Carla Unseth

Encanto and Gifts of the Spirit

Lately Jamie and I have been watching the movie Encanto. I say “have been watching” because we have watched it quite a number of times, and yes, we have been singing “We don’t talk about Bruno”!

When we watch new movies together (and particularly Disney movies), we like to think about the messages that the movie is trying to send. Sometimes these messages are negative – things that are cultural, but don’t align with God’s teaching to us. But sometimes, a movie stumbles upon something that has value to our Christian lives. While it’s important to guard against the negative messages, we like to find these little gems as well. All I knew about Encanto before watching was that it was about a magical house, so I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical. I was surprised to find a beautiful parallel to the Christian life.

In the movie, each person in the Madrigal family is given a gift by the magic that sustains their family. The gift is some kind of special and extraordinary ability. But each member of the family knows that the gift is not for their own benefit. Instead, it is to be used to strengthen the family and bless the community that has grown up around their magic house. When the movie opens, you quickly learn that there was some kind of break in the magic, and as a result the main character, Mirabel, didn’t get a gift. Without a gift to make her unique, she is striving to find her place within the family, and to find a way to make the family proud even without a gift.

The spiritual parallel found in this story is that of spiritual gifts. Romans 12:6a says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12). These gifts are also not for the benefit of the individual, but rather they are to encourage and build up the body of Christ, and to bless those who live around us (Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

However, I think that like Mirabel, many people aren’t sure what their gift is. It may feel a bit like a pastor or missionary had some kind of special ceremony where they received a spiritual gift and calling, but what about those who don’t have gifts of preaching or teaching? Did they get missed by the Holy Spirit?

Thankfully, the answer is “no” – no one got missed. The Holy Spirit has given a gift to every person in the body of Christ. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “as each has received a gift…” (ESV, emphasis mine). Every person has received a gift from the Holy Spirit. But, those gifts are diverse – each person has received a unique gift. 1 Corinthians 12:4 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” So, we shouldn’t look at someone else’s gift and say, “I don’t have THAT gift, so I didn’t get one.”

Instead, we should work to discover what gift God has given each individual. 2 Timothy 1:6 says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” It may take some work to discover and develop the gift that God has given, but that is important work! So, what if you are someone who isn’t sure what gift you have from the Holy Spirit? What can you do to start discovering your spiritual gift and “fanning it into flame”?

The very first thing that you can do is to pray. Ask God to reveal to you the gift that He has given you – you can be sure this is a prayer He will answer. After all, He has given you a gift for a reason! He wants you to use it! Then, as you are listening for His answer, you can study the Scripture passages mentioned above that talk about spiritual gifts. As you read, carefully consider which gifts stand out to you as an area of strength. You can also take a spiritual gifts test to help you discern your gift. These tests, like personality tests, are not magic (sorry, Encanto!). Instead, they are just tools to help you think objectively about yourself and where you are gifted. You can find them online, or through your church. In fact, while you are asking about a spiritual gifts test, you can also talk to spiritual leaders like pastors or mentors. Ask them what gifting they have seen in you and how that can be used to serve the body of Christ.

Now, it’s also important to remember that even before you are sure what your gift is, you can (and should!) begin serving. In Encanto, Mirabel decides to help the family by saving the magic when it seems to be weakening. She does this even though she has no gift. As she tries to save the magic, she unintentionally reveals her true gift – the gift of empathy and reconciliation. As she tries to figure out what is wrong with the magic, several family members reveal to her deep fears and pain that they haven’t ever shared. She puts herself aside, listens, and helps to bring healing. In the end, this ability brings the family back together after a rather catastrophic disaster, and makes them stronger together.  

Even if you don’t know your spiritual gift, you can serve. Find out what opportunities there are within the body of Christ around you, and dive in. It may be hospitality – hosting a small group in your home or serving cookies after the service. It may be administration – helping to lead a ministry or working in the church office. It may be service – holding babies in the nursery or cleaning up after an event. It may be evangelism – finding creative and compelling ways to share Christ. There are many, many more gifts. You can experiment with different activities and see what brings joy to you and life to those around you!

So, stop “waiting on a miracle”! It’s “your time to grow”! Find out “what else you can do” to be part of the “glowing constellation” that makes up the body of Christ 😉