One of the things driving me to weariness not too long ago was the idea and frustration of investing in people. Let me tell you, I had simply hit a personal wall. I was exhausted from pouring myself into people only to have them end up leaving me high and dry. It’s part of the cost of discipling or mentoring that we forget to count until, well, we’re paying the price.

Pastors, counselors, mentors, even just good friends, there’s a cost to investing in people. You pour your time, energy, emotional resources—often at the sacrifice of time and energy from your family or friends or other responsibilities—and frankly you want it to pay off. You want to know that at the end of the day you’ve made a difference. That people are better off from haven encountered you, from sharing life with you, than they were before.

So it’s doubly hard when they leave you. And people have a lot of ways of leaving: flouncing the faith, making poor decisions that wreck their lives, wreaking havoc on their friends and family. It’s difficult to watch them stumble, make self-destructive mistakes, or just flat out abandon you.

We do things for Christ, but still feel the personal sense of betrayal and it’s easy to burnout in the process. It’s hard to get up in the morning for another round of potential (and depending on my mood, the feeling of “probable”) abandonment. It’s hard to get up for investing in people who aren’t going to be around for very long. It’s hard to face the prospect of going through the motions of making a friendship with someone you know in your heart is simply not going to be there. It’s hard to start a relationship in vain.

On the flipside, you can’t save everyone. Anyone, really. It’s not our job. It’s similar to the tension that parents have to walk with their children. Letting our children escape our firm, controlled grips and allow them to go their own way.Kind of like a parent with a teenager, how dealing with them is akin to handling a wet bar of soap: you want to keep them in your hand, but the best way to do so is in a loose grip because the harder you hold onto them the more likely they will just squeeze out. By holding on to them too tight, we don’t allow them to grow. You can’t teach your children from a place of fear. We have to learn to let go and give our mentees room to grow, even if that means grow away. We have to give them room to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them (guiding them if they’ll allow us).

The (humbling) truth of the matter is that I don’t know when folks are going to be walking in and out of my life. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So I can’t live in fear, protecting my heart and emotions, at the expense of loving others. And I can’t put limits on how I love and invest in people.

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