Jeff & Christine with thier first grandchild, Penelope Jayne
I’m an introvert. And unlike some of my extroverted friends and family, I can handle being alone for extended periods of time quite well. In fact, I look for and sometimes long for more times to just be a hermit. A five-day personal retreat with no contact with any other people settles well with me, invigorates me and leaves me feeling even more alive!
Before you write me off as a socially-backward misfit, let me say that I do value and even like people. Relationships are important to me. My wife and I are celebrating our 25th year in YWAM. And most of those years I have either been staffing or leading Discipleship Training Schools. I’ve been immersed into the activities and lives of many people, sometimes overwhelming but always enriching. And through it all, I have become skilled in carving out those moments of being alone that my personality craves and needs. (And I suspect there are a few extroverts out there that could benefit from a little more regular alone time.) Though my wife, a beautiful extrovert, does not always understand this part of me, she has come to accept that for some reason God made me this way and has grown to better appreciate her own times by herself as well.
But even an introvert who loves as much solitude as he can get, can feel lonely – and hate it. Yes, I believe there is a stark difference between aloneness and loneliness. The former is primarily an external state of being that makes room for internal strengthening and nourishment. The latter is an internal condition, a belief that isolates individuals from all the God-given possibilities surrounding them. In other words, aloneness holds the potential for growth; loneliness blinds us to all the good surrounding us.
I’ve heard it quite often. A person leaves a YWAM base after experiencing positive growth in their relationship with God and with others only to get back home and feel very lonely and detached. I would say it is the most common reason I hear for why former YWAM staff or students do not follow through with the assignment God gave them when they left the YWAM base. “I feel all alone,” becomes the mantra that drowns out the words of the Lord that at one time were so clear, shaping excuses for why steps of faith should not or cannot be risked.
One of the great strengths of a typical YWAM base is the sense of community and connection it can offer. Upon leaving a YWAM community to move onto the next thing God has for us, feelings of being alone can be strong. And in some ways this is to be expected. But we cannot afford to allow the state of feeling alone to seep into our spirits and form a belief of loneliness. One is just a feeling; the other becomes an identity.
The prophet Elijah wrestled with a spirit of loneliness – similar to one of self-pity – not too long after he completed his outreach on Mount Carmel where he saw divine fire fall from heaven. “I’m the only one left,” he complained to God (1 Kings 19:13-18). But the Lord didn’t seem too concerned with Elijah’s forlorn feelings. He simply gave the prophet a new assignment and then summed things up by stating that He still had 7,000 other faithful ones surrounding Elijah. In other words, the prophet’s observations and feelings weren’t accurate. The Lord had more going on around the man than he could see at the moment – and there was no time to sit around and meditate on his sense of isolation. There was much God yet wanted to do with Elijah!
So, are there steps we can take to prevent our feelings of aloneness from turning negative and forming a self-absorbed, paralyzing sense of loneliness? A few things come to mind.
1) Choose to be more radical in our thanksgiving. The discipline of regularly giving thanks to the Lord for all the experiences and opportunities He has given us can open our eyes to see more clearly what is true and what is false.
2) Choose to give. Don’t wait. Freely you have received, freely give. Each of us has much more to offer than we typically feel we do.
3) Choose to focus on all the things God is providing for us rather than on the things we miss or wish we had. Life outside of a YWAM community is definitely different than living on a base. But remember that we are in relationship with a God whose character is such that He surrounds us with good things – even when we feel alone. Are we willing to ask Him for new eyes to see them all?
Take it from a staunch introvert. Being alone does not have to turn into loneliness. Yes, those negative feelings can be powerful, but they aren’t telling the truth. We have the promises of a good God through out scripture to hold on to – “I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:8, Joshua 1:5, Matt. 28:20, John 14:18, Heb. 13:5).” Wherever you find yourself, you can rest in the assurance He has something good to give you through His presence. And perhaps it is something that can only be received while you’re alone.
Jeff & Christine are in the process of joining us in YWAM Associates. They live in Minneapolis and are closely attached to the base there. We expect you will be hearing more from them. In May, they will host a get-together in the Twin Cities, details following . . .
Transitioning from YWAM to God’s Next Step
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Coffee & Snacks
Vision of Glory Lutheran Church
13200 Hwy 55
Plymouth, MN 55441
Click here to contact Jeff with any questions
This will be a morning of worship, and discussion for all wanting to go further in successfully making the transition from YWAM to the next step in your calling. Come for encouragement, fellowship and prayer.