I met Jesus while on a date with my future wife, JoAnn. Well, I like to think of it as a date, though she didn’t at the time. It was a date to go to church together in 1988. At the time, art was my god. I was designing posters for blockbuster movies. At age 20, I lived my dream of being a successful illustrator and felt pretty pleased with my life.
Enter JoAnn Peralta.
She caught my eye right away, and when an opportunity to substitute teach at her art school arose, I jumped at it. But from the start, JoAnn was straight with me. She said, “I’m a Christian,” and made it clear she was unwilling to have a romantic relationship with a man who didn’t share her beliefs.
But her stand didn’t exclude sharing her faith with me, and so she invited me to church. JoAnn was undaunted by my lack of faith, and she welcomed the opportunity to introduce me to her church family.
Over the next six months, I found myself going to a smattering of church services, and nothing convinced me that I needed God. But then during one service, the pastor passed out blank pieces of paper with an assignment. “If God’s given you a talent that you could use to help us out at the church,” he said, “write it down, include your phone number and turn it back in.”
My mind started spinning. If God’s given you a talent kept repeating in my thoughts. At that moment, my whole life played out in my head—especially all of the things God had given me and done for me that I had taken as coincidences. I knew I couldn’t keep taking credit for the gifts God had given me. He had my attention. That short phrase—“If God’s given you a talent”—changed the trajectory of my career as an artist and began to change my worldview.
What God’s given you
I am grateful that JoAnn boldly shared her faith with me even as I argued that I didn’t need religion as a crutch. Her willingness to simply invite me into her life allowed me to encounter God without pressure. In that church pew, I became a Christian.
From there, the purpose and subject matter of my art shifted. I started creating paintings that could help save a baby’s life or bring reconciliation to a struggling marriage. Art was no longer my god. That’s why I now give God the credit and paint pieces such as “A Prayer for a New Life.”
In 1992, after officially dating JoAnn, we were married. And today, I open my life and share my faith with others through my paintings and in person, because JoAnn first opened her life to me.