Where would Cinderella be without her fairy godmother? Frodo without Gandalf? The English students without John Keating in Dead Poets Society? The Karate Kid without Mr. Miyagi? Or Luke Skywalker without Yoda?
Great movie mentors, although often idealized, remind us how important mentors are in our own lives. Mentors are the people who have walked the difficult path before us, people who have shared or currently share in our situation or something similar. How they have walked their path ignites in us a longing to be like them. They approach challenges with a quality or grace that appeals to us. Sometimes it is simply their courageous example that shows us the way; at other times it might be their wisdom that gives us hope that we too can overcome the obstacles in our path. Although we don’t have to personally know someone for their words and example to mentor us, the ideal mentor not only knows us, but “gets” us, and offers us insight to help us see from a different perspective. A mentor can be encouraging, challenging, or even discouraging at times, but their wisdom and insight is the fruit of their life experience.
We can be mentored in many areas of our lives, from a career, to living our Catholic Faith, to a certain scientific or artistic discipline, to simply becoming a better human being. A mentor may be a parent, grandparent, or other relative, a teacher, an expert in a particular field, a boss, a co-worker, a pastor, a spiritual friend, or someone with vast life experience. The best mentors are those who are comfortable with themselves, who have integrated the various aspects of their lives, and are deeply spiritual human beings.
A spiritual mentor is wise in spiritual matters not just from study but from his or her lived experience. Consulting with someone wise in the ways of God can be invaluable for our discernment journey. We should seek advice when we are ready—after we have already been praying about our discernment and done whatever research we need to do—and are at a point where we need some insight as to how to proceed. Perhaps we are stuck in indecision or fear, or perhaps we simply lack the knowledge or insight needed take our next step forward. It’s important to be really open to what our mentor has to say.
One form of mentorship that is part of the Catholic spiritual tradition, as well as highly encouraged in discernments, is spiritual direction. If we are seriously engaged in our spiritual life, we may want to seek regular spiritual direction. But especially when we are discerning a larger matter (such as our vocation), we would be wise to seek a spiritual director, who is often the most helpful mentor in a discernment.
In an earlier post: https://coauthoryourlifewithgod.com/2015/03/04/spiritual-direction/, I talked about how to find a spiritual director. In my next couple posts, I’ll talk a little bit about what it is like to go for spiritual direction for the first time, and some tips for how to make the most of spiritual direction.
To get back to the title question, yes, I think Yoda would have made a good spiritual director for Luke and perhaps does offer him some spiritual direction. Above all, Yoda does what a good spiritual director does: to find God in the directee’s own experience. Yoda encourages Luke to get in touch with and trust his own experience of “the Force.” And while “the Force” seriously lacks as an image of God from a Christian worldview, for the fictional world of Star Wars “the Force” does seem to refer directly to God’s Providence at work in creation.
* * *
In the meantime, what questions do you have questions regarding spiritual direction? If you contact me with your questions, either below in the comments, or via email, I’ll answer them in an upcoming post.