ELI AND JOHN THE BAPTIST. By human standard, they will not make the list of standard godparents. Would Samuel have chosen a father of two wayward children, if he were to make his choice freely? Would Andrew have string along with a lesser man who admitted (publicly) at the prime of his ministry that he "could not untie" the shoestring of the real master? Eli was a Judge in Israel, who was not popular like his predecessors like Gideon, Deborah, and Samson on the battleground. He was just a priest in Shiloh, at a time there were less revelation and vision from God.
He was even quick to dismiss a "deeply troubled woman", Hannah, who was in prayer for a drunkard, while he left his sons to go to rot. John the Baptist, looking at his fashion and dietary sense was a figure that exuded paranoia. You wouldn't want to introduce your growing child to him or have him stand beside you on your wedding day as one of your sponsors. They aren't the fancy looking fellows, your celebrity pastors, or elite accolades, who could fit in straight into our dreams or the ones we have for our children. They won't be there to offer fancy gifts to our children or us on birthdays and important anniversaries. Their lives, by all human standards, do not fit into what we hope our children to become. They don't just cut it! Looking critically at the results they produced, we see a lot of mistakes we make when choosing our mentors at important periods of our lives. I have been chosen and chose mentors and godparents not looking out for the right qualities. Looking at the choice of these two fellows for the important assignment of mentoring, I see a lot of qualities we should look for when choosing our life coach at baptism, confirmation, marriage, and even in our career.
Every good mentor we meet along our journey in life are hardly by accident, but solely by divine arrangement. The story may begin with them; our lives may never be inspired by who they are, but who they are not. Let us look at some of the qualities that should inform our choice of who we choose as our mentors in life citing the stories of Eli and John the Baptist.
Willingness to be engaged
Eli was not going to be overwhelmed by his failure as a father before agreeing to take Samuel in as his mentee. Hannah was not going to hound him around to fulfill her vow to the Lord in dedicating her son to God. Eli readily agreed to take in Samuel, recognizing his duties as a mentor. He knew he was going to sacrifice his time and energy to ensure the will of the mother for her child to be dedicated to the Lord all the days of his life. He knew exactly that he must be available to help the boy discern the call of God, especially when he is naïve and confused. Eli knows his part, and he played it well according to the script of God.
At baptism, confirmation, and matrimony when we nod in affirmation of our spoken intention to journey with the recipients of the sacraments, do we really mean it? Are we aware of the task ahead and prepared for it? The only recorded exploit made by Eli in the Bible was all about Samuel. He had to mentor him by being there for him when he was naïve to discern God's call. Eli was not going to make the mentorship about him. If your mentor or godparent is not eager to celebrate your accomplishments and offer encouragement in your moments of setbacks; if he reschedules appointments with you every time you try to seek his assistance in life; if he prefers to spend more time recounting his own experiences and conquests more than listening to you or engaging you meaningfully; if he finds your increase (and probably his decrease) hard to figure as a divine arrangement - then someone must have made a mistake along the line.
The Message must not be in the shadow of the messenger
Every good mentor is divinely positioned to unwrap messages, which our experience or maturity may not comprehend. John the Baptist got himself in the spotlight by staying in the shadow of the message - behold the Lamb of God. He was never going to prioritize his relevance at the expense of the message he had vowed to proclaim in words and deeds. Rather than draw attention to himself, John the Baptist pointed Andrew and his other mentees to the "Lamb of God". He chose to decrease, while the message, the truth increases. He was not going to live in vain glory that comes with ephemeral limelight. In contrast to our celebrity pastors of today, John the Baptist was not going to tell us who he is, but who he's not! Yes, he is a forerunner to Christ, who lived a very humble life for the sake of the Gospel. Yes, he could see heaven open and the revelation of God's begotten son. Yes, he could speak unequivocally to "brood of vipers" and corrupt people in the society. Yes, he was the greatest of all prophets born of a woman, but he is not the Lamb of God, and he was ready to make that public!
Some spiritual mentors today, prefer to have their pictures vividly magnified, while relegating Christ, the Lamb of God to the background. Rather than point "Andrew" and their mentees to God, they arrogate so much importance to themselves. The mentees, instead of finding where the Lamb of God lives, they prefer to throng the magnificent abode of their mentors. Rather than see the Blood and sweat of the Lamb of sacrifice at the great Passover, they see crown of bliss and prosperity never woven out of thorns. The mentees lose the mark and fall over themselves to kiss the ring of their pastors, touch his garment, adore the ground he walks, nod approval to his dictates without a query. Samuel's first message from God was against his mentor, Eli. John the Baptist was going to be left lonely and cold behind the bars of Herod's prison, yet they embraced their fate without altering the message to their favour.
The mentor and the mentee must find a point of resonance
Being able to make good decisions, take the right turnings in life, offer great advice, deliver inspirational messages, and receive vision, do not make one a good mentor. These good qualities may only offer occasional, rather than long-term mentoring. It's one good thing to possess all the good qualities of a great mentor, but it's another to have the gift of communicating those principles to another person. Eli in his choice of succession resonated with Samuel, whose children were equally not fit to lead. Samuel must have learnt from Eli that our heirs in stardom do not necessarily have to be our blood or friends, but whoever pleases God. Andrew was the first to meet the Lamb of God. He brought Peter to Jesus, yet Jesus did not see a rock in him to build his Church, yet Andrew never saw the spotlight being stolen from him. His earlier mentor must have taught him the act of submitting and resigning to divine arrangement. Your mentor's life doesn't have to look like yours, but a good mentor and mentee must, at some level, find a resonating point for their experiences or perspectives.
Eli was disposed to mentoring Samuel. He was willing to help him discern the call of God. Samuel in resonance to the perspectives learned from Eli, and was willing to protect and stand by David - the man of God's heart. John the Baptist was eager to subdue who he is, and magnified the author of his life - the Lamb of God who was slain to pay his ransom. He was quick to tell his mentees (or disciples) who he is not, less they get distracted by his strong and beautiful sermons. He was able to tell Andrew and his other disciples that he was everything but the Lamb of God, whose blood will bring us all back in friendship with God. Andrew, in resonance with his mentor, accepted Peter, who met the messiah later, as his head. He did not query Jesus as being insensitive to the standard of "first come- first served". He had been well schooled in the act of obeying God's order and arrangement.
As we reflect on the message of the day, let us ask ourselves the following questions: One, who is my godchild? Two, who are my godparents and sponsors? Three, and finally, am I living up the call of accepting and passing on the faith in compliance to God's will?