Isolation—A Place of Transformation In The Life of a Leader is written by Shelley Tresbesch an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Development at Fuller Seminary. She identifies two types of isolation. The first is ‘the setting aside of a leader form normal ministry involvement in its natural context usually for an extended time in order to experience God in a new or deeper way.” This “setting aside” can take a variety of forms from sabbatical, to a minister being forced out from a particular ministry. The second form of isolation occurs when a leader is left within the ministry context, but the symptoms of isolation are still prevalent even though the leader may not be isolated in the physical since of the word.
As I look back at my short-life in ministry, I can’t identify any substantial moments of isolation as Tresbesch describes, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t come or that I’m immune from them. I’m fairly certain of this because Tresbesch outlines the moments of isolation that many of the biblical characters faced. If God didn’t spare the heroes and heroines of scripture, I probably shouldn’t think myself immune from it.
Knowing that moments of isolation will come is a blessing, because you can prepare yourself. Tresbesch has six points for when the isolation comes:
- Honesty – Call a spade a spade. Don’t try to convince yourself that everything is great. The faster you can admit that you’re in isolation the quicker you can begin learning the lessons God has for you.
- Remembering – Don’t have a short memory. Allow your history with God to guide you through this moment.
- Awareness – This isn’t God picking on you! God regularly uses these moments to shape and refine leaders.
- Mentor – You’re not alone. It can be hard to discern the voice of God when you’re in the middle of an isolating moment. Find someone who’s been there before and allow him or her to guide you and discern with you.
- Listening – Listening requires intention. While one might think this is common sense, I can see why Tresbesch specifically states this. I can imagine being in a moment of isolation and wanting to numb myself to everything. For example, to begin watching the entire series of The West Wing and emerging from a TV comma a week later having not listened to God, just the voice of Martin Sheen.
- Embracing – God has something for you. See this is a blessing and embrace this time with all of your being. Don’t seek to rush out of it quickly, but allow God to lead you out in his timing.
I don’t want to have a time of isolation (what extrovert and optimist would?). But I can’t be naïve and assume they won’t come. Reading this book from Tresbesch has been a great way to prepare for those times.
Have you been in a moment or season of isolation?
What was that experience like?
What did God teach you?
As one who hasn’t been in isolation before, what words of advice do you have for me when I do?