I had full intention of writing about Haiti today. Haiti can be an isolating place, and my first lengthy amount of time in Haiti was very isolating as I sat atop a mountain surrounded by people I had never met who did not speak my language…and I had yet to make friends, even with a mango tree. It was a positive/self-choice, voluntary isolation.… But I’ll get back to that later.
This morning I woke up, and I was reminded of my first, and only, real isolation experience. It is what Shelley Trebesch in Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader would refer to as the “sovereign intervention involuntary” type of isolation. I felt the call to ministry at a young age. In fact, it was an overwhelming call from God. I went to college, though, and suddenly my interests and my plans emerged. For four years, I studied political science. I interned for the House Majority Leader. I was at the state party’s headquarters every week. The Governor knew me by name. I loved politics. Ministry? What was that? I had dreams. After I graduated, I would go to law school – Wake Forest Law School actually, as that is where my whole family went. Then I would head back to the Hill and work. My plans were awesome. I was arrogant, but hey, I had a reason to me. I was awesome.
I will never forget that moment my LSAT scores arrived in the mail. I don’t remember the exact number, but I am sure that no one had ever scored lower than me. Still, worry did not set in, as my grades were impeccable, and my recommendations were from Congressmen! How would Wake Forest not accept me? But they didn’t. I went to Mexico that summer, like I had every summer, to work with Pastor Jorge and his family, and then I began work for a church down the road. Yes, I was the Baptist Church secretary for 10 months. It gave me time to regroup, think, and pray. However, I was not praying with an open heart; I was praying with an arrogant heart. I remember actually saying, “How are we going to make my plans work, God?” I applied for graduate schools and decided to go to the University of Georgia to obtain my masters in Political Science. Awesome. My plans were still working.
In the meantime, I led a trip to Honduras for a group of Baptist men, and then I went back to Pastor Jorge’s in Mexico. Jorge had three children, and the daughter and I were the same age. That summer, we celebrated her marriage, and she moved with her new husband to Mexico City. I returned from Mexico, packed my bags, and left for Athens, Georgia. Woo hoo, my plans were rockin’! I moved in to a new apartment, the first place I ever lived alone. I remember my parents and two gal pals pulling away… It was an overwhelming sense of absolute loneliness. I forced myself to pull it together, as the next day was the first day of orientation. Finally, my plans were coming together.
The next morning, I sat with a group of similar students, all of whom had political backgrounds and aspirations just like me, but I could not get over the feeling in my gut. At lunch, as the others spoke of their internships and jobs, I continually brought up my time in Honduras and Mexico. They stared at me like I was an alien. I returned home that evening, and I was gutted. I knew this was not where I was supposed to be. I knew this was not what I was supposed to be doing. I had never felt more alone and further away from God in my life. Rejected probably isn’t the right word, but perhaps dejected is. I was stripped bare knowing how far from God I had drifted. Alone, in this apartment with no friends or family nearby, I began to cry…huge tears…followed by cries to God. I was broken.
The next day, I did not return to orientation. I sat alone in my apartment and wrestled with God. I was confused. I had no idea what to do. And worst of all, I was embarrassed. I couldn’t call my parents. I couldn’t call my friends. I couldn’t go to school. I didn’t eat or drink all day.
The next day, I woke up. I had spent much of the night in prayer, drawing close to God. And finally, I faced reality. I picked up the phone, and I called my parents. I asked them to bring a moving truck that weekend. Though they were surprised, they didn’t ridicule me or question me. Next I went to the school. I told them I wouldn’t be returning. They tried to talk me out of it, but I simply thanked them and left.
The next day, I went into planning mode. I was looking forward to the future, but I had no idea how to get there. I called my “sister” in Mexico City. She was the only one I had confided in about my struggles, and she said she had been expecting my call. After boxing up my things and moving back to North Carolina, I packed a small suitcase and moved to Mexico City. The next months, I served alongside the missionaries, learning, growing, experiencing, hoping, and expectantly waiting on God to reveal His path.
I spent 7 days in complete, utter isolation and despair. When I look back upon that time, though, I see it as the pivotal moment in my life. God had been chiseling away at me, and I finally allowed in Him. As Trebesch said, there was a kindling of desire to serve God in a deeper way. He brought me into His calling for my life, and now here I am…definitely not perfect, but hoping to never go through a period of isolation like that ever again!
 Shelley Trebesch, Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader (Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1997), 31-32.