The Urantia Book Fellowship

Sharing the Spiritual Life

By Carol Hay
General Conference 1990   Snowmass, Colorado


Today I want to talk to you about sharing your spiritual life with others. When I use the term "spiritual life," what I am referring to is the inner relationship that you have with God. In my personal experience, one of the main ways that God relates to me is through the love that he gives me. So when I share my spiritual life with other people, I'm mainly passing the love that God gives me along to other people. The Urantia Book tells us that love is the desire to do good to others, so spiritual sharing is a very action-oriented, creative approach to life that involves a desire to share the love that we receive from God with others. And--if you're like me--you've had some very wonderful experiences sharing your spiritual life with other people and you've also had some really awful experiences with it.

So we're going to talk about ways to share our spiritual lives so that we consistently get the results that we want when we share spiritually, so we can make a difference in the lives of those around us, and so we can make a difference in the relationship that we have with God as well. I'd like you to help me answer three questions in regard to spiritual sharing. The first question is: What is the purpose of sharing our spiritual life with others? The next question is: When do we share it; when is it appropriate? And last: What sort of skills do we need to more effectively share our spiritual life with others?

Again, the first question is: What is the purpose of spiritual sharing? I've already quoted The Urantia Book which says that love is the desire to do good to others. Love brings with it an inherent desire to share itself with others. And it's very interesting the way God has set this up. Because you can't feel the love from God in its full capacity until you start sharing it with other people and it begins to flow through you. Only then, only through sharing, can you really feel the full effect of God's love. I want to quote another section from The Urantia Book that reads something like this: "All true love is from God, and we receive the divine affection as we ourselves bestow this love upon others. Love is dynamic. It can never be captured; it is alive, free, thrilling and always moving. We can never take the love of the Father and imprison it within our hearts. The Father's love can become real to mortal man or woman only by passing through that person's personality as they in turn bestow this love upon others. The great circuit of love is from the Father, through sons and daughters to brothers and sisters, and hence to the Supreme." We're going to talk a little more about the Supreme in a minute. But right now, let's talk about this circuit of love that comes from the Father. It's a flow of love that is passing through us. So, inherent in our relationship with the Father is the need to share it with others.

Let me illustrate this point by comparing the way God's love works to the way a light bulb works. There are two tiny filaments of wire inside a light bulb, and when you turn on the current to that light bulb, the current passes from one piece of filament to the next piece of filament by way of a connecting wire, and it completes the circuit. Only when that electric current is passed on to the next filament will the light bulb actually work. If only one conductor of electricity were present, the circuit would not be complete and the current would have nowhere to go, and we'd all be in the dark, which I am most of the time anyway. You see, if you don't share your spiritual life, then that flow of love is interrupted and the circuit is incomplete. Love wants to be shared, and it has to be shared in order to be felt in its most complete sense. So the purpose of spiritual sharing is to pass the love we receive from God on to others, and in that process we feel his love in its fullness.

Now let's go back to the Supreme. Just what is this thing called the Supreme? And why is it important to you? When the book says the great circuit of love is from the Father, through us to others, and then to the Supreme, what is it talking about? The Supreme is that part of God which is growing right now in this universe age. It is the part of God that is evolving in time and space, as we are. When the flow of the Father's love passes through us to our brothers and sisters, we are contributing to the growth of the Supreme. Because, in a very basic sense, the experiences we have in this life contribute to what the Supreme experiences. And when you start making decisions knowing that they will affect the growth of the Supreme, then you begin to develop something that The Urantia Book calls universe citizenship, which is the mark of a maturing human being. So what is the purpose? Spiritual sharing allows the flow of love from the Father to be passed along to others, which is what that love was meant to do, and it is the only way that you can feel that love in its fullness.

The second question when looking at the tool of spiritual sharing is: When do I use this tool? Some people think that the answer to that question involves the times when someone is standing on a soap box on a street corner telling others about Jesus or inviting a friend to a Urantia Book study group or telling someone else about all those bright lights that were floating around in your head during meditation this morning. But when we limit our experiences of spiritual sharing to these special instances, we miss out on the point that every minute of every day can be an opportunity to share our spiritual lives with others. Spiritual sharing is the act of sharing God's love, and that means that sharing is considering the other person, respecting their needs and responding to them with the highest intentions that you're capable of. You always have choices on how you are going to respond to life. You will always have the opportunity to share your spiritual life with others.

