The Language of Spirit: Not Lost in Translation

Are you comfortable talking about your faith? What about if you’re a patient or healthcare provider–are you comfortable talking about spiritual practices with your doctor/patients? Or does that swing you way out of your comfort zone?

It seems to me, there’s no time like the present to become more articulate with “the language of Spirit.”

Prof Des O’Neill is a consultant in geriatric and stroke medicine in Ireland. He had this to say about spirituality in medicine:

“I broached new territory when delivering on a request to talk about spirituality and health at the Eucharistic Congress. For me personally, I was reminded of the line in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets that ‘each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate’.”

He reminds readers that spirituality is internationally recognized as vital to healthcare. In fact, the majority of US medical schools now include spirituality in their medical curriculum. (Read: We need to talk about spirituality in healthcare).

When I visited a Spirituality and Medicine class at Harvard Medical School I got an inside peek at that world of aspiring physicians and hospital chaplains. The students wrestled with questions like:

  • Will I be crossing a line if I mention religion or God?
  • What if my faith differs from my patient’s belief system?
  • I know how to speak in medical terms, but I have no idea how to articulate spirituality and prayer . . .

I think there are ways to find commonalities, regardless of one’s particular faith practice. And that’s where the language of Spirit comes in.

Does God know if we’re Muslim, Christian, Jewish? Does he know we speak Farsi, French, Swahili? I don’t think so. The language of Spirit is truly communicated in ways that transcend language and culture and speak to the heart. When we’re in tune with that, we break the barriers that would limit us.

Here’s a modest example from my own life:

As a college student, I spent a summer teaching English in Japan. At the end of my trip I spent a few days in Tokyo before heading home to San Francisco. I didn’t speak Japanese, aside from a few phrases I’d learned. On the final evening of my trip, I got off at the wrong train stop as I made my way back to my friend’s apartment in the city. I had no cell phone, no way of communicating my dilemma–and frankly no idea which train to take to get home.

In the middle of this busy Tokyo train station during commuter rush hour, with suits of all sizes whizzing past me, I felt alone and scared.  All I could do was stop and pray. And God provided an angel. I heard the message that I was safe . . . and I think my angel heard it, too.

A kind man suddenly approached me and asked in broken English if I was lost. I told him the name of the street where my friend lived. He took my hand and said, “Follow me.” He paid my fare, got me on a train, spoke to a couple in Japanese and asked them to be sure I got off at my stop.

I’ll never forget that day. It taught me that we each hear the divine message when we’re listening–first in our own consciousness. When we agree to tune in to this divine message, cultural and language barriers fall away and we glimpse how Spirit talks to each one of us.

I think the language of the divine can open all of our hearts to the direction we need in our lives, whether about our healthcare decisions or anything else.

For further reading:

Some stats from a 2010 survey of U.S. medical schools on including courses on Spirituality and Health: (See Spirituality in medical school curricula: findings from a national survey)

“Ninety percent (range 84%-90%) of medical schools have courses or content on spirituality and health (S&H), 73% with content in required courses addressing other topics and 7% with a required course dedicated to S&H. Although over 90% indicate that patients emphasize spirituality in their coping and health care, only 39% say that including S&H is important.”





  1. Ute Keller says

    Yes, Sue, Love speaks to the human heart, Christ enables to understand. What I think today is, that it is important, not to believe that people in medicine are far away in their thinking, but to expect, the good work of the Christ. I remember that when I had really found it within, that I really needed hands humanly. I read for some months only S&H from cover to cover, again and again, I loved it, it healed me. Humanly it meant a great change and I really felt alone in a wonderful new world and was deeply grateful when other Christiam Scientists had time for my questions … . I never needed hours, just a little sharing, a little encouragement to dig in and find the Spirit. All my former friends, my job I had left, it had not been possible to combine it and I felt, I cannot mix it, but now all my friends couldn’t understand me anymore. Church as a home then was so important. Today I’m grateful to remember that and never to forget to look for these yearning hearts and be willing to spend an extra hour, to break another piece of perhaps very soft bread, that my next is able to take in and enjoy and feel the strength out of it for his or her next step. There is hardly anything greater to me then getting an opportunity from God to find such an open, willing, hungry heart … and there are, it just needs an open heart too to see that and sometimes it needs courage to go out where they are, but I think, it is high time to do so, to encourage us to go … into all the world and find the “lost” sheep!

  2. says

    Just as Dave said, “regardless of our faith, the one common factor is love” . That is proved out perfectly Ute’s comment about how when she found Christian Science in the medical community it then spoke to her in a way she could understand.

    I have known of other medical professionals that found Christian Science and it spoke to them too. God’s healing love is not confined to members of any one church or faith.

  3. Virginia McCullough says

    From this blog and and Sue’s experience it seems like the language of Spirit is especially available when there is a need. Reminds me of the thought “God helps us the most when we need it the most.” I’m grateful to hear from and about folks in the medical profession who are seeing the need to talk about spirituality. Sounds like an answer to prayer, step by step. I’m sure learning the language of Spirit is something that we can all work at and practice more and more.

  4. Ute Keller says

    I love this, the language of Spirit guiding us home … . It reminds me to the time when I had heard about CS for the first time. I just couldn’t understand it. I was in a medical profession at that time. Somehow, I was hoping, that they were right with CS, but I felt I need to find it where to me the need was, – in the hospital. I couldn’t understand their words, they appeared to be a foreign language to me. Step by step without anybody talking to me I found CS in my work in the hospital through the language of Spirit, this still small voice within me, guiding my thinking each day until I was ready to leave medicine and go on in CS, feeling safe, that God, Spirit heals and meets every need. I’m so grateful for many healings through CS ! I will never forget, what enabled me to understand CS and to experience healings through it, that it was this divine Spirit, this living Word, the still small voice within and I rejoice that I know, this still small voice can be heard by everyone, everywhere, as it happened to me.

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Ute! Love that you’re part of the “Breaking Bread” community :)

  5. Dave says

    The one language that everyone understands and can hear is love. Both your and Sue’s entries are beautiful examples of that. It’s quite something. I was involved in an interfaith program a few years back, and one of the topics being discussed were the Sacraments. There were several faiths being represented, and at no time did anyone try and correct, or put down what another was saying. There seemed to be a sincere respect for each other and a desire to listen and learn.

    Regardless of our faith, the one common factor is love, and this obviously extends to those is the medical profession, who have enlisted to lessen the suffering in the world.
    It doesn’t really matter what words you say, if there’s love behind them, they’ll be just right.

  6. says

    Thanks for reminding us, Ingrid, that the language of Spirit is universal and that it’s possible to find common ground and language with anyone if we just try with an open thought and loving mind.

    I also had an experience that started on the Tokyo subway system and ended with prayer and guidance from many of God’s angels.

    I was on a business trip in Japan and several of us went out together after work one night, but I wanted to go back to the hotel earlier than the others. The problem was that the subway closed down for the night before I made it all the way back, so I had to walk the rest of the way. I was so grateful to know that God’s love and ever-presence were there each step of the way protecting and guiding me.

    I did’t speak Japanese at all and I didn’t have a map or even know where my starting point was relative to my hotel. But I walked for a distance and then show the hotel name which was on a key tag to anyone I passed. They each pointed in the direction I needed to go and I would walk that direction until I passed someone else who would again point and I would follow. Each time I approached someone I prayed to know that they would be understanding, helpful, and kind and that I was safely walking in God’s presence.

    It took hours of walking, but I arrived back safely and was so very grateful for all the angels God placed along my way.