Scrubbing Before Scribbling: Submitting Our Talents to God

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“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

– Philippians 2:8 (ESV)

By Mary Elizabeth Hall (originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine)

MY DAUGHTER Kristen (age 16) is quite talented artistically. She attends classes at our local Artios Conservatory and has published two illustrations and a short story in an anthology of Japanese folktales. My friend Melody’s daughter Christine (also a student at Artios) performs in local Broadway plays. Another friend Judie’s daughter Kaitlyn (age 19) writes and directs indie films. And another friend Daff’s daughter Jade (age 12) just published her first historical novel. All of these young women love the Lord and desire to use their talents to serve Him, but they know that to honor Him well they have to keep their priorities straight—and their hearts submitted to His will. And we, their parents, know it’s our job to direct and guide them while they learn to do this.

Kristen and I are both often working on tasks with deadlines. Two mornings each week, we’re the only ones home. If we’re not careful, the hours can disappear without our noticing while we happily click away on our projects, and we don’t interact until someone’s hungry. “Kristen,” I’ll call up the stairs, “make sure you do your chores and have some lunch before horseback riding.” In the back of my mind, I hear the tick-tock of precious minutes of parenting time slipping away.

Other times, my husband and our other two creative daughters (ages 19 and 4) are home too, and a lot needs to be done. We’re scrambling to put dinner together, prepare music for our church small group, get the house back under control after little Megan’s artistic exploits, and get ourselves looking (and smelling) decent enough to be with other people. This is after school, storytime, shopping, chores, laundry, dealing with various crises, and . . . well, you know. But all the while, our projects—and deadlines—are calling. And we usually find at these times that our goals conflict and we get in each other’s way. Can you imagine? Toes get stepped on, crucial items get moved and lost, and we scramble too fast to help or care for one another well. But it’s all for God’s glory, right? Somehow I don’t think so. Yes, our time management skills need improving (whose don’t?). But what’s even more important is the underlying attitude of our hearts.

As always, God’s Word has something to say about this. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What things? The things we need in order to fulfill His will. This includes time as well as resources. If we humbly align our hearts with His purposes, we will have all the time we need (though we’ll still have to learn how to organize it). And He will bless our efforts. With this in mind, I’d like to suggest a few pointers in managing our talents and projects:

  1. Spend time each day with the Lord. This foundational spiritual discipline is too often and easily neglected by creative people who like to do things differently (creatively!) every day. Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters, in their book Shopping for Time, urge us not to ignore this. “As if it weren’t enough to simply bask in His presence, it is here that we receive grace to make the best use of our time. When we seek God through His Word and prayer, we glean wisdom for walking carefully. We obtain guidance for daily decisions. We find peace in the midst of life’s whirlwind. We are infused with strength to complete our tasks . . . And we’ll only find these essentials by sitting at Jesus’ feet.” I know that I don’t live well for the Lord when I fail to keep my daily appointments with Him. I become selfish, easily deceived, and tend to veer off from God’s will for my life into wrong directions.
  2. Walk in humility. The creative arts are fraught with temptations toward selfish pride, and young people need to be taught that they are but dust and have nothing but what has been given them from above. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” There’s nothing God hates more than pride.

Andrew Murray says in his priceless little book called Humility, “All the wretchedness of which this world has been the scene has its origin in what this cursed, hellish pride, either our own, or that of others, has brought us,” and “(our) whole relationship to both God and man must be marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit . . . Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.” Let’s not neglect to teach this to our children.

  1. Cast your crowns before the King of Kings by offering your works entirely for His glory. I sometimes wonder whether our Lord was a great master carpenter. I imagine Him shaping and carving the wood he invented in unique and marvelous ways, with finishing touches unlike any that others might devise. But nowhere do I see any evidence that He strove to craft His works more artistically than anyone else. His objective was never to bring glory to Himself, but to His heavenly Father.

Fruits of such humility are evident when an artistic person helps someone else learn a technique, or displays contentment with God’s will rather than raging when they don’t win a competition, or even sets their work aside in obedience to a call to do something else. And then we must teach them to examine their motivations, which can subtly deceive us into behaving in ways that make ourselves look good instead of truly desiring to honor God.

Evidence of this pride can be seen in our frustration with anything that gets in the way of our goals. For example, scripture teaches men to manage their children and households well and women to be caretakers of their homes (1 Timothy 3, Titus 2, and Proverbs 31 all give good teaching on this). So, in our house we emphasize life skills over creative skills, and it’s known that the chores and schoolwork must be done before we engage in our creative pursuits. If someone balks at having to scrub the bathroom before heading out to choir practice, that’s a sign that we need to step back and do a little “heart surgery”.

Talents are a gift from our Lord. But, like all His gifts to us, they’re meant to be used for His glory. If we seek Him and humbly submit our creative efforts to His will, we’ll have the peace that comes from knowing that our work pleases Him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any greater joy than that.