“You’re on your own.” Have you ever heard those words? You probably have in one way or another more times than you can remember. One instance I remember was with Sammy, the crusty old foreman in the metal shop where I worked during college. When I first went to work there Sammy took me around to the various machines and taught me how to operate each one – only I wouldn’t exactly call it teaching. It was more like he demonstrated the procedure one time then muttered to me as he walked away, “you’re on your own.” Eventually after several blunders I figured it out, but it surely would have been easier if old Sammy had hung around a little longer before leaving me on my own.
One of the great “you’re on your own” stories involved the prophet Elijah who had taken on Elisha as his apprentice. “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind,” scripture says, “Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.” Elijah tried the same trick two other times in an effort to leave Elisha “on his own” – once to Jericho and another to the river Jordan – but Elisha cleverly clung to his mentor as long as he could until being promised a double portion of Elijah’s spirit; whereupon a chariot of fire separated them and Elijah was swept away to heaven in a whirlwind leaving Elisha “on his own” for sure. (Source: 2 Kings 2)
It’s the story of all our lives where a mentor of some kind, maybe several – a parent, grandparent, teacher, pastor, boss – for whom we served as apprentice must go, leaving us on our own. Yet, like Elisha did with Elijah we cling to them as long as we can, not wanting to give up the comfort and safety of their wisdom.
It is not wrong to depend upon our mentor as long as we can, but the time will always come when he or she stands no more as our leader and guide. Our response always is to cling to them as long as possible. But it is for our own sake and the responsibility we have for the next generation that we must be on our own; for we must prepare ourselves to say and the next generation to hear those words, “you’re on your own.”