WHAT TO DO IN DRY SEASONS: Part Two

Serving passionately and thirsty within is the shared ache of today’s leader. Part one revealed the holy source of this leadership ache, and offered the first of my three guiding convictions for investing in a leader’s spiritual formation: God desires to personally mentor us. Part two continues with two additional soul care convictions. 

2. Intentionality—not denial of humanity—is a mentoring catalyst.

Recognizing God’s Spirit as the Master Mentor releases a great deal of performance pressure. I believe that insincerity about our humanity—not our humanity itself—is a stumbling block to a mentee’s formation.

Insincerity presents a fictional “us” to others and since fictional “us” is an illusion, it is no wonder that mentees feel discouraged in their efforts to follow our example. In contrast, there is a glorious freedom in living unconcealed. I too am in-formation. I too have cloudy days. I too am wrestling and wondering and waiting.

A mentor’s “I too” is healing.
A mentor’s “I too” is hope-inducing.
A mentor’s humanity is a gift.

In a mentoring relationship, the Holy Spirit is the Master Mentor, and I am a human spiritual companion. Relational intentionality—beyond simply being in the same space at the same time—adds an exponential factor to our shared time as a trio (the mentee, The Mentor, and me).

Yes, influence occurs formally and informally in a wide variety of relationships. Yes, the Holy Spirit advances us in unplanned moments and spontaneous connections. But spiritual mentoring can offer a highly focused form of influence.

My prayerful pursuit as a mentor is neither temporary encouragement nor situational wisdom, but rather a strategic contribution to the leader’s development of moment-by-moment, sustainable communion with God.  

Coffee + time together = good
Coffee + time together + intentionality = great

The leaders who apply for spiritual mentoring desire something beyond what they can receive via the richest of blogs, podcasts, or downloads: they want to be actively listened to and led.

While meeting with mentees, I pray internally as I listen intently to their souls. I ask questions and take notes on what is said and what is unsaid (which is often more weighty).

Before and after our sessions, I reflect on their words, wait in God’s presence on their behalf, pray specifically for them, and often craft assignments for their soul care. Mentoring leaders is active, not passive. Together, we are going somewhere, which is why the relationship is often called spiritual direction.

3. Mystery is a friend of spiritual formation.

My intentionality as a mentor rarely takes a leader in the direction they anticipated. Leaders often become leaders because of their ability to resolve tensions, solve problems, and inspire action. So it is understandable that many leaders enter the mentoring relationship with an expectation of receiving something to do that will “take them to the next level” or “right what feels wrong” or “fill what is empty.”

It is not unusual for leaders to experience a wee (or not so wee) bit of frustration when instead I invite them to explore the power and potential of mystery.

Consider the power and potential of sleep:

  • It is a very vulnerable state in which we close our eyes and relinquish control of our surroundings.

  • We exit the world of concrete productivity, and enter the world of dreams.

  • It is an investment in out-of-control be-ing (as opposed to under-control do-ing) that yields undisputed, high returns in mental and physical health.

Mystery is much like sleep. In mystery, we cannot see clearly and our surroundings are not controlled easily. In mystery, the concrete eludes us and the abstract accompanies us. In mystery, God invites us to abandon the illusion of tangible control, and embrace the reality of His intangible presence. Dr. Gerald G. May offered the following wisdom about mystery:

“When we were children, most of us were good friends with mystery. The world was full of it and we loved it. Then as we grew older, we slowly accepted the indoctrination that mystery exists only to be solved. For many of us, mystery became an adversary; unknowing became a weakness.”

Befriending mystery, can be a counter-intuitive value, especially for highly productive leaders. Multi-tasking is indeed a valuable skill, but by definition, multi-tasking is for tasks, not for relationships.

“God is spirit”: God is not task. Therefore, intimacy with God is something that is grown not something that is accomplished. Which means that mystery is a dearer friend of spiritual formation than productivity. Which further means that intimacy with Jesus is about relational belonging, not task-driven behaving.

Our Resting Place:

We search for spiritual to-do lists and God offers us Himself.
We ask for angst-dissolving answers and God offers us Himself.
We pray for peaceful paths and God offers us Himself.
We desire detailed directions and God offers us Himself.  

Because Jesus really is the substance our thirsty souls are seeking. In the beloved words of a fourth century theologian, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”

Though poetic, it serves us well to remember that in this oft-quoted phrase from Augustine’s Confessions, “find” is still a verb. It takes work to find our rest in God: work from the mentee and work from the mentor.

Though “intimacy with God is attainable, intimacy with God is not accidental.” So our greatest (and most glorious) work as spiritual mentors is continually dwelling in God as our resting place.

God, you are my resting place
As I accompany others on their spiritual journeys
May my speech be the fruit of silence
May my prayers be the fruit of listening
May my love be the fruit of being loved
So that others may find rest in You   

Alicia Britt Chole

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole is a speaker, leadership mentor, author, and founding director of Leadershipii.com, a non-profit devoted to the soul care of leaders in the church and marketplace. Her books, Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours and 40 Days of Decrease, address the fruitfulness of barren seasons and sacred decrease.

Join the discussion

alicia britt chole April 12, 2016 at 5:49am

The endnotes were inadvertently omitted in the posting. :-)

[1] Gerald G. May, The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection between Darkness and Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 132-33.

[2] John 4:24, NIV.

[3] Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick Oxford World's Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 3.

[4] Alicia Britt Chole, “Week 1,” in The 7th Year: A 52-Week Spiritual Formation Journey, Movement Ten: On Sabbath Rest and Prayer Retreats (Rogersville, MO: onewholeworld, inc., 2014), 1:1, www.the7thyear.com.

alicia britt chole April 2, 2016 at 12:27am

Renee Wilson, Chai, Saydana -- thank you for your encouragement!

Tricia -- I could hear your heart through your words. Thank you for sharing. As I read your comment, a resource came to mind that I encourage every woman I mentor to read. It's called Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. You are wise to be attentive to that stuck or paralyzed feeling because often God is whispering to us in seeming weakness.

Saydana March 29, 2016 at 9:00pm

I'm so grateful for your wisdom. Thank you and thank you!

Chai March 28, 2016 at 1:49am

Amazing series, really healing and insightful.

Renee Wilson March 27, 2016 at 1:42am

It is always satisfying to read the EXACTLY's of living life IN Jesus. In my recent journey these past 5 years, I have thirsted and FOUND the ultimate Counselor, Provider, Protector, and KING.
Being a believer and follower for 30 + years, much knowledge has been gained. A turn of relational events has left me TOTALLY DEPENDANT on this GOD I spoke of often. HE IS and WAS and ALWAYS WILL BE, the ONLY ONE TRUE KING.
His Word, His Holy Spirit, His throne room is alive and nothing can compare to His fellowship and teaching. I sit often at His feet and soak in HIM. That action prepares me to fully go OUT and BE the WHO I was designed to be. A minister to those who come into my sphere of influence. Like Jesus said......I speak only what My Father tells me to speak. And so it is for us.......to speak only what His Word freely teaches us to share with the world. Lost, searching, or one seeking direction. God is EVERYTHING!

Brilliant author and excellent article.

Tricia March 25, 2016 at 12:42am

This series was absolutely fantastic, thank you for writing it! I've been going through what seems an extended dry spell of the spirit and as some key parts of my life seem to be collapsing, I find myself paralyzed in making decisions that have to be done. This post was a very good reminder for me to keep drawing closer to God.