“But I tell you the truth: It is for your own good that I am going away.” – John 16:7
“You’re on your own.” Have you ever heard those words? Of course, we all have. I’m reminded of Sammy, the crusty old foreman in the metal shop where I worked during college. My first day on the job Sammy took me around to the various machines and taught me how to operate each one. Only, he didn’t exactly teach, he simply demonstrated the procedure – once! – then sort of muttered as he walked away, “you’re on your own.” After several blunders I finally figured it out, but it surely would have been easier if 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 to leave Elisha “on his own” two other times – 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. After that, Elisha was left “on his own” for sure. (Source: 2 Kings 2)
It’s the story of all our lives where our various teachers and mentors – parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, pastors, bosses – for whom we served as apprentice go away, leaving us on our own. Yet, as Elisha did with Elijah we try to cling to them as long as we can, not wanting to give up the comfort and safety of their wisdom.
It is only natural that we cling to our teachers and mentors as long as we can, but the time will inevitably come when they are no longer available to lead, guide and advise us. “But I tell you the truth: It is for your own good that I am going away,” Jesus said to his disciples as he prepared them to be on their own. In the same way, Sammy prepared me to operate those machines on my own. So, we must in turn teach and mentor the next generations in the proper ways, preparing them also to one day be on their own.