A few years ago, Paul Ragusa had an encounter with God that changed his life. Though he had gone to church for most of his life, he found himself missing something critical. But then he had an experience he can only refer to as being “born again,” dramatically transformed into a new person in Christ. “I feel as though I have become an entirely different species of man with completely different capabilities,” he says. “All of the interactions that I have are from a completely different posture emotionally and spiritually.”
Instead of the fear, anxiety, and guilt he once experienced, he now lives awash with the love of God. His hope has run deep roots, grounding him with an “innate confidence in God’s goodness towards him.” He lives in wonder, now, of what God has done in him and for him.
Paul’s deep awareness of God’s love for him has made a life of whole-life discipleship a natural result. Before, the Great Commission sounded to him like “such a heavy word, so laden with guilt.” But now he sees life on the frontline as a place where he can channel the overflowing work of God in his own life. “Every day that goes by that I’m discovering more and more about God’s love and about what I get to do and what I get to be—I need an outlet for that,” he says. So, God saying to me, “‘Go! Help people grow. Walk alongside them in life’ is a gift to me. If I didn’t share it or didn’t have this ‘great outlet,’ I would drown in his grace.”
Paul works in finance at a medical device company, a job he says that is innately fueled by worry, fear, anxiety, and deadlines. But he says that now, instead of waking up and looking immediately at his calendar or his upcoming deadlines, he spends time with God asking, “God, what do you have for me today?” This frees him to look beyond a deadline or a to-do list—and pay attention instead to the people around him and where God might be leading him.
“I now live a resourced life,” Paul says. “The simple realization that I am not alone has accounted for so much more baseline peace and a greater sense of hope.” He also experiences a greater measure of joy: “Not in the sense of ‘I got a lot of stuff done today,’ but in the sense that God revealed to me someone who was having a difficult day and I got a chance to pray for them and minister to them. That to me is very fulfilling—the sort of fulfillment I never had before.”
At work, this attitude made a markable difference, and other people have noticed. Paul says his coworkers began to remark on how lighthearted, pleasant, and optimistic he was at work. They now see him “respond to pressure with peace, to people’s anger with patience and grace, to failure with continued effort and faithfulness.” What follows are questions about how he can respond this way. “That is my opportunity to tell them ‘why,’” he says.
He is also more aware of opportunities to serve people and engage in conversation. He talks with coworkers about the difficult things they’re experiencing in life and offers to pray with them and for them. He’s willing to engage in discussions about things that are often taboo in the workplace, like life’s pain or questions of faith. These conversations are all opportunities to “minister kindness” and share the hope that he has found.
Having his pastor, Stephen, visit him on his frontline helped as a catalyst in this transformation. At the time, he says, he didn’t see his workplace as a frontline. Instead, it was a place to retreat from. Pastor Stephen’s visit got him thinking, he said, and revealed part of what he was missing. After he encountered God for himself, Paul was able to live out his discipleship in everyday places like his work in a new way.
But Paul doesn’t only see a frontline at the office—he lives out his life as a disciple in other places as well, like with his family. There, too, being a disciple of Jesus impacts his everyday life, as he seeks to follow the Holy Spirit and expectantly look for where God is moving.
When asked what he would say to someone who doesn’t understand the impact of whole-life discipleship, Paul said, “I would tell them my story. You may be experiencing a lot of the outward morality of the Christian life but with none of the life, light, and joy. But all of this changes when you experience the love of God for yourself.”
Diana Gruver (MA, Gordon-Conwell) writes about discipleship and spiritual formation in the every day. She is the author of Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints who Struggled with Depression and Doubt. You can find her online at www.dianagruver.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Diana originally published this work with the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021), which was founded to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Library.