DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Still in Labor

Written by: on February 8, 2018

When I was 9 months pregnant and my daughter decided that 13 days was an appropriate amount of time to be late, every woman who had ever given birth decided to tell me how all of their kids had been right on time with hardly any trouble. Considering I’d already had two difficult pregnancies and births, I did not receive their happy little stories charitably. Even worse were the ones who had the absolute cure for delayed labor. They were full of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts.’ If I just did it like they did, my little girl would RUSH into the world. Yeah – nothing worked. They had their experience, and it seemed I was about to have one that was just mine.

 

Similarly, when I was first diagnosed with depression, my doctor warned me that, if my new meds worked as she hoped they would, I would be tempted to tell everyone who is depressed that they ‘should’ take the same meds. Her words to me were, “Don’t be that person. Don’t decide you can write an article about overcoming depression just because these meds happen to work for you this one time.” Sure enough, when I began to see daylight again, I wanted to tell everyone how it could be the same for them! Fortunately, my doctor’s warning prompted me to turn it into listening and simply being transparent when the Spirit prompted.

 

When I opened Shelley Trebesch’s Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. The way she described her period of isolation, with its attendant emotions and struggles, reminded me that I am not alone and other leaders have, do, and will experience this deep desperation of isolation. As I read on, though, Trebesch became “that person” for me. Her answers and lessons, while honest and vulnerable, were very neat and tidy. She wrote, “When we talk about an extended isolation time it could last for a very long time but with varying intensity, more intense at first and less as time goes on. We MUST (emphasis mine), no matter how long it takes, get the value out of Isolation that God has in it.”[1] I wrote in the margin, “SAYS WHO?” I continued to read and glean as many things as I could from the book, but I couldn’t shake the sense that the lessons learned and the transformations experienced are not always as neat and tidy as Trebesch experienced and teaches. I love that she had that experience. I suppose I’m even a little jealous.

 

In 2003, God started stripping things away and moving me towards isolation and change by asking me to give up success in my work and return to school. In 2008, I experienced more devastation and entered into a deep, dark isolation that I have yet to walk out of. Rather than growing less intense as time goes on, many days it feels like I am being crushed by the intensity of it. Job loss, ministry loss, financial loss, physical and emotional loss, and the loss of friendships and family relationships have landed on me like a stack of suffocating, weighted blankets. I have found places to breathe and to rest, and there are lights and victories, but those questions about worth and identity continue to roil as I wrestle with where God is calling me, and if I will be too old when I finally figure it out. If I were to ascribe to Trebesch’s theology, I would believe that God designed this dark night to test me or to burn away the dross. What I have learned instead, through the help of my Spiritual Director and my spiritual formation classes, is (as trite as it sounds) what others have meant for harm, God will redeem for good. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of beauty from ashes. When I can’t hear God speak, someone who can comes alongside and reminds me to hang on. Even though I was frustrated with Trebesch’s book, for example, her formulas and bullet-points reminded me that God is faithful even when we can’t see it. Her sunny gratitude for having survived the isolation reminds me that there must be a light coming.

 

Most of all, I think I am learning that isolation and the dark night are more like gestation and delivery than many of us would like to imagine. I feel like a newborn whose mother has been in labor for far too long and we are both in distress. Even though everyone assures us that it will all be okay and that the light of new life is coming, the darkness and pain presses in making it difficult to believe. I wonder if God is my mother in this scenario? Is it painful for God to transition from the gentle intimacy of having me in the womb to the pain of labor and, one day, delivery? Does God ache and cry out with those labor pains as my heartbeat decelerates with the crushing intensity? When I whisper, “How long, oh Lord?” does God pant, “How long indeed?” Somehow, that visual makes the isolation more tolerable today.

[1] Shelley Trebesch, Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader, (Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1997), 8.

