The word, mentor, comes from the Greek verb, meno, which means “to be with; to remain; to stay” or, perhaps best translated as, “to abide.” Fundamentally, a mentor is someone who abides with someone else. This immediately reminds me of the movie, The Big Lebowski, and the famous line by Jeff Bridges, “The dude abides.”
If we continue to ponder, however, a famous passage of scripture comes to mind: those who abide in love, abide in God (1 John 4:16). Mentoring, then, seems to have a strong connection with loving others and, consequently, with the God of love.
My mentor is named Carson Brisson. He is a professor of Biblical languages at Union Presbyterian Seminary and, other than my own father, no one has impacted my professional identity as a pastor more than he. In fact, a few months ago, I heard him give a lecture about the concept of mentors; that’s how I learned the Greek root of the word!
After he had finished teaching, Carson came and sat in the back of the classroom beside me, my talented wife, and our then seven-month boy. Carson, who has two sons of his own, now grown, eagerly embraced not only Ginny (one of his favorite students) but also the opportunity to meet our baby boy. You can picture his smiling eyes shining bright with joy.
You can also imagine my son, sitting on my lap, fixing his bright blue eyes on Carson. Yet this little boy was very, very serious. Unblinkingly, he stared with such intensity that, for the first time that I can recall, this professor of Biblical languages, who is paid to deal with words and to speak about words, was utterly at a loss for words. As my son continued to lock eyes in noiseless concentration (or was it prayer?), he reached out his little hand and, ever so gently, began to tap, tap, tap on Carson’s hand. The holy, blessed silence continued. Tap, tap, tap.
Finally, Carson looked at me, now with tears in his eyes, and said, “Andrew, your son is mentoring me.”
Today, it strikes me that Carson used just the right word.