Insights with Emily: Is God your direct object?

By Emily Salerno-Oswald

Have you ever experienced something extremely boring that ends up being important later on? I experienced something like this the other day when I was working at the Language Learning Café in Egan.

I am a Spanish tutor there, and I was teaching someone about direct objects and indirect objects in sentences.

As riveting as this topic may seem, I’m sure both myself and the person I was helping were not extremely excited about it. However, it has become helpful now because I am going to use grammar as an analogy for the spiritual life.

This first requires that I give a short crash course on direct and indirect objects. For those of you who hate grammar, this won’t last for more than a few sentences, and you’ll thank me later.

The direct object in a sentence refers to the word that directly receives the action of the verb. In the sentence “I gave the gift,” the word “gift” is the direct object.

The indirect object refers to the person or thing that the direct object is to or for. In the sentence “I gave the gift to Jenny”, the word “Jenny” is the indirect object.

Okay, the grammar lesson is over. You survived. Congratulations.

So, why have I forced you into the weeds of grammar to discuss such a boring topic, and how does it relate to spirituality?

In essence, the direct object receives the action of the verb directly, whereas the indirect object of the sentence receives the action of the verb indirectly because that action must first go through a “middleman” in order to get to the indirect object. My point?

I want you to ask yourself – if your relationship with God was a sentence, would God be the direct object or the indirect object?

Let me make this more concrete. We either relate to God directly or indirectly. We either go straight to the source or beat around the bush and try to find Him in every other source possible.

When was the last time God has directly received your attention or your affections?

People often make the distinction between knowing someone and knowing about someone. This is definitely fitting with God.

I find that I do a lot of different actions that connect me to God indirectly. I read about God. I listen to podcasts about God.

I listen to music about God. I hear people talk about God, and I talk to others about God.

All of these things are good, but only if they are secondary to encountering God directly. How can you adequately talk to others about God if you can’t remember the last time you actually sat down and talked to Him directly?

Relating to God directly probably looks different for every person. However, some good rules of thumb are reading His word, talking to Him and listening.

Maybe this seems obvious, but it’s important to go back to the basics.

It’s easy to fill time with legitimately spiritual activities like household commitments, group prayer and theology classes. In doing so, you might fail to realize that, although there has been frequent discussion of God all day, you haven’t actually spent time with God today.

The indirect encounters with God can be helpful, but they are not enough on their own.

We are created beings who will always yearn for our Creator. We won’t find peace until we take the risk of communing with Him.

For some people, this is easy. If that’s you, you don’t have to read any further.

But for others, the thought of even talking to God feels so daunting.

Maybe you’ve really messed up, and you feel unworthy. So, you’re avoiding God, because you feel so guilty in His presence.

Maybe you think you have to have the perfect words, so you shy away from talking to Him at all. Maybe you’re at odds with God.

You can’t seem to accept what you think He desires for you, so you’ve withdrawn and cut off communication. Maybe you plan to start talking to God again when you find that you’re both on the same page.

This way of doing things could not be more counterproductive when it comes to growing in your relationship with God (I speak from experience).

When you stop talking to God and spending time with Him, you may believe you’re waiting until things get better and you can talk to Him again.

However, you’re doing the opposite; things can’t get better until you start talking to Him again. He is the Way that things get better.

So, here’s the challenge for this week (for you and for me): if you find that you want to avoid God, just talk to Him anyway.

Talk to Him just once, even if you feel unworthy and like you want to crawl out of your own skin literally the whole time. Talk to Him even if the words that come out feel inadequate, messy and confusing (they probably are, because you’re human), speak those words to God anyway.

Even if you’re mad at God and you don’t want to be, take the risk and tell Him. Have the courage to encounter Him directly today, and just see what happens.