At some point every Christmas season, I pick a night to watch my all-time favorite Christmas movie, Little Women.
The 1994 version stars Winona Ryder and Christian Bale, and I love every minute of it. I love the story, I love the music, I love the setting, and I love how it drips with personal nostalgia.
It always takes me back to high school, and college, and all the different seasons of my life. It also captures the joy and the melancholy of Advent, which is why I watch it each year.
Something else that I love? The character Marmee. Played by a 40-something Susan Sarandon, Marmee is a strong and wise mother of girls, and she always knows the right thing to say.
She is the kind of woman I aspire to be like, and the kind of mother I hope to be. She is also the kind of woman I want as a mentor.
For many of us, when we picture our ideal mentor, we picture a woman like Marmee: wise, warm, a faithful wife, patient mother, natural leader, great listener, and possessing great inner strength. We want a mentor who always knows what to say, who always cites the perfect Bible verse, and has just the right words of comfort to make it all better.
That’s what many of us want. The problem is, she doesn’t exist.
Marmee isn’t just fictional; she’s unrealistic. Most women—most humans—don’t possess all those strengths. They might have a lot of them, but their personality might not click with yours, or their area of expertise might not be the same as yours, or their schedule might conflict with yours.
There are a lot of reasons why it’s tough to find that “perfect mentor,” which is why so many of us feel frustrated by the search. We want a mentor, but we can’t seem to find her.
I have felt this frustration a lot. I yearn for a woman who can speak into my marriage, my mothering, my faith, my writing, and my teaching, but there aren’t many women in my community who can check all those boxes.
After wrestling with this desire for a number of years, I have come to two realizations about this “perfect mentor”:
1. The only perfect mentor is Jesus. At the risk of giving a tidy Sunday school answer, I think it’s worth stating that Jesus is the only one who has it all. The ache we feel for a perfect mentor is, deep down, an ache for Christ. He is the only one with perfect wisdom, who understands us and our circumstances completely. This truth reminds us to adjust our expectations for human mentors, and to always remember the true reason for the ache: it’s a signpost pointing to Jesus.
2. Get a mentoring squad. If no single person fits the bill, connect with different types of mentors for different areas of your life. Perhaps you know a woman with tremendous spiritual wisdom, or deep life experience, who can mentor you in your faith or your marriage. Maybe you also know a woman with experience in your calling, who can serve as a professional mentor in your life. Find women who possess pieces of what you desire in a mentor, and then make time to learn from each of them.
Of course, the key to finding a mentor (or mentors) is summoning the courage to ask. This might be the hardest step of all, because the fear of rejection is real. But the truth is, it’s an honor to be asked. Older women delight to bless the younger women in their lives, and more importantly, this is God’s design. Titus 2 instructs older women to shepherd younger women, so we can draw confidence from God’s intention. We were never meant to do faith and leadership alone, but within a vast array of support, so don’t worry about finding that one perfect mentor. God gave you an entire church for that.