What happens when you are lonely? What types of thoughts invade your thinking space? What can happen if you don't ever reach out?
These are all reasonable questions that we need to explore and determine answers for as we endeavor to loosen the tent pegs of the camp on Loneliness Island. I will confess that all I have to go on are my own personal experiences and those of many who have confided in me over the years. With 21 years of itinerant ministry under my skinny snakeskin belt, I have sat across the table from many a ministry wife who either unloads her story with a heap of emotionally charged words or who tells it with tight lips, crossed arms, and a plastered smile.
"I am not lonely. I rather enjoy my isolation."
The truth is, for many of us, we have convinced ourselves of this truth and it has become our identity. My hope is that you have not felt an additional heap of guilt laid on your beautiful shoulders through this series. God only knows how much you already have placed there. No, the goal is not guilt. The goal is revelation. And the revelation is that you are valuable, you are loved, and you don't have to be lonely. But you do have to be willing to try...again.
The enemy of our souls wants to isolate us from fulfilling God's plan for our lives and he does so quite craftily by sowing thoughts into our heads and hearts. Those thoughts can even empower us to believe that being lonely is a badge of honor we can and should wear for the Cause of Christ. "I am called by God and I am lonelier than you all!" Seeds of thoughts planted by the enemy can lead a precious heart like yours to believe that you really shouldn't trust anyone else. And girl, I don't blame you. I've been there.
As we referenced last week, even Paul the apostle encountered a few brutal beatings from the very people who claimed to be his brothers and sisters in Christ! He wrote in multiple letters, "I shouldn't have to keep commending myself to you, but here I go again." What we also see in his letters are his determination to maintain contact with the Body of Christ, as well as his efforts to trust only a spare few with the treasures of his heart, time, and friendship. Let's face it: you can't trust just anyone. Friendship with those you serve and do life with often brings its own set of hurdles for the leader of the pack.
So let's just break it down here. What must be done to pack up and move off of Loneliness Island? What's the ticket off this Island?
That may look a little different for each of us, based on the constraints of your location, ministerial vocation, and season of life. But there are a few general directives that all of us can glean from.
1. Pray. Pray and ask the Lord to bring a trusted adviser and/or friend, or even better, a circle of trusted advisers and friends to do life with, even if they are long-distance. It may sound too simple, but I'm a firm believer that God is a keeper of His Word! His Word reminds us He will give us the desires of our hearts when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4).
2. Measure and evaluate your expectations. I'm not gonna lie to you: you may not ever have a "normal" life like those whom you are serving are privileged to have. As a preacher's kid, I often daydreamed of what it would be like to have a "normal" family; one where the dad went to work, 9 to 5, then came home and they enjoyed dinner together each evening, drove to church together each Sunday morning, and had a best friend family. (You know, the family they did everything with?). My ministry family was never like the other families of kids I went to school with.
But I can tell you this: those normal families also did not have some of the amazing perks that ministry brought to our family. Perks like a family bond of serving together, a reach beyond what was happening in our hometown, connections to ministries and people around the world through missions, and an opportunity to connect with some of the greatest men and women of God on the planet. Evaluate what can be considered amazing about your world by those who are not privileged to claim the call of God on their lives. And then find out what type of friendship you can garner. It may not exactly be with the gossip girls in town who meet weekly to dish. But it might be a level of friendship that the women in your church only dream they could have.
3. Seek out support. There are so many outlets for this, but it requires taking a step. You may be saying, "Stink, Bridgette. I can't tell you how many times I've tried this. And it always ends in disaster." I know, sweet girl. Life has a way of knocking us down a few notches, just when it feels we are moving forward. And yet, even then, we are still one step closer with each pursuit of the real thing! Unashamedly I will tell you that it was for this very cause that Sanctuary came into being. Through our online social media communities, local Let's Connects that are popping up, left and right, each quarter, the new Let's Come Alongside mentoring program, and the Let's Retreat events taking place semi-annually, Sanctuary alone is sending out the rescue pack for ministry wives across the nation and around the world.
But what about that day-to-day friendship I'm craving? I'm getting to that.
4. Be a friend to someone. We heard it often as kids: if you want to have a friend, you must be a friend. You may not have a plethora of trusted friends. But really, who does? Jesus showed us the significance of this through His own life here on earth. He was followed by thousands, loved by hundreds, and served by twelve, but He only fully trusted two or three. What if there was one woman who lived close by you to meet for coffee once a month and text throughout the week. Sometimes you just need someone you can text a crazy GIF to, diffusing the stress of the moment!
Sow your seed of time into a ministry wife who lives and serves near you. Your harvest will be the investment of someone into your life, as well. Yes, I know there is a lot of competition among the churches and ministries in your current hometown. But through prayer and persistence, you might just be the catalyst for unity. And unity breeds a harvest that can withstand the destructive waves that otherwise could destroy altogether.
No one said it would be easy, sweet friend. But just about everyone will agree: it's worth it. Now, come on. Pack that bag (or rather leave its contents behind), and let's move you off of Loneliness Island. Let's redefine Sanctuary.
The Ticket Off of Loneliness Island is ENTRY FOUR in this month's series, Life on Loneliness Island. What is a lesson you have learned in a season of loneliness? Let us hear from you by commenting below or joining the conversation on one of our social media platforms.
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married and in full-time ministry for 21 years. 20 of the 21 years have been spent in evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. The couple has two beautiful blonde babies--ages 14 and 9--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like many ministry wives Bridgette often feels like a red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.