I was walking towards the gym at Duke in early December. Night had fallen over the campus. It was cold enough to merit a light jacket and, not unusually, I was talking out loud to myself. When I do, I sometimes get stuck on the same phrase. I'll repeat it out loud over and over. This time it was a question: What is it that I've heard artists say the most to me? In the twelve years that I pastored, officially and unofficially, at Hope Chapel, there was one thing I'd heard artists say repeatedly.
They wanted to be mentored.
It didn't matter whether they were 22 and recently graduated from art school or 62 and professionals. They all wanted a mentor. Some wanted an art mentor. Others wanted a spiritual mentor. Still others, masters at their craft, even after longs years of practice knew they had something to learn from their cousins in their craft. Maybe it was a new calligraphic hand. Maybe it was theater actors wanting to learn how to act for film. Painters wanted to learn how to make prints, while poets sought help writing novels and classically trained ballet dancers requested assistance making the transition into modern.
Deep down in our souls we long for a mentor. We yearn for someone who has traveled further down the path that we seek out. Against common perceptions, we are never too old to want or need a mentor.
As I remained outside the gym, pacing back and forth on top of a half wall, I talked to Steven, the Laity Lodge director, on the phone. I told him I wanted to change the focus of our retreat for ministers to artists. I told him I wanted us to swap stories and models for mentoring.
Some of us would be able to share successful stories of being mentored. Others could share dismal stories or stories of holding on to the ache of wanting a mentor but never finding one. Whatever our context, church or school or professional society or coffee shop, all of us are in relationship with people. All of us have something to share.
Steven agreed to the new focus. That night I wrote Luci Shaw and asked if she'd be game. She said yes. I asked her if she would share her artist's biography. So many of us become intimated when we see an artist as a "final product." We think, "I could never become like them." But everybody has a beginning. Everybody has a village of helpers and a series of circumstances, some planned, many unforeseen, that shape us into the person we are today. Rarely, however, do we get to see an artist's winding thrills of unexpected victory and sudden loss, or the slow, bitter slog through day after day of doing the same thing, maybe 10,000 times, in order to get it right, maybe to fail, maybe to learn from our failures, maybe to resent our failures and to see nothing good from them.
I told Luci I'd love for her to share how she started out as a child. Who helped her along as a teenager or a young adult? Who mentored her? Whom has she mentored and what has it looked like? How has God mentored her?
So that's what we're now going to do on March 4-7 out at the Laity Lodge. We're going to explore models and stories of mentoring. We'd love for you to join us. It'll be a great opportunity to learn from each other. Luci and I will each give brief talks, but mostly we want to give space for everyone to share as much as possible. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. And as always, please do pass this along to someone you think might profit from coming.
Oh--and I have a few new features on my blog. It was time to get a slight makeover.