Let's make this concrete. Your child has just come home from school. And she's forgotten her science homework and left it at school. It's not the first time that this has happened. Now, at the parent-teacher conference a few weeks ago, her teacher told you that she's having a lot of trouble with science. So, here you are, standing in the kitchen, it's the end of a long day and you've got to respond to this. How do you respond? Do you say, "You know, I am so tired of this. You know that you need to work on this subject more than anyone, so why don't you pay more attention to what you're doing? Let me tell you something, young lady, if you don't go back to school and get that homework, you are grounded for the rest of the week. Now, I've had enough! I mean it!"

Or, the situation can be an opportunity to share God's love with your child. And you can respond like this: "You know, when I was your age, I was having the worst time with math. I can still remember how frustrating that was. Listen, why don't you go back and get that homework and we'll work on it together until we get it right." Sometimes, that's what spiritual sharing sounds like. Very seldom do we have the opportunity to share something profound or enlightening to a person. But that doesn't stop us from giving God's love to people. So, it's obvious, then, that the answer to when can you share your spiritual life with others is: Always.

The third question that we need to ask of spiritual sharing is this: What skills do I need to share my spiritual life with others? Very often, I find that people don't even consider this question. I am of the opinion that we have a tendency to talk and think and talk and think but spend very little time actually finding ways to put these beautiful truths into our lives.

I think there's a good reason for this. It's human nature to put off doing things that we don't know how to do. Let me give you an example. When I moved to Colorado, I soon discovered that my husband and my two stepsons were crazy about downhill skiing. Every Saturday morning during the winter season, at the crack of dawn, they'd be up getting all of their gear together for the two-hour drive in traffic up to the mountains so they could freeze to death in a long lift line and then take their lives in their hands as they maneuvered down the hill. At least that's how I saw it. And no matter how much they tried to convince me that it was fun, I just couldn't see it that way. Frankly, I was sure that I would begin my descent and end up embedded in someone's car in the parking lot. But last year, John took me skiing and stayed with me the whole time as we took it easy down the beginners' slopes. And, you know, after awhile I kind of got to like it. By the end of the second day, I had a different idea about skiing. I actually had a good time. John broke his ankle, but I had a good time. And it just goes to show you that until you develop the skills that it takes to do something well, you're not going to be too diligent about applying the activity in your life.

Everyone has to work on things in order to become good at them. For example, do you think Nobel Prize heart surgeon Michael Debakey was born with heart surgeon genes? Did he graduate from high school and go straight to the operating room for his first surgery without the benefit of med school? Of course not. Did Itzhak Perlman take his first violin out of the case at age five and play an incredible sonata without the benefit of music lessons? Of course not.

You see, everything requires skill. If you want to be really good at something, you have to develop the skills that it takes to do that something well. Even Jesus took the time and spent the effort to acquire the skills that he needed to be effective in sharing his spiritual life with others. From The Urantia Book, page 1424, we are told: "The Son of Man, during the time and through the experiences of this tour of the Roman world, practically completed his educational contact-training with the diversified peoples of the world of his day and generation. By the time of his return to Nazareth, through the medium of this travel-training he had just about learned how man lived and wrought out his existence on Urantia."

Then on page 1427 it says: "On this Mediterranean tour Jesus spent about half of each day teaching Ganid and acting as interpreter during Gonod's business conferences and social contacts. The remainder of each day, which was at his disposal, he devoted to making those close personal contacts with his fellow men, those intimate associations with the mortals of the realm, which so characterized his activities during these years that just preceded his public ministry." He didn't go shopping. He didn't take tours of art museums. He got out there and learned about people. Another quote from page 1460 says: "He spent much time gaining an intimate knowledge of all races and classes of men who lived in this, the largest and most cosmopolitan city of the world."

Even Jesus spent many years acquiring skills for sharing his spiritual life. So let's identify those skills which will be useful in sharing our spiritual lives with others.

When I am working on improving my ability to share my spiritual life with others, I try to remember three words. Listen, Love and Leap. These three words make up the foundation of the skills that you can use in spiritual sharing to make the experience a good one for both you and the person with whom you're sharing, and, of course, let's not forget the Supreme. Let's talk about these three "L's" now.

