This morning, I watched the Greta Van Susteren interview with Mike Tyson.
Greta asked Mike Tyson: Why were you so good at boxing?
Mike Tyson replied, “I had a great teacher. He wasn’t big time. Everybody didn’t say yeah he’s one of great trainers of all time basically until I came around. But he’s always been a great trainer. He just needed the right fighter, to teach what he needed to teach. That’s what he needed.”
This reminds me of something I wrote in my book…
Chapter 14, Get Connected: Mentors, Peers, Apprentices
The Silent Cry of a Mentor
I know a man named Danny who is a hardworking older fellow, crazy in love with his wife and family. Danny is always telling funny jokes and happy phrases—and every time he introduces his wife to a new friend, he says, “I prayed for God to send me a decent woman—and he sent me an angel!”He has certainly become a very good friend of mine over the past few years.
One day, Danny heard about my growing fascination for gardens. During that time, Emily and I were two struggling gardeners eager to learn. One early summer afternoon, Danny invited us to his house for lunch—and to our astonishment, he and Dolly led us around their front, back, and side yards, and through their greenhouse—and introduced us to more than 250 species of plants! Our search was over, our prayers were answered—there was no doubt about it, this was Yoda!
Since that day, Danny has spent quite a few hours at our house—patiently educating Emily and me in the ways of the garden force. Since then he has gifted us plants—too many to count. Thanks to Danny Lesslie, we have become two fine master gardeners.
Danny and I have spent quite a few spring and summer days tending to our beloved plants. While all the neighborhood birds, frogs, fish, and squirrels frolicked about thanking God for the beautiful habitation we were creating for them, Danny and I talked about everything under the sun. I have learned many very interesting things about him. For example, Danny is one of the greatest master bakers of all time! Really, I wish you could have the pleasure of experiencing one or two of his scrumdiddlyumptious signature food creations. Mmmm!
One day, Danny took my family through his house and showed us his many awards and trophies. Thirty minutes with Danny is like a 3-credit-hour college course! He talks faster than most people can comprehend, gives away more information than most of us can process, and he loves to teach more than anyone.
Sometimes I watch Danny move, and I’m tempted to offer him a chair. I hear him talk and I am tempted to slow him down—until I realize he is aging fast, and his time is running out. He’s terrified that he won’t be able to transfer his knowledge before his life is over. This is the silent cry of every good mentor. I imagine that every night they climb onto their knees, bend their elbows, cross their hands, and pray:
Please God, give me at least one eager apprentice. Please, bring someone into my life with a desire for my craft. Give me at least one humble, loyal apprentice, and I will give the rest of my life to teach that person everything I know. Dear God, I have lived my best days and I have achieved so much—and today none of this means anything if I cannot give it to someone else. Please God, before I leave this earth, please answer one last prayer—establish my legacy.
When Danny found out my daughter Heaven was going to culinary school because she wanted to be a bakery chef—he reverse aged by 40 years! “A bakery chef, did you say she was going to become a bakery chef? Well, that just so happens to be my specialty!”Danny must have called our house every day for several weeks. “When can I meet with Heaven? There’s so much I need to teach her before this fall! Oh, and I have a few very valuable items I want to give her! Oh my, there’s so much we have to do! This is great! I’m so proud of Heaven for going this direction with her life!”
Just as soon as our schedules allowed it, we finally accepted Danny’s invitation—and let me tell you—Danny gave Heaven a knife set, special cookbooks, an oven thermometer, and other valuable items, including a very sentimental professional garnishing kit given to him by his beautiful Dolly. What a difference this man has made in our daughter’s life—and what a difference she has made in his.
There are so many Danny’s in our world. They have a lifetime of experience and skill, and a strong desire to pass it down, but every day, they awake to another pointless agenda. Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not to downplay their enjoyment of friends and family and the satisfaction they find in work, church, and play. I am just saying what nobody wants to say. They may stare into the bathroom mirror to find a few more wrinkles and a little less hair. They may have strange cramps and aching bones and a few chest pains every once in a while—and they wonder, How much more time do I have? When I die, this all dies with me unless I find an apprentice.
Dear God, awaken the apprentice generation! Give us a longing for the real inheritance of our aging mentors. Let us see past their money and material possessions, to the heart and spirit they long to give us. May we comprehend their value before the opportunity for impartation is gone!
On the final day of Elijah’s life, when he realized that his brief but full life was nearly up—he set his eyes on the loyal heart of his young apprentice Elisha. Elijah asked Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” From Elisha’s immediate reply, we can assume that he had already thought about what he really wanted and he was just waiting for the question. Surprisingly, he did not ask for Elijah’s mansion, or any of his earthly possessions—without hesitation, Elisha responded, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor” (2 Kings 2:9).
I can hear Elisha thinking to himself, Everyone else can spend the next ten years fighting over my master’s material estate—I want the thing nobody else will even think to ask for. Um, master Elijah, I know what I want—a double share of your spirit! Please, make me your successor! Brilliant, Elisha! There is no greater way to honor a mentor, then to ask for his spirit. This is what every faithful apprentice does for his good mentor. Apprentices establish legacy! Because of the apprentice, the mentor rests in peace, knowing that his legacy will carry on.
Again, Mike Tyson replied, “I had a great teacher. He wasn’t big time. Everybody didn’t say yeah he’s one of great trainers of all time basically until I came around. But he’s always been a great trainer. He just needed the right fighter, to teach what he needed to teach. That’s what he needed.”
I just finished praying for you.