Into the Unknown
Ever since I was young, I have felt pressure to be successful and work in a practical and lucrative industry. I am an immigrant – and the daughter of an immigrant – so the expectation for me to succeed and honor the sacrifices that my parents made to come to the United States has been a heavy load.
As a child, my heart was with the arts. However, studying language and music seriously was never an option because my family deemed jobs in the arts as too “unstable.” Instead, at the age of nine, I began to take an accelerated math and science track, and follow the acceptable path that had been chosen for me to become an engineer, scientist, or doctor. This shift had a major consequence: I learned to place my value on how others perceived my intelligence. I had not yet encountered the Lord nor come to claim my identity as His beloved daughter, so I found myself pursuing the stability and values of the world around me.
Fast forward to university, where I was a fish out of water studying systems engineering, struggling next to my high-achieving scientific peers. Three years in, I took my first great leap of faith and, after an enriching summer internship at the UVA hospital, switched my major to biology.
I began considering physician assistant school, feeling a pull to serve others in the medical field. However, my deeply rooted beliefs and desire for success pushed me to reach higher. I decided that PA school wasn’t enough; I had to go to medical school. I told myself this made sense because I could care for people (which I’ve always loved to do) but also study within the field with status. After graduation I spent another year taking organic chemistry and studying for the MCAT.
However, instead of feeling accomplished I felt anxious, lonely, and far from God.
One afternoon in the spring of 2017, I was lying on the floor of my room, stressing about Med School applications. In a moment of vulnerability and honesty that must have been from the Holy Spirit, I turned to God.
Lord, if you have another path for me, show me.
The Lord heard my prayer and answered it in the most unexpected way, though certainly not all at once. Looking back on the past three years, however, I see His hand in leading me down this new path and, ultimately, stripping me of my false perceptions about my identity, revealing to me my worth as His beloved daughter.
Stepping Out into the Unknown
It all started when I decided to apply to a highly sought-after political internship that fall in Washington, D.C. I knew nothing about the world of politics, but an unexpected door had opened and I chose to walk through it. This internship led to a prestigious job offer working for a well-known U.S. Congressman.
Truly a Washington outsider, I didn’t fully understand how desired this sort of position was at the time. All I knew was that, for the first time, I was no longer constrained to the world of math and science. I could create my own life. In March of 2018, I found a room in a dreamy house on East Capitol Street and moved to one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in D.C.
A 14-Month Trial
However, roses are not without thorns. In the middle of 2018, I moved into another government job. With it came prestige, but also more stress and many sleepless nights. I spent an excruciating 14 months as an assistant, a job so painful that it actually made me wish I was back in my engineering school classes. It was here that the Lord stripped me of so much of my pride and self-reliance.
In this job, my smarty-pants degree and scientific intelligence carried very little weight. I came to question so deeply who I was, as I no longer had my academics to fall back on for my worth. Despite having changed fields, I had not yet changed my mindset about where my identity was truly rooted.
Looking back, I realize now that the Lord was sanctifying me, teaching me who I was and where my worth truly rested. He was breaking me down to a point where I could no longer rely on my own strength and willpower to achieve. It was awful, but necessary, because it is only after this sort of intense emptying that He can fill us with Himself.
After this long trial, I was finally prepared to be filled with His love. God had me in a place where I could no longer do and strive… I could only receive. For the first time, I was open to accepting God’s love as a gift I could neither earn nor lose.
In July of 2019, I started a long awaited new job and a new phase in life. I received the gift of a job I love where I work with amazing professionals. My boss and colleagues treat me with so much care and respect. I have been given Spirit-filled and Godly friends, and an incredible faith community. Most importantly, Jesus has given me so much peace and freedom through a personal encounter with Him and by learning that in order to be loved, I don’t have to do: I can just be.
I couldn’t ever earn any of my blessings, just as I could never earn my worth or value through earthly achievements.
Is everything sunshine and rainbows now? Of course not! I still have my moments when my flesh mindset kicks in or when I feel tempted to turn to old beliefs about my worth. But I’m not the same person I was before. Through these formative experiences in my twenties, Jesus has truly laid a new groundwork in my heart.
“I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken”
Build My Life by the HOUSEFIRES
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Joy Ruiz is a proud Virginia girl who feels at home whenever she’s close to the mountains. A couple years ago, she found herself working in D.C. and decided to call it home for a while. In her free time, Joy enjoys painting, singing, and spending time with friends.