The first L is Listen. A lot of people might be surprised that listening is a skill, because all of us listen; we're all listening now. Most of us have two ears that work reasonably well, but the reality is that few people listen effectively. And being a good listener is necessary if you want to share God's love. Because you have to find out what people need before you can love them. You know how Jesus always hit the nail on the head when he shared God's love with people? That wasn't just his divine nature coming through; he knew what people needed because he paid attention to what they were saying to him. On page 1874 in the book is the section entitled "As Jesus Passed By," that says, among other things, that Jesus was a charming listener.

I want to identify two skills that will help you be a more effective listener. And the best technique of listening that I know of to help us become more effective listeners is a technique called "Active Listening." The two skills from this technique are feeding back and responding to feelings and meanings rather than just the words.

However, I want to make a point here first. In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, there's a chapter called "First, Seek to Understand." In this chapter, Covey reviews techniques such as active listening, and he brings an important consideration to light. If you're not genuinely interested in what someone has to say, forget it. All the techniques in the world won't help. As a matter of fact, people can sense when you're not into it, and they'll resent your manipulation. I think it's a good point to rememberso on with the techniques.

The first skill in Active Listening is something called feeding back. What it means is that when a person says something to you, you feed it back to them. Feed back the message that you think you are hearing from them. This helps you find out if you're receiving the right message and also lets them know that you're getting it. For example, your friend says, "I'm so upset with Bob!" You respond with, "You're feeling really angry." Seems pretty obvious, but this is what I usually do: My friend says "I'm so upset with Bob!" and I say, "You know, I'm upset with Bob, too. He was supposed to be here at 7:30 last night to help me move this piano and he didn't even show up until 9:00." Do you see how it helps to remember to feed back?

The second skill in Active Listening is: Cultivate an inner response to feelings and meanings rather than words. Respond to the feelings and meanings that the person is communicating rather than just what they are saying. For example, your friend says "I can't find a job." You can respond to the feelings that she's having by saying, "That must really be frustrating." If you respond to the words only, you might say something like, "Well, I'm sure that the unemployment office has a list of jobs that might interest you. Why don't you go down there and check it out?" Do you see the difference? She already knows about the unemployment office. Feed back the message and respond to feelings and meanings rather than the words.

The second L in the three L's is Love. The attitude you have when you approach spiritual sharing will either make or break your experience. If you approach someone with a feeling of "this person could really use some concepts from The Urantia Book," then don't expect the experience to be a very good one. Your attitude should really be one of receiving instead of giving, which is a paradox, since you're the one who wants to share, but you've got a lot of things to learn about someone before you can appropriately share God's love with them. So the first skill to cultivate in the context of love is to receive the other person with openness, and with a great sense of respect for them. You will distance yourself from other people when you start comparing everything about them to the opinions that you have about how you think it should be. There's a passage on page 138 in The Urantia Book where it says "The love of the Father absolutely individualizes each personality as a unique child of the Universal Father, a child without duplicate in infinity, a will creature irreplaceable in all eternity." Everyone of us is a completely different person. It's unfair to look at someone through a stereotype that you've created in your mind.

Cultivate an openness and a respect for other people so that you can see who they truly are. That way your spiritual sharing will be more appropriate when you begin responding. Jesus was so good at this. His willingness to see people for who they were and his respect for those individuals made it easier for him to really connect with people on the level that they were on, and on the subjects that they were interested in. Be open, and respect others. If you have trouble doing this, the best way to cultivate that openness and respect is by becoming more aware of your responses, so when you do make judgments about people you can monitor yourself and change that bad habit into a good one.

Skill number two in the context of love is this: Develop your faith in people. And that means that you need to believe in them for who they are. This is hard to do. It means that you have to let go of prejudices and fears about people. But faith is absolutely imperative. Faith is also very powerful. Faith releases the potential in other people. When someone else knows that you have faith in them to be able to handle their difficulties, solve their problems, attain their dreams, then you have given that person a great gift. Faith breeds faith. There's a quote in the Jesus papers on page 1875 that says, "Great things happened not only because people had faith in Jesus, but also because Jesus had so much faith in them."

