Reading through Shelley Trebesch’s book Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of A Leader, this week I was reminded once again of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness, especially in the times of difficulty. I was also reminded again that God’s ways are not our ways… and God allows things in our lives in light of the greater picture and the greater purpose that He has for each and everyone of us. In our limited understanding and vision, moments of isolation can cause us to fall into despair, but these seasons can and should be fruitful if we are willing to be present in the isolation and through the isolation. Our desire to escape will push us deeper not only in isolation but desperation.
Trebesch describes, “The fourfold process a leader undergoes while in isolation.” (35) This fourfold process includes a season of being stripped of your identity, a season of wrestling with God (38), a season of increased intimacy with God (40) and finally a season of being released to look toward the future. (42) I would say that the first two seasons are the most difficult and painful. It is in the stripping and the wrestling that you long to hear God’s voice, but He seems silent. It is in these seasons that we must cling to what we know to be true of God and ourselves and let go of everything ales that we hold dear. It is in the season of stripping and wrestling that you start to understand that when everything is gone, God remains… and His grace really is sufficient for you.
A few years ago I noticed a few strange spots on my body. I went in to see my doctor and she looked at me and said, “Nothing to worry about… these are age spots.” I looked at her and said, “How can these be age spots? I just turned 30. I cannot have these many age spots on my body.” To ease my concern she recommended me to a skin specialist. I stood before this doctor and asked him “are these age spots?” He smiled and said, “No, those have nothing to do with your age.” He continued to explain that all my spots needed to be biopsied. He continued to show me pictures of people with early stages of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. He told me that I was at the beginning stages of melanoma. The good news was that this was the beginning. Most people don’t catch it until it’s too late. The bad news is that from that day till now I live in six-month increments. Every six months I go in for biopsies and surgeries to remove different things off of my body.
I remember the first time I went in for a couple surgeries. I was standing half naked in this cold room. I had never felt more alone and vulnerable as I felt in that moment. With that said, I have never felt more loved by God then I felt in that moment. It’s strange to explain. I felt loved, but love doesn’t take away our pain. Love doesn’t remove our struggles. Love walks with us. Love gives us strength to endure and to walk through.
Four years into this process I feel like I’m constantly being stripped. I stopped wrestling. My intimacy with God becomes more evident every six months when I start the process over again. I look toward the future with hope knowing that this is preparing me for the future.
I say confidence that this skin cancer thing is the best thing that could have happened to me. It helped me put life in perspective. It helped me to find my identity in Christ. It helps me to live with my hands wide open knowing that the harder I hold on, the more difficult it will be to let go… and at some point, everything has to go.
I live in six-month increments… but I don’t think I would have it any other way.
I feel validated and refreshed by Trebesch’s book.
Here are some questions for you…
- Why does it seem that pain is the main language that humanity understands? What I mean is that most often God speaks to us through pain and suffering… why can’t we learn and draw nearer to God through the good things?
- Is God’s grace sufficient for you? I have to ask myself this every day.
- Am I living with my hands open? Are you living with your hands open? God has a way of forcing our hands open… so it’s better that we do it on our own.