When tested by Myers Briggs, I found myself as an ENFJ, not an INFP. Perhaps this is why Isolation by Shelly Trebesch didn’t move me or inspire me as other readings have. It’s not that I haven’t tried to think as she suggests, and I do understand the value. Some parts of the reading actually resonated with me – in which I’ll share shortly – but overall, my time in Isolation although necessary, seemed long, with only slight benefit.
The premise of the book is that God uses isolation experiences to accomplish things through us that we would never accomplish apart from the isolation practices (p.8). That’s true. I definitely believe that all experiences are profitable, especially when we recognize the possibility of God’s working in and through those times.
I also trust that times of isolation propel us to shifts of paradigm and greater dependency on God. Examples are abundant in the Old Testament and New Testament where we see; God guiding, testing, allowing choices and decisions to be made – for or against God, times of preparation and times of reflection. These themes help to strip away our identity, allowing a new identity – which is stronger and resilient to emerge.
Of the two types of isolation, I’ve seldom voluntarily entered into a time of trying like Trebesch outlines but there have been instances of involuntary isolation. Probably the most meaningful was when I lost my job.
I had been employed as the International Market Manager for GREGORY, Inc. Handpicked by the owner’s son, I held a prestigious position in which I could do little wrong. My boss loved me and we saw incredible growth because of his desire to take the company international. But after 7 years, there was a falling out within the family as the father, upon retirement, bequeathed the presidential position to the other brother. My boss, took his portion of the company and moved to another city, opening up a small business on his own. As new bosses were moved in and a philosophy that wasn’t as focused on international emerged, I was as joseph in the Bible – the employee the new Pharaoh didn’t know.
As I was laid off in a restructuring, I passed through the fourfold process expressed in the book (p.35).
- The stripping took place as I lost my new boss’s admiration and exclusionary treatment that I had received from my friend. From security to insecurity. I struggled with the emotional pain of doubting my value and if I could be employable in the future.
- I wrestled with God, trying to understand the injustice of it all, all the while becoming more intimate with Jesus. I questions who I was. I questioned if my future was to be in the secular or religious fields. I was frightened at the possibility of not being able to support my family, though through it all, found comfort in Jesus Christ.
- I recognized I couldn’t do it by myself and finally came to a peace, understanding that God would walk through this with me. That was followed by a greater sense of vulnerability as I accepted His presence in my life.
- Finally, I was able to release the past (at least partially – I still struggle with some of these issues as I’m no saint!) and see God as faithful and trustworthy for what was to happen in the future.
In summary: although I’m not one who keeps a Day-Timer completely filled out or who follows the Outlook calendar precisely, and although I prefer action and activism rather than contemplation and meditation, and although I believe we sometimes make too much out of the spreadsheets, charts, schedules and step-by-step plans for spiritual growth – I do have to agree that isolation does bring growth and transition and transformation.
It will happen whether we like it or not. Isolation experience will occur whether planned or not. Therefore when they transpire, let’s embrace what God can do through them.