Isolation is a term coined by the late Fuller Professor Robert Clinton. It refers to an experience where a leader is removed from a number of things, such as their position of leadership, a sense of God’s presence, a knowledge of calling or direction. Isolation can be chosen, like taking a sabbatical or returning to seminary. It can also be forced on you, like a health problem, imprisonment or getting fired. It can last for weeks, or for years.
My major Isolation experience began when my position on a staff at a megachurch in San Antonio ended. I was out of work for over six months. I was unable to find a suitable ministry position, and eventually ended up in retail. I went from having a place of positional leadership and what seemed like a career track to being alone, with no sense of direction and very little hope.
In studying Isolation as part of the MAGL, I read something from Dr. Clinton that basically went like this:
“Don’t try to be finished with your Isolation until you’ve gotten everything out of it that God wants you to get out of it.”
This floored me, because for two years, I’ve been trying to be getting out Isolation. Unable to find direction, I tried to dive further into spiritual practices. When I felt adrift in depression, I sought to distract myself, and eventually got into counseling to “fix it.” I’ve had to learn what it is to do ministry when it’s not my job. Worst of all, my sense of failure and lack of direction left me unable to even answer the question “what do you want to do?”
But this comment about “getting everything out of Isolation” forced me to reevaluate why I was in such a hurry. If the perfect opportunity fell in my lap tomorrow, would I know what to do with it? Am I mature enough to keep from repeating the mistakes I’ve made in the past? Am I even the kind of person who should be trusted with leadership?
For the first time in almost three years, I am beginning to sense some “movement.” It may be that some new opportunities are on the horizon. But what’s the rush? Maybe I still have something to learn from Isolation.