“People around me have heard me say, ‘I love Dallas. I love Texas. I love living here.’
That’s true. But, really, I just love how God showed up in my life here.” – Emily Utz
“I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and started struggling with comparison and wanting people to like me at an early age,” said Emily Utz. “My exposure to Jesus growing up was limited to church on Sunday mornings. If the gospel was shared, I definitely missed it my entire childhood.
“In high school, I met a Young Life leader in her late 20s who loved Jesus. She took me to a camp in Colorado where I heard about the condition of my sin and how Christ died and rose again. It all clicked. I understood the gospel for the first time. But I wasn’t quick to receive it.
“Over the next several years, I knew about Jesus, but I was so far from surrendering to Him. I was aware of a deep unhappiness rooted in me and determined to figure out how to fix it. I looked to the world first. I suffocated myself with relationships, climbing the corporate ladder, building a beefy bank account and making outrageous purchases. I gave years of my life to chasing things as I continued to seek the missing puzzle piece that would make me happy. I was in a spiral of making bad decisions.
“During an unscheduled meeting with an executive one day at work, I was fearful of being reprimanded for various reasons. Instead, the conversation was about a promotion that required me to relocate to Dallas. My whole family and the majority of my friends were in North Carolina. Dallas was not even on my radar. Though I felt undeserving, I signed the contract, sold everything in my house, put some clothes in the back of my car and drove west into the unknown. I left behind 28 years of my life, my family, my friends and everything that was familiar.
“In Raleigh, I was always looking for more: more friends, more acceptance, more money. I needed to host more parties, go more places and date more people. My life was so loud, and I couldn’t mute it. I think that was the biggest barrier between the Lord and me. I drowned Him out.
“When I got to Dallas, the mute button on my life was pushed. I had one cell phone number of one person who lived in the entire state of Texas. I couldn’t be distracted or go be social if I wanted to. It was just the Lord and me.
“I crumbled my first night in Dallas, finally, truly, understanding what God did for me. He helped me realize that He wanted all of me. Not one foot in and one foot out. He wanted me to know the joys of being in a relationship, surrendered to Him.
“I feel like God had a blueprint He’d been working on for 28 years, and He started to unroll it one turn at a time the minute I got to Dallas. I walked into Watermark within my first week in town, and I started reaching out after the first month or so. I joined a community group of girls in my life stage and found a place to serve at Watermark’s Young Adults ministry, The Porch.
“The last two years have consisted of me releasing things I’ve been holding onto and deciding to be all in. I feel like I’ve tasted and seen the Lord. I previously never knew the power of Scripture and that it applied to me. It was just a cute saying on Pinterest or jewelry. But it’s now the essence of my life. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). I’ve never known full surrender like that before.
“People around me have heard me say, ‘I love Dallas. I love Texas. I love living here.’ That’s true. But, really, I just love how God showed up in my life here. The Lord knows me so well. He knew I wouldn’t have a quiet night in Raleigh, so He moved me halfway across the country to slow me down. The Lord showed up, I heard Him and I listened.
“I’ve always wanted to plan everything out, so the most freeing part of my life now is that I have no idea what’s next for me. God has proved that He’s got me. Now, if He gives me a nudge, I will go anywhere and do anything. I wake up each morning with a sense of awe, wondering what the Lord will do with this life He’s given me. I’m a woman who truly understands I belong to Jesus.”