by April Stallworth
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
After speaking at a conference for administrative professionals, a woman came to thank me for what I had said. Specifically, for mentioning that I was a woman of faith. “I’m always afraid that I’m not supposed to say anything about that in the corporate environment,” she said, “it feels so polarizing.”
“Faith is such a huge part of my life: I don’t know how I can keep it out of the conversation,” I answered, “God wants people of faith in the marketplace!” Sometimes Christians feel that to really express their faith, they would need to change jobs and work in a church or a nonprofit or be a full-time missionary. That’s fine if that’s where God’s called you, but I’ve found more often God isn’t calling us to change work environments, he’s calling us to change the environment we’re in.
In my late 20s, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. My life was not working out. I was a divorced, single mom, going from one dysfunctional relationship to another. I was in the church, but the church wasn’t in me. After a series of defeats, I surrendered to Jesus: “If you really are you who say you are, you’re gonna have to show yourself to me. I have run out of me, so now I need to know YOU, the Jesus they keep preaching about.”
After crying out to the Lord, I started to really spend time in the Word, getting to know him and who I was in him - the birthing of ministry to others, too. God revealed himself, and it was so good, I couldn’t help talking about it with others. I started a daily devotional and emailing it to my girlfriends. who wants to know why God has put them right where they are, right now.” I realized there were people all around me who needed the good news too! I realized I was called to influence whatever environment I was in by sharing with whoever God sent my way. His light in me was meant to shine out of me in the workplace (Matthew 5:16).
The more comfortable I got in my relationship with God, the more comfortable I became as a woman and as a worker. I started to believe what the word says: I am chosen! I am forgiven! There is no condemnation in Christ! (Romans 8) If I was just trusting in myself, I would not have had confidence. April on her own lacks the confidence, ability and purpose to really shine in the workplace. But as I committed myself to believing Scripture, to praying and being fully submitted to Him - I grew in confidence that God had me exactly where he wanted me. He would show me when to speak. He would send people my way, and all I had to do was be open.
As an executive assistant, I was in a perfect position to create a welcoming environment to everyone, internally and externally. A simple “Good morning! How are you doing?” and asking people about their families opened up conversations. If someone shared that their mom wasn’t doing well, I’d ask if I could know her name so I could pray for them. Or as people traded weekend stories, I’d share that I had a great time on Sunday at church, and sometimes someone would ask where I went. I kept things bright and light and the openness made it fertile ground for whoever God was drawing to himself. It became who I am - a woman of faith - in the workplace.
As I’ve had the opportunity to coach and train others in secular environments (both in business and education), I always base my advice on Biblical principles, even if I don’t ever get to mention God by name. I have confidence that God’s word is true and his wisdom works for all people in all places - His advice is GOOD advice, and I can coach and encourage others professionally based on his truth.
For example, when asked to give a keynote address at a summit for Black teens in our public school high schools, the title of my talk was “What on earth am I here for?” I spoke to the teens about developing their purpose in life: you are put on this earth for more than paying bills and dying, you are here for a reason! I talked about living a life of SIGNIFICANCE, not just a life of success. Significance is about discovering your gifts, perfecting them, and then spending the rest of your life giving them away. I was totally sharing Biblical principles from Ecclesiastes. They got the message, without knowing they got the message. Wherever God puts me in my job, I am a seed planter.
So I’ve come to see that my workplace is a place of assignment: somewhere God has chosen to put me for a reason, to reveal himself through me. But my workplace is more than a place of assignment, it is also a place of formation - God revealing himself TO me in that role. In every job, there has been something God wanted to show me and teach me. The toughest assignments have been the ones with the biggest amounts of growth. Everything there was used by God to train me and prepare me for the job I’m in now. Sometimes I was there because there was one person in that job who needed to know Christ and I got to make the introduction!
So, I’ve gone to work with God every day for more than 30 years now, and every day I keep asking him: “God, what are you doing in this place? In me? Through me? I know you’re up to something, and I’m with you every step of the way.”
April Stallworth is the Founder and CEO of Strong Women Strong Lives. Her life’s mission is to educate, empower, and encourage using biblical principles and a whole lot of humor too.