By: Karena Gutierrez, Resonate Alumni
“Why are you always so smiley?” I stopped for a second when the security guard asked me that. My gut instinct was to say “because of Jesus”, but the professional side of me faltered and tried to find the politically correct answer. Not really coming up with a good answer, I sheepishly smiled and was slightly embarrassed because this guard just witnessed me show up late to work, come to the door, forget my badge, laugh at myself when I thought no one was watching, run to my car to grab my badge and return again. I think I mumbled something about joy and quickly ran up the stairs to the intern office space. I was greeted by the familiar faces of the people I had become friends with over the summer. We were catching up on our weekends, nerding out on the latest science memes, and sharing with each other about our research projects. One of the Ph.D. students turned to me and asked, “Why are you always smiling?” I again stumbled for a sufficient answer and I think finally had the boldness to say “because of Jesus”.
Looking back at my internship in Michigan, I saw God use me in ways that were unexpected and powerful. In no regards was I the smartest person there; I was out of my league and surrounded by students and post-grads who sported accolades, published research, and were heading off to graduate or professional school. That summer, all I could think was “it isn’t me, it’s Jesus in me.” This was a radical turn from the way I used to view myself. I used to think that everything I did was on my own accord, my accomplishments defined me, my abilities came from me being so talented. Laying that all down at Jesus’s feet my freshman year of college meant letting go of my pride, laying down dreams and academic success, and letting Jesus transform my heart over the next 5 years of college. I knew I should not have gotten that internship; in fact, I had actually applied for a different one with the same company and was denied and asked if I would consider another internship opportunity they had. So here I was, a recent graduate, 2000 miles from home, doing life in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Since my junior year of college, I wrestled with the lie that I was only valued by Resonate Church if I was leading freshmen or preparing to go on a church plant. I struggled to believe that pursuing my major in animal science could be used for God’s glory. Even though I tangibly saw God use me in my classes and job on campus to be an ambassador for Christ, I still felt insecure and constantly questioning God’s calling on my life. I would look over my shoulder at my friends, who were village leaders or on staff, and compare myself to them. Any joy or encouragement I had about where I was at was quickly diminished when I would let comparison in. Slowly, God worked on my heart and showed me that I was seeking the church’s affirmation and applause for my work. I didn’t need a village leader title to invite people over, share a meal, or talk about Jesus. If I am truly doing all these for Jesus’ glory I do not need “man’s approval or praise” (Galatians 1:10). I work out of my position as God’s daughter and I rest in His grace. God revealed (and continues to reveal) how comparison was stealing my joy and hindering me from the work before me.
During those same years, God continued to reveal to me how He can use me to bring His light to places of darkness. Throughout my undergrad, God had seen me through spaces where His name was rare. In Ethiopia, I saw veterinarians leverage their degrees to go to remote villages in hopes of sharing the gospel. In my campus job as a tour guide, I met parents of students who leveraged their influence in the business world to speak God’s truth. Today, I have colleagues who leverage their position to bring change to immigration reform in the agriculture industry. In Michigan, I saw God leverage my position as an intern to bring light to darkness. In a pharmaceutical company where empirical truth reigned and God’s truth was scarce, God used something as simple as a smile to start a conversation about who He is and what He has done for us.
The work that God started in Michigan with those friendships is not over yet. I may not have witnessed a coworker go from death to life, but what I did witness was how intentional God can be in the workplace. You begin to run into the same people at conferences and events. Or your company works with their company. All these connections and touch points seem to get wider and more frequent. What we do with these connections can be powerful. One conversation at a time, it’s building momentum towards and ultimately a moment in which the Holy Spirit can do the work of saving (John 3:3). I can’t convert someone, but I can be faithful to see the people in my workplace, my industry, and notice when God overlaps circles or allows me to run into the same person several times. God is still pursuing them and I can let God use me and that established friendship or networking connection to further His kingdom.
Where are the dark areas in your life or your past that only you have access to? What groups, clubs, organizations are you a part of that you hold influence in? Invest in those areas. Seek out those friendships. Be willing to engage and see what is broken and needs God’s hand and ask the question, “Am I supposed to go into that space?” And my friend, the enemy will want you to believe that you are not qualified to be in those areas, that you are not good enough, that you are not following God’s plan because you aren’t in this leadership role or a part of a particular church plant. The enemy will leverage your relationship with God and the church to deter you away from God’s work at hand. God’s work doesn’t solely take place on a Wednesday night at village, in a Resonate Church plant cities, or in college - God is working everywhere. From agriculture to politics, and everywhere in between, God can use you, your degree, your passion to further His kingdom.
I am in another season of transition; new town, new church, new community. It is hard right now and I struggle most days believing lies of comparison and doubting if this is where I am supposed to be. Yet, there are moments where God reveals the brokenness around me and how His heart breaks for those people and that there is work to be done for His kingdom here. Those moments remind me that God sends us, whether across the globe or to a small dairy town in Idaho. I think God is strategic, He knows your passions, He knows your past, He knows who you know, and He is leveraging that for His glory.