I have found over the course of my short life that I have encountered moments in life that have caused me to decide to take a break or forced me into a place where I had no other options. In either of the ways in which I arrived at this place, the outcome has always been transformational for me. I can honestly say that at the beginning I am never thrilled about what I am experiencing. I do find myself asking God questions and seeking out answers. It is in those places where no matter who or how many people I am around I find myself feeling lonely or withdrawn. I was just reminded by God the other day where he said no matter how you are feeling in this season it may seem lonely but you are never alone.
This week we read Isolation by Shelley Trebesch. This book touched on this subject matter. Trebesch used personal narratives, testimonials and examples from the Bible to discuss the ways in which Isolation occurs, its effect on leadership and how we should embrace and respond in the midst of it. While I was not blown away by the structure of her discussion and her writing style, I do think that this is a topic that does not get often addressed with enough depth as it should and needs to be within the Christian community. Isolation happens to everyone. If it has not happened yet, in the words of my grandmother “just keep on living”. Trebesch talks about two types of Isolation—voluntary and involuntary. As I read through that section, these two stories of moments in my life came to the forefront of my mind.
I can recall my junior year of college. I had been feeling drained and empty. I remember wishing I could just take a break from life. I just wanted to disappear or be invisible. I had spent my entire life in church. I had served in ministries since I was 9 years old. I began preaching at 14. In addition, I had started and led high school and college campus ministries. By the time I was 22 years old I was burnt out. I didn’t want to do ministry or even attend my church any longer. I felt like I was getting lost in the doing for God and no longer feeling connected to Him. I just longed to be alone and still with God. So, I just decided to step away from it all. I remember feeling relieved but it was short lived when those who I had served with began to “harass” and “interrogate” me for my decision. I even had a former close friend at dinner say to me “people are wondering if Christal Jenkins is still even saved anymore”. My response was simple and short “tell them to nail their wonder to the cross”. They had chosen judgment due to lack of understanding. One thing that isolation does is bring self-awareness. I had to admit that I was just like the people who judged me. I wondered how many people I may have hurt in a time where they just need to be away. When what they needed from me was love and support but instead I gave judgment and rejection. I did not step foot into a church, ministry function or bible study for over a year. Each day I would spend time talking to God, reflecting on my life and enjoying the freedom of not having to lead others. It was what I needed at the time. I do not regret my decision at all. It helped prepare me for what God had planned and purposed for me in the years to come.
There was a time when I experienced isolation that later became transformational but I did not choose to do so. It was back in 2009 I was laid off from my job due to a merger/acquisition and eventually lost my home and majority of my belongings. I ended up staying with a couple of people during that time because I did not have the means to support myself. I was also going to grad school full time. I was determined to finish but found myself in situation where it was literally me and God. I can recall times I would repeat the words of David at the end of the 27th Psalm “I would have lost heart yet I believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
It was more in this moment of isolation that I felt what Tresbesch calls the Fourfold Processes of Isolation—Stripping, wrestling with God, Increased Intimacy with God, and Looking forward to the future. I experienced all of them in that season. The emotions I experienced while being stripped included but not limited to hurt, pain, depression, humiliation, frustration and anger. Which led me to question life, God and my purpose. What does it all mean? In the midst of everything God became my resting place and safe haven. He became my everything and was once a devastating life experience blossomed in a deeper and intimate relationship with God. Like I stated before looking to the future was all I had left. The past was behind me and the present required me to keep going in order to experience all that God had for me in the future. I believed I would see the goodness of God while I was alive on earth. It was holding on to those words and God’s hand that kept me from wanting to give up. I often find myself so amazed at God! When I look back over my life I see how he has always been present even in moments of loneliness I found that I was never alone. Isolation whether voluntary or not is a place where God chooses to reveal, restore and transform our lives.
 Shelley G. Trebesch, Isolation: a place of transformation in the life of a leader (Altadena, CA: Barnabus Publishers, 1997), 29.
 Ibid., 35.