Be Verbal

The call to be verbal is not always welcome news to anyone who is shy and introverted!  Being verbal is about the last thing they hope to hear.  But it seems to me this is exactly what the spiritual journey asks each of us to do: to be verbal.  Let me explain.

It makes most sense to begin the explanation with a reminder of what all of us knows about grammar.  I had a good elementary teacher—although I am not sure I can recall her name or the grade---who taught me the basics of English grammar.  I remember her saying something to the effect that the main components of the sentence are nouns and verbs.  She is correct; complete sentences have at least one of each.

If we generalize, we can understand most nouns having to do with a “state of being.”  If we say “cat,” we point to a group of animals---all of whom may be pretty different---that have in common “catness!”  Since I do not share their state of being (genetic code, etc.), I an not a “cat.”

On the other hand, verbs are different.  There are a couple kinds of verbs.  But the ones I want to give focus are the verbs which point to “action.”  Our language has a ton of action verbs.  We can stand, sit, jump, run, lumber, laugh, and so on.  Each of these is an action word.  The verb affects the noun.

Essentially, the verb can be said to “make the noun act.”  Of course, it sounds odd to say it that way.  But if we put it into a sentence, it makes sense.  For example, we can say that “the cat jumps.”  The verb made the cat move!  The cat was just a cat until it “got verbed!”  It could have been “verbed” differently.  We might have seen “the cat fall.”

Now what on earth might this have to do with you and me?  I think it is an easy transition to the analogy if we imagine that God---the Holy One, the Divine---is a noun.  In fact, the English word, “God,” is our accepted way to describe a Being, an Entity, a Reality, that is so “other-than-us” as to be nearly indescribable.  So we add other words to try to paint the picture.  We call God eternal, ineffable, etc.

But God was not content merely to be a noun---to be.  God decided to act---the “Divine verbing,” if you will.  One of the New Testament letters tells us that God is love.  But “love” in that sentence is still a noun.  It is when it becomes a verb, as in “to love,” that it swings into action.  So God loved.  And then comes the second verb, “create.”  God created.  Love is creation in action!

What’s more in the Christian understanding, when things in the world had gone too wacky, God became so loving that the Divinity became human.  Somehow in Jesus we see the noun, “God,” acting out in the world.  God loved; God healed; God taught; God fed; and the list goes on.  They are all verbs.

And now for us the spiritual journey is to be more than nouns.  For example, to say that I am a Christian, is to use a noun.  The same goes if I say I am Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu.  I can say I am a Christian and do nothing.  I can say that I am spiritual and do nothing.  What is missing is the verb---the acting.

So the call to embark on the spiritual journey is really a call to be verbal.  We are to do something, as well as be something.  We, too, will be called to love, to heal, to care, to ameliorate injustice, to share, and the verbal list goes on.

In fact, I am tempted to go so far as to say that if I have not spiritually “verbed,” then I have not done anything yet.  In contemporary street language, “we gotta’ walk the talk.”  The good news tells us there are countless ways to be verbal. 

Lord, let me be attentive in my day today.  Let me see where I can be verbal.

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