About the Author

Kristin Hamilton

15 responses to “Still in Labor”

  1. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Kristin, every mother who’s had lengthy deliveries can relate to your story. With my daughter 3 weeks late and 38 hours of labor, which ended in an emergency c-section, I could completely resonate with your story. The loneliness is necessary to birth something new and fresh. A great parallel to isolation and what it births in one’s life.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      Thank you Jennifer! I think that’s why we tell our birth stories. There is something about being on this side of the pain and trauma that resonates.

  2. Lynda Gittens says:

    Thanks for sharing Kristin your testimony. Finding life through your new meds and wanting to tell everyone but the doctor says not to be that person prescribing meds to all reminds me when Jesus healed a man and said don’t tell no one.
    He couldn’t help himself. I now wonder was he saying your miracle was prescribed just for you.

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Kristin, I have to tell you that every time I begin to read your posts I get a smile on my face. You have a way of bringing clarity, depth and a smile to otherwise difficult subjects. Your willingness to share your experiences speak directly to the heart—”Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of beauty from ashes.” Wow! Keep writing. You have a valuable gift, the ability to be transparent, cut through it all, get to the point and the heart! Thank you.

  4. Mary says:

    Your words are straight from your heart and so beautiful, Kristin. You are always an encouragement to me, but you always get me to think more deeply about the topic as well.
    Yes, I agree with you that Trebesch’s words were sometimes overly optimistic. She said for example that the isolation would “expand the leader’s ministry influence” (p. 54) etc…
    Does this always happen? I don’t know. I certainly hope it will be true for all of the 7’s!

  5. Stu Cocanougher says:

    Kristin, thank you for sharing your story. I know what it is like to experience loss. Like the book points out, these time of loss test us.

    I once heard of a group of high level business leaders who came together for a project. The head of the group began by telling of a time that he was fired from a job. He talked about the pain and shame of the experience. He then asked everyone in the room to share about a time that they failed. One by one, they all shared something. Afterwards, the team leader told the group that he felt better about working together, knowing that everyone was willing to lead from a point of imperfection. That stuck with me. In ministry, it is easy to white wash our failures and disappointments.

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      What a great group experience, Stu! I agree we tend to whitewash, but how much more freeing to know that others whom we admire have felt the same losses, shame, and doubts.

  6. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    You’ve certainly struck an important chord with Trebesch’s work. I almost wonder if it wouldn’t have been more meaningful if she had simply told more of her own story and the isolation and darkness she went through, how she moved out of it and how God redeemed that time– rather than bullet points and ‘musts’.
    To introduce the story with “most of us– especially leaders– face isolation in our lives. This is my story and how God used it; maybe your experience with isolation is different. But I hope by me sharing my story, you can be encouraged.”

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      I think that’s what I kept hoping to hear from her, Katy. I wanted her to acknowledge that her story may not be the same as others’ and that her answers or lessons may not look exactly like ours. That’s why I dug deep with the book, hanging on to those things that resonated, and trying to put aside the things that didn’t.

  7. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Kristin while I have never given birth to a baby, I felt for you in reading this post. I have heard hundreds of birthing stories and most of them were similar to yours. What did resonate with me was the point you made about “says who?”. I agree that in not all cases do we feel as though this is God’s purpose and design. It is dark, scary, rough, depressing, painful etc. Unfortunately, I think many people fail to admit that we dont understand everythying nor do we have an answer for every life situation. What I believe we can do is just turn to Him in the midst of it and have hope that the “extended season” we find ourselves in wont last a life time. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    • Kristin Hamilton says:

      I agree, Christal. I think that’s why there is so much “How long oh Lord” sort of stuff in the Bible. Maybe it’s not about the answers or even how people came through, but the fact that the difficulties and isolations make us stop and face God with our pain.

  8. Kristin,
    i am humbled by your honesty and your willingness to share about all of this with us. Thank you, so much.
    When you said, ‘Most of all, I think I am learning that isolation and the dark night are more like gestation and delivery than many of us would like to imagine. ‘
    This is so, so true. And maybe part of the issue is that we spend so much time waiting for these hard times to be over, that we miss that this is part of real life – ups, downs and all

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