It was my third time at the doctor in a single week, and I had rattled off my name, birthday, and address so many times that I had started writing 1995 as the current year. Yet, the nurse caught me completely off guard when she asked, “And what is your religion?”
I must have looked like a heathen because she prompted, “You know, like, Christian?”
If I had a quicker brain, I would have replied, “Sorry, I was just trying to decide if I should say dispensational premillenialist or if I should keep it simple and tell you that I hold to a literal hermeutic.” Instead I said, “Oh…yeah…Christian.”
In hindsight, I am disappointed in myself. Here I was, nearing my 20th re-birthday, and I completely froze when someone asked me this simple question: what is your religion?
After twenty-three years of regular church attendance (including thirteen years at a Christian school, 4 years at a Christian university, and 1 year working at a Christian organization), my answer should have been intuitive. The question was clear: what is your religion?
I was in no way ashamed to admit my relationship with Christ. I just wasn’t expecting a nurse to ask me such an uncommon question: what is your religion?
I wasn’t ready.
I’ve re-written this blog post 5 times, each time trying to blame the culture for my tongue-tied response to the nurse. But now, at 3:30 a.m. as I try to finish this post so that I can go back to bed, I’ll finally admit the truth: I wasn’t ready.
I Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to answer questions about our faith. In the past, I unconsciously limited always to two situations: (1) the theological debates at the university lunch table, and (2) the hypothetical stranger who is destined approach and ask, “How can I go to heaven?”
The nurse’s unexpected question taught me something important: always is an unlimited word. Always includes the grocery store, the exam question, the church pew, the airplane, the email, and the coffee shop. Always includes morning, noon, and evening. Always could be at home or abroad. Always covers discussions about God, religion, ethical dilemmas, and social issues. Always even includes the doctor’s office.