I remember once, many years back when I was a Baptist, I was learning about spiritual gifts. The youth pastor preached about the parable of the two servants. Both servants, while their master was away, had given them some money to use. One servant used it in trade and business, and made a profit, earning more in the end than the original amount. The other servant, however, buried his money into the ground; he wanted to keep it safe and hidden away. When the master returned, he praised the wise servant for making a use of his gift while he scorned the other one for laying it to waste.
After the main sermon was finished, we all broke up into our respective bible groups and discussed the sermon. Our group leader discussed with the other girls and I about spiritual gifts, and how they should not be idle and left to rot from disuse. Christians had to find their spiritual gifts and hone them, so that they could be used to spread the Word of God. She then handed out a packet quiz, a questionnaire that would help us find out what our spiritual gifts may be. Of course they were not the definitive source, but they would lead us in the right direction. After filling mine out, my highest three possible spiritual gifts were: art, knowledge, and music.
As much as I loved music, and played a few instruments in my school bands, it certainly wasn't a gift of mine. I could not write a good original piece to save my life, and my religious lyrics always came out corny. All that was left were art and knowledge.
I was a bit brain-washed back when I was younger, mainly because I was drilled with the "Christian duty" of reading the Bible all the time and talking about it with people out of the blue, as if it would instantly convert them over to the Baptist church. Because of this way of thinking, I assumed knowledge was my main spiritual gift. After all, I was the nerd and bookworm at my school; why not study theology?
Now, I will say this right now: I do believe that the pursuit for and love of knowledge is a spiritual gift of mine. I have studied and written about my faith, and I always have fun learning new things, or correcting false assumptions in apologetic writing. However, this gift of mine was misused horribly. I assumed that I was knowledgeable and that anyone who disagreed with me was wrong. This gave me a very closed mind, in a way, and is what prevented me from being more open about approaching Catholic practices. Although deep down I felt awkward doing it, I felt that somehow, telling people they were wrong was this wonderful gift of mine.
And what of art? Well, I assumed that it was only a hobby, like with my music. Sure, it was fun and all, but could I really do anything with it? How could it tell that people were wrong and that the Bible was right? I was so fixated on becoming this saint-like scholar, I blinded myself from something that didn't have to be strictly secular.
So the years went by, and I gradually began to distrust my church. When my parents divorced, and I saw the ugly side of my mother's so-called Christian Baptist family, I stopped attending their church altogether. I stopped reading the Bible, and gradually stopped praying. Although I still read theological papers from time to time, it was merely a way to see if what the atheists said were right (and they usually weren't).
Near the end of my high school career, after suffering through a rigorous AP Art Portfolio course, I began to realize all the symbolism and impact that art can give. Although I was and still am a cartoonist through and through, I greatly appreciated art in it's truest forms and looked upon it in ways I never would have before. My focus for my portfolio was the cosmos, but I began to see the beauty of God's design in my own works. As I studied articles and papers about the universe to get ideas for paintings, I was slowly starting to see that God could not be confined; He could be found anywhere at anytime, even in science and art.
Just as I graduated, I began to attend Inquiry sessions with my fiance at the local Catholic parish. Although he was, and still is, a nondenominational Christian, his support for me was a huge step in our relationship. Suddenly, my biased and worried thoughts about different denominations melted away; I still have trouble trusting Protestant churches (due to my experience as a Baptist), but I am slowly getting better.
Because of the support I was receiving and of the new faith I was embracing, my spiritual gifts of art and knowledge came back to me. I wrote apologetics with an honest pursuit for knowledge; I wrote them to benefit other people and to correct misconceptions, not to show off and offend the other side. Studying the Bible and the science and history behind the Bible is now a favorite hobby of mine, and a hobby I hope helps other people.
And what of my art? What did my AP Portfolio class and my recent conversion have to do with it? How is art a spiritual part of my life now?
To me, art is another way to spread the truth and love of God; sometimes I may make a comic or cartoon concerning apologetics. Perhaps I am inspired to draw a saint and tell about his/her life. Maybe I am filled with the Holy Spirit and can not help but make a visual representation of God. Sometimes I make a cartoon that positively encourages people to learn and do a godly act. While I still like making fan art or other non-religious cartoons and drawings, I learned, and now enjoy, how to make comics and cartoons for my Lord. I discovered that my skills in art could have so much more use than just for secular purposes.
As an artist, I study God's creation and the beings and things living within it. I use such things as an inspiration in my art to show my devotion to God and to spread His love and knowledge to others in a positive way. As an artist, I am accepting myself as a human being made in the Image of God Himself: like my Creator, I also create worlds, and see that they are good. Like my Creator, I create things out of love, and a want to create for the better.
Sometimes I may make a more secular piece that doesn't reflect that attitude, but I'm okay with that. In the long run, I am using my spiritual gifts the way they were intended to be used. It took me years to figure it out, and I even made the mistake of "burying" my artistic talent, like the foolish servant did his with own gift. But now I have dug it back up and am using it like the way it should be used.
I am an artist and writer to create things for God. And I thank my Creator everyday for that.