No Longer an Island: Jenny Weller’s Story
Years of trauma, abuse, deception, fear, anger, and violence planted a seed of fear in my life which grew into a full-blown forest of isolation. I was no longer merely afraid of people; rather, I had literally convinced myself they were unnecessary.
The greatest danger in my relationship with God has always been my sinful habit of isolation. I started to practice this pattern when I was about 5, and perfected it while in Bible College. Years of trauma, abuse, deception, fear, anger, and violence planted a seed of fear in my life which grew into a full-blown forest of isolation. I was no longer merely afraid of people; rather, I had literally convinced myself they were unnecessary.
Christ rescued me when I was about six years old and I never really struggled with the “rules” and “practices” of a walk with Him. I read my Bible, memorized Scripture, went to church, and led Bible studies. One of my peers even referred to me as her “spiritual mentor” in her graduation speech. It was in that moment, I knew something was wrong because I felt pain from the compliment. I knew the truth. I knew I was isolating myself from a real relationship with Jesus.
In college, everything turned black and caved in on me. I was suffocating. In an attempt to feel something- anything, I began to cut myself. I kept it a secret from my family for over 15 years. Praise God, He delivered me from the destructive habit many years ago.
In my mid-twenties, life began to shift. God shocked my heart to life again and I felt a jolt from Him. He reminded me of moments we had shared in the past, and gave me hope for greater moments yet to come. He called me to community. I could no longer hide. The transition was awkward and painful, but it brought me to life. He used my roommates to minister to my heart. They showed consistent grace and compassion during my painful years.
Several years later, when I was the victim of an assault, the blackness returned. I felt a pull on my soul to step away and close everyone out of my life. Into the pain, I heard the Holy Spirit whispering to my soul, and again God used a roommate, and a close friend, to minister to my heart. The battle between God’s design for relationship and the enemy’s call to isolation was palpable. God fought for me! Despite pulling back briefly, I stayed in community. I refused to stop crying out to God. I plugged back into the body of faith and, through Christ, I overcame.
A few years later, God reminded me of a moment we shared when I was only 16 years old. He clearly called me into ministry. It was something I had not forgotten, but I had abandoned. I did not know how God would do it, or what it would look like, but I started praying He would make it clear. Three years later, he led me to Georgia to serve as a missionary to public high school students. I was both excited and fearful to make this transition. It was no coincidence the main instrument of grace God used to reach those precious students was the divine gift of community. We were honest with each other. We laughed. We cried. We prayed. We spoke some hard truths. We became a family made up of hundreds of high school students in various stages of their own stories of Christ’s rescue.
In June of 2015, God brought me home to Ohio. I had to say goodbye to a community of people who were family to me. One of the greatest difficulties, and blessings, of the transition was saying goodbye. For the first time in my life, separation was devastating. God reminded me of his faithfulness through the pain of the separation. My heart was open and connected to theirs, which was a miracle.
I look forward to how God will use the community of Apex, in Kettering and Xenia, to impact this world. I can honestly say I no longer desire isolation from God or others, even though I still struggle to resist it at times. There is no way to express how huge this is! If you have travelled this road, you will understand it. My prayer for you is that God, who designed, embodied, and prescribed relationship with him and others, will open your heart to the gift of community.
Author: Jenny Weller
Photographer: Cameron Braun