Patiently Pursuing Authentic Relationships

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Editors’ note: 

The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.

Evan Zibell has been working as a personal trainer at a gym in Chicago since 2011. He holds a BA in biblical languages from Moody Bible Institute. Evan is in the process of becoming a licensed paramedic and lives in North Chicago with his wife, Kristina.

How do you describe your work, what you do every day? 

I am a physical trainer at a fitness center on the North Shore of Chicago. My average day consists of training 6 to 12 individuals for 30 minutes each, as well as carrying various responsibilities at the gym. During our sessions, I coach their exercise forms, help them think about how to integrate their fitness goals into their daily life, as well as track and manage their progress through several different workouts.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? 

While I can see my line of work being performed in a manner that actively reflects God’s intended image-renewing in myself as I witness to others, I confess that this is unfortunately not always the case. Sometimes I feel like my job is just that: a job. And yet, many times, half the workout is spent discussing religion, which they bring up.

Individuals who exercise on a regular basis and take care of their bodies usually experience greater joy and self-fulfillment. Most of my clients are from the corporate world, where they must appear put together. In the gym, there is no façade—they trust me with their weaknesses to help make them strong.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

I work in a wealthy community. Most of my clients are CEOs, business owners, attorneys, and financial advisers. They all have four things in common: (1) gain knowledge in their field by experience, (2) often take (or have taken) a great amount of risk, (3) work hard in their respective occupations, and (4) attribute their success to “luck.” Most are not fully devoted Christians or committed to any one manifestation of faith. My clients are incredibly transparent about their lives, which is why I have thought that, for jobs like mine, a degree in counseling would be extremely beneficial.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

I put my clients through fairly painful experiences. They curse me and thank me in the same breath. But many demonstrate imitable perseverance and self-care. I genuinely love and care for the people I train, many of whom are not Christians. I wish I could say that I have made a great impact on their faith, but I believe it is they who have made an incredible impact on me. Most are not shallow or superficial, but are hardworking, generous, and wise. I don’t interact with people any longer as objects to be “worked on,” but rather approach people as individuals who might open my eyes to understand the gospel better. The gospel ought to be experienced through authentic relationships, not through hidden agendas. I am learning to trust that God is renewing this world through those who are his image bearers, and that he can use me to be a witness to the gospel.