I have a personal experience that I want to share with you that illustrates just how moving faith can be for a person. When I was in my early twenties, I was married to a man who had a very wonderful family. His mother was spiritual sharing personified. This woman could communicate a feeling of respect for others and faith in who they were to such an extent that people always loved being around her. We all said that she could tame a lion. Both my mother-in-law and my father-in-law were staunch Christians and were very respected people, and my mother-in-law was a hostess with the mostest. Well, I was in town for a few days visiting my new in-laws without my husband. My sister-in-law, who lived in the same town, decided to take me to the beach for the day. We had to be back a little early because my mother-in-law had invited some friends over for dinner to meet me. So, my sister-in-law and I picked up some sandwiches and a bottle of wine and headed down to the beach for the day. We sat on the beach and ate our sandwiches and drank our wine and walked on the beach and drank our wine and talked and drank our wine. I think I should mention that I come from a family of teetotalers, and it took me a few years to figure out how to drink alcohol in moderation. This was before I had that figured out. I don't remember much of what happened for the rest of the evening, but my sister-in-law told me that I came into my mother- and father-in-law's house, stood in the living room and sort of swayed and grinned, and they had to carry me to my room, pull my boots off and leave me lying there in a most indelicate manner.

I woke up the next morning with a terrible hangover, but nothing close to the horror that I was feeling about this tremendous faux pas I had just pulled in this nice respectful family who had invited guests over to meet me with the real china and the real silverware on the table! I wanted to die. I walked into the kitchen where my very polite, well-bred mother-in-law was sitting at the table doing her Bible study and stammered out something like, "I don't know what happened last night, but," and my mother-in-law jumped in and said, "Well, I do! You just haven't been eating enough!" And that was the end of the conversation. I was pardoned from any wrong-doing because I just hadn't been eating enough. Can you imagine what her spiritual sharing did for me at that moment? She had faith in me. She knew that I was young and stupid. She had a strong enough sense of her own self to not be embarrassed by what I did. She didn't care that I had come home drunk and ruined her dinner party. All she cared about at that moment was restoring my self-respect. Develop your faith in people. It's a great gift to give someone.

The first L was Listen. The second L was Love. And the third L is Leap. Taking a leap of faith is very important if you want to share your spiritual life with others. Because one of the biggest barriers you will face is the fear of rejection. A good example of this is demonstrated by how people react when someone they know is getting a divorce or has a death in the family. Friends tend to fade into the woodwork during those times. And when you ask them why, they say things like, "Oh, I really don't know the situation. I don't want to say the wrong thing and make matters worse," or, "I don't want to appear nosy or meddlesome!" We are so afraid to let go of the controls and enter a situation where we're not sure what's going to happen. I'm not suggesting that by taking a leap of faith we can expect God to start talking inside of our heads, saying, "Okay, this is what you need to do." Rather, taking a leap of faith means believing that God is going to take care of our needs even if we do end up with egg on our faces. So we can relax and let the situation play itself out so we can determine what sort of sharing is appropriate.

I was once in a prayer group at my church. We'd meet every Thursday morning, and there was a very elderly lady who came every week. She came into the room in a wheelchair and she then transferred to her walker before finally getting into her chair, and it was a rather precarious operation. But her mind was very keen, and she had a wonderful wisdom that made her very interesting to listen to. But when the prayer group was over, I was afraid I'd be asked to help her get into her wheelchair and I was afraid I'd mess things up, so I always ended our conversation before it was time for her to go. What I was really doing was saying, "I really like what you have to say, but I'm not comfortable with the fact that you're an invalid." One day, there was no one else to help, and I thought, "Good grief, Carol, stop being so afraid of being in an awkward situation and help her!" So I did. And it was awkward, but it was a small example of how my relationship with another human being became whole because I stopped worrying about my needs so I could move into an area that I was not comfortable with. Take that leap of faith and trust God to take care of your needs.

Develop your listening skills. Concentrate on a loving attitude. And trust God to take care of you. It's a procedure that can be applied to even the most ordinary situation. And ordinary situations are what most of life is made of. Because although I'd love to be blinded on the road to Damascus like Paul and have God say, "Carol Hay, this is your life mission," I don't think it's going to happen. What God really wants from me is for me to take the love that he's offering in abundance, pass it through my personality and express it to the universe as only I can do. How we respond to life is our only real gift to God.

I'd like to close with part of a poem by Michael Hanna that describes just how important those everyday responses to life really are:

A service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship