Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with some teachers and coaches from my high school years. These reunions were so special. These five men and women played a huge role in shaping me and making me the woman I am today. Each of them not only shared their talents and abilities with their students, they shared themselves. They cared about us and invested themselves in us. Although more than 30 years had passed since I had seen most of them, the connection that we shared hadn’t changed. I was again inspired just by being with them.
Throughout my lifetime, God has blessed me with some of His best people to guide, mentor and coach me. I am so grateful for each and every one of them. While I just had the opportunity to spend time with five of them, there have been many, many others. (You all know who you are.) And I am so thankful that God continues to put mentors in my life. Each one of them is a precious gift to me.
If any of you are a Pixar fan like I am, perhaps you saw “Cars 3,” which came out last year. I went to see it simply because I was a fan of the first two installments of the series, but I was pleasantly surprised, as the movie unfolded, that it’s theme was about the power of mentoring.
God always finds interesting ways of speaking to me and one of His ways is through movies. Cars 3 was no exception. He showed me things through that movie that reminded me of the powerful gift that mentoring is. Here are just a few highlights of what He showed me.
Good mentors believe in you.
When Lightning McQueen is faced with the reality that his racing abilities can’t compete with younger, faster race cars he has a choice to make. He can either give up racing or change the way he trains. He decides to stay in the game and seek out a new way to become a better racer. His sponsors recognize that they do not have the ability to take him to the next level, so they sell their company, Rust-eze, to someone who has greater resources and can make Lightning a faster race car. When Lightning arrives at his new training center, the foyer of this state-of-the-art facility is essentially a museum dedicated to his career. His number, 95, stands two stories high at the entrance. He is awestruck.
As I watched this scene unfold the words that ran through my mind were, “They believe in him!” Imagine feeling like you were washed up, a loser, barely hanging on to the only thing you know how to do and arriving at a place of last resort – a place where you would either make it or break it. The last thing you would expect would be a foyer set up as a shrine in your honor.
Lightning McQueen, after seeing this vast display of memorabilia from his career says, “Wow. You really are a fan.” To which his new sponsor replies, “I am a fan of your future.”
That is what mentors are. They don’t see our failures, they see our future. They believe in us in spite of what our “stats” look like and in spite of our “win/lose” column. They see us. They see us for who we are and who we can become. They see our potential. They see in us what we cannot see in ourselves. That has definitely been my experience. And no gift can be greater than someone believing in you.
SIDE NOTE AND SPOILER ALERT: Lightning’s new sponsor turns out to be somewhat of a villain in the story and not a mentor to him at all. But more on true mentorship in a moment. Read on.
Good mentors have good mentors.
Lightning McQueen’s mentor, Doc Hudson (The Fabulous Hudson Hornet) passed away years earlier. But, we learn in Cars 3, that Doc Hudson himself had a mentor named, Smokey. As Lightning longs for direction and guidance he turns to the only one who might be able to guide him like his mentor would. He ventures out and ultimately finds his mentor’s mentor, Smokey.
I can only assume that the mentors in my life had significant people in their lives who mentored them along the way. Their willingness to give of themselves is evidence to me that they have received from the generous love and outpouring of others.
As God gives me the opportunity to mentor others I do so with passion. I want to give to others what I have been given. I want to do my mentors proud by giving others what I have received.
The mentoring relationship is unique in that it’s not designed to be reciprocal. It’s designed to be perpetual. My mentors don’t want to receive from me what they have given me, just as I don’t want to receive from those I mentor. But what I do hope for my mentees, is that they get the opportunity to pour into another’s life. Because as great as it is to receive, it is even greater to give back.
Which brings me to my favorite scene in Cars 3.
There is great value for both mentor and mentee in a mentoring relationship.
In my favorite scene, Lightning talks to Smokey about how bitter his mentor, Doc Hudson, seemed to be after his racing days were over. Lightning’s impression of Doc was that because Doc was no longer able to race he was never really happy again. Then Smokey takes Lightning to his garage. On the way, he too admits that Doc was bitter after being forced to give up racing. He shares that the two of them hadn’t been in touch for many years. But then, something changed in Doc’s life. Smokey started getting letters from Doc and the two reconnected. As Smokey opens the door to his garage, Lightning sees the letters that Doc shared with Smokey posted on the wall. Every one of them was a newspaper clipping or a photo of Lightning. Then Smokey says to Lightning,
“Racing wasn’t the best part of Doc’s life, you were.”
Feel the power in that statement. A mentee struggling to compete, doing everything he can to stay in the game, hoping beyond hope that he can still somehow make his mentor proud, and then he hears those words. He was the best part of his mentor’s life.
There is great value in the mentoring relationship for both mentor and mentee. Mentoring may not be reciprocal in the sense that we receive exactly what we give out. But, mentors do receive! This is a perfect example of that.
When we’re young it seems that life is all about winning and losing. It’s about our “stats” and what we accomplish. But what we get from our mentors, from those who believe in us and who we are as people, is the understanding that life is not about our performance or our abilities, our successes or our failures. It’s about our connection to others. It’s about the value we have and can give to others, about how we can invest in them, believe in them, and remind them of their own value and worth. Doc’s ability to give of himself to Lightning changed his bitter feelings about his own career and focused his life and his heart on what was important, his relationship with Lightning.
This is what we pass along to those we mentor: That our true value is in who we are and our goal is to use that value to help others find theirs.
One of the things I love about this scene, is it’s contrast to the moment when Lightning enters his sponsor’s training facility. Both moments are awe inspiring for Lightning. Both of them show Lightning his value and importance. But only one is truly genuine, deep, and based on a personal investment rather than a monetary one. Doc was so proud of being connected to Lightning that he couldn’t help but share it with the one who had poured so much into him. And Smokey was so proud of being connected to Doc, he couldn’t help but honor the relationship he got to see between Doc and Lightning by posting those clippings and articles in a place he would see them every day. The glitzy, jaw-droppingly beautiful museum in the foyer of the training facility was no comparison to sacrificial, uncompromising, unconditional love that was displayed in newspaper clippings and faded photographs in that old garage.
The best part of my life is not about what I have accomplished or not accomplished. The best part of my life are the people God has connected me to. He has connected me to others through my successes and through my failures. Those are the means through which He has made some of the most important connections in my life possible. And as I get older, I see more and more of the value I possess – not for myself, but to invest in the lives of others. I want others to know their value so they too may pass it on to others.
I am eternally grateful for the mentors in my life, the five people in the pictures above and the countless others who have poured into me. Thank you. You believed in me. You saw and still see in me what I cannot see in myself. You have given of yourselves and invested in me time, love, and attention so that I will be a better me. Your gifts to me are priceless and I in turn am investing what I have into others so that your legacy lives on. Thank you. May God bless you as He has blessed me through you.
Lord, thank you for wiring all of us for connection. Thank you for showing us the value of mentoring through the life and ministry of Your Son and through the gift of Your Spirit that lives in us and connects us as followers of You. Father, you specifically chose people to serve as mentors to me. Thank you for knowing who would be the perfect fit. Bless them as you have blessed me through them. And thank you for the opportunities you give me to mentor others. May I be as faithful as those who have poured into me and may You be glorified through every relationship. In Jesus’ most precious name, amen.