Author Shelley Trebesch’s book, Isolation, seeks to assist those in Leadership to understand the need to Pause and Refresh from their busy lives. In past times, one was always taught to work hard to succeed; the early bird catches the worm; you lose if you snooze; or while you are on vacation, someone is working on a vacancy sign for your position.
As leaders, especially those who are overseers, we sometimes lack the wisdom to Pause and Refresh. Leaders believe they must be there to ensure that all is well with those they lead. In seminary, my pastoral leadership professor instilled in our minds that we have permission to take time off from ministry. He suggested that we should at least take a day every week from full-time ministry to spend time relaxing and being with family. As leaders, we need renewal time (vacation, sabbatical) to renew, spend time in the spirit of God and refresh to continue to journey. Trebesch refers to this as “voluntary isolation.” (32) She identifies Richard Foster’s book on Celebration of Discipline where he laid out a plan one should engage in referred to as the twelve disciplines. They are: “meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.”  This book was written to assist ministry leaders in being in God’s presence and strength an intimate relationship with God. This book was an assigned reading to our clergy team during our Ministers in Training class.
Trebesch addressed the unwanted or unexpected times on our journey where we find ourselves in a paralyzed moment. She referred to it as “involuntary isolation.” (30) Some may wonder during this process why me, or what did I do? The Christian world can be cruel during these paralyzed moments. They will blame you for your situation rather than encouraging you through the process. I know this first hand. It triggered my withdrawal from the church folk because I was trying to not be disrespectful in my response. I absorbed a lot of anger towards them. These paralyzing moments are a ‘God allowed (ordained) moment. That for me calmed my unbalance emotions as I processed the journey. God implements and God allows life situations. As Jesus said to the people who wanted to know what the parents of the blind man did wrong, he responded nothing; it was for God’s glory. The blind man was a miracle opportunity to reveal the power of God’s love.
Trebesch was strategical in her selection of biblical scriptures and personal stories that would encourage the reader to seek and understand isolation moments. She rightly included Jesus’ immediate exit from society and his entrance into the wilderness by God’s angels to face Satan. The important part of this story to me in my recovery was that the angels of God lead him to the wilderness – God ordained it. He allowed it to happen. These journeys are a strengthening process that results in a progressive ministry and powerful testimony. Once I progressed through my paralyzing moment, I met a few individuals going through paralyzing moments that I could identify with and help them through the process because I went through the same emotions. I wasn’t one of those Christians saying words from the scripture and speaking the cliché pastoral comments but addressing the root of the moment and strengthening their faith because I was a survivor. God purposed me with that journey to be a testimony of God’s love and that miracles still happen.
In her book –
Trebesch discussed the four-folded process in isolation. She identified them as (1) “Stripping” where God removes the outward identities and deals with the inward identity (35); (2) “Wrestling with God” where you are trying to find your purpose in God. She used Jacob as a demonstration of taking Esau’s birthright (38-39;) (3) “Increased Intimacy” where you are seeking God for a deeper intimate relationship (40); and (4) “Released to look toward the future” where God releases you from the wilderness towards your future. The Leader is at peace. (42-42).
She then encourages us to know that there is joy in the morning. Trebesch described three results one receives through isolation. They are (1) “Inward Transformation” where you become a humble leader (49-50); (2) “Spiritual Transformation” knowing God is with us during this process. She used Elijah as an example when God provided for him during his isolation moment (52); and (3) “Ministerial Transformation” where you realize that you need to lean on the Source not just your learned techniques. (53-54) She used Joseph’s and Elijah’s advancement in life and ministry as examples of how God was the source. How he strategically planned Joseph’s journey to be present in leadership in the Palace and sending ravens to feed Elijah as he rested at the dried river.
There is a purpose for your isolation. Trebesch identified six ways one can achieve the most out of isolation. She suggests you should:
1 “Be honest” about your emotions. She suggests reading psalms could help the process. (57-58)
- “Remember” who God is and how he has worked in your life and his promises identified in scriptures. (58-59)
- “Have Hope” that the end of your isolation will be fruitful. (60-61)
- “Get a mentor” to help you through the process and to discern the process. (61- 62)
- “Listen to the voice of God” by being aware of his presence in your life. Purposely think of God daily or often. (62-63)
- “Embrace isolation” by staying in the process until it is completed. (64-66)
Trebesh book is a good start to understanding the need to set yourself a part from the busy ministry life and renew yourself with strength and wisdom. Isolation is not just a physical but an internal moment. The new wave of refresh for leaders is going on relaxing adventures. My cousin for her sabbatical went water rafting and other exciting adventures in addition to a centering center. I was like whoa, but then I thought what a way to refresh.
 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path of Spiritual Development, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1st edition, (October 1, 1998), 277 pgs.