holding up to the workout? Maybe you’re making fabulous progress, thriving on the journey’s challenges, or perhaps a mattress in this rustic shed is looking really good right now!
As the apostle Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, he wanted to encourage them concerning the path they were on. These believers had received the good news and been adopted into the family of God (Rom 8:14), their community was learning and growing, but life wasn’t suddenly easy – in fact the book of Romans engages with the twisting, turning, potholed road they were on. Paul offers them encouraging perspective in 8:24-25,
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
So, Paul is reminding these folks that they were saved in hope – it’s in their DNA together as followers of Jesus –
Right now, in the halfway, they don’t see it yet.
They can practice an active and enduring patience in the meantime, knowing their future is held in God. Hope is secure, even when unseen, and these believers can exercise their agency and play a part.
Here in WA, I’m not facing the severity of difficulty the Romans faced – I’m complaining about imaginary walking holidays without my preferred comforts! But I think we all know what it’s like to be in the middle – to be halfway and not seeing realisation of our hope yet. Sometimes it’s in the small things, but sometimes it’s in really difficult, messy and complex things.
Perhaps you or someone you mentor:
- Has a team with great potential, but right now things are pretty bumpy…
- Are working on an important initiative, but the funding just isn’t coming through, it’s all stops and starts…
- Has stepped through a door of opportunity only to find things aren’t unfolding as planned…
- Has lost someone or something precious and the next steps look uncertain and heavy with grief…
Can you think of a situation where you’re not at the beginning any more, but the finish line isn’t in sight yet? What do you notice about in-between times?
There are many things we could say on this topic, but I’ll just note three helpful handles from Romans 8, and I’m sure you can add some of your own.
- In this chapter, Paul names their reality, and we can be reminded that we don’t have to pretend things are other than they are. God meets us where we are, not where we’d like to be. We can’t see what we hope for right now, Paul says, as he names the difficulties they face. To lean into hope, we need to deal in reality. How might you do this well? How can we host a brave and safe space for mentorees look at their reality?
- In the last verses of chapter 8, Paul names the anchor for their hope in the in-between,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.It’s a pretty comprehensive list of obstacles, isn’t it? Yet the anchor Paul gives for hope is that we cannot be separated from God’s love. The most true thing, the most fundamental thing is that we have never been alone … God’s love stands in solidarity with us. How does this anchor resonate with you? Why do you think connection to God’s love is ultimate here, rather than God’s control, or God’s will, or something else? How might we support a mentoree’s awareness of hopeful anchoring?
- Hope halfway. In my sessions journeying with mentorees over some time, inevitably the question arises at some point “how do you understand what you are called to do?” There’s nuance to how folks answer this, but a theme that frequently emerges among healthy people with sustainable rhythms is that they see what they do as partnership with God’s activity in the world. Like Paul, they are people at the coal-face of day-to-day life, assuming that the Holy Spirit is already up to something – even if they’re not sure what yet – and they get to join in! We’re not alone as we do this, and hope is a shared resource among us as Jesus-followers that we can lend or borrow from each other along the journey. Mentors and mentorees are invited into patient, hopeful, active waiting in-between – hope that is a practice, not a pipe-dream.
Mindful of reality, anchored in God’s love, and collaborating together with the Spirit’s work, we can embrace responsibility while releasing control. Hope enables us to take up the invitation to do our part, wholeheartedly and proactively, while not grasping anxiously to people or outcomes with a closed fist. That’s grace-filled, sustainable, hopeful work for the in-between, whether we find ourselves at a Hobbit’s hut or the Hyatt. How might you take this mid-year encouragement with you into your mentoring?
– Em Seinemeier, 2023