“Cat got your tongue?”

“Cat got your tongue?” Looking for the origins of idioms can be an interesting diversion. This one likely came from the practice the English Navy made of using a “cat-o-nine-tails” whip to punish certain offenders. It is said (and I believe it) that the pain was so severe the person being whipped was speechless trying to recover from the intensity of the whipping. Alright then, you have your needless fact for the day.

Now to get cranking on a more spiritual theme.  I know you have high expectations. Do you at times find the “cat has your tongue” when trying to open dialogue which may lead to some spiritual conversation? Have you experienced this too where you have the desire to move a conversation into sort of an “ice-breaking” (another idiom) spiritual vein but you are at a loss for how to begin? (Please don’t say this has never happened to you unless you are an evangelist.) It can be rather challenging, this hopeful “fishing expedition” where you would like to open the door to some spiritual talk to see where someone is in relation to God or to pursue some gospel content.

Some of the zingers people have dropped like a bomb may not be as useful today since our “spiritual bridge-building” is often a more delicate process than in the days when the subject of God and the openness to say “the Bible says” fell on more receptive ears. I admit some of the dated approaches still work in limited settings but the “turn or burn” rhetoric and an opener like “if you were to die tonight and stand before God and He asked you why should I let you into heaven . . .  how would you answer” is less successful in a culture where the mere existence of God and heaven are suspect.

Well, the window is a bit less open to things like that but I want to credit, of all places, a local public hospital for taking some bold steps in considering the spiritual wellness of their patients as well as their medical and physical health. They completed a research study, probably internal to their system, and discovered two significant findings: 1) Most of their patients welcome a chance to talk spiritually with their doctor. 2) Many doctors in their system are willing to initiate a spiritual conversation with their patients.  Now given our local Park Ridge Hospital (new name Advent Health) is a Seventh Day Adventist facility, they get it and are moving forward taking into account “whole-person care.”

Here are four questions (in the italics) they ask in their screening, and a few of these, with perhaps a small tweak, could be good openers for you and me as we try to move to the spiritual with others. 1) “Do you have religious beliefs which influence your medical decisions? “ (Friend, what sort of deeper personal beliefs influence your decision making?) 2) “Do you have someone who loves and cares for you?” (Do you see how this could move in several different ways?) 3) “Do you have a source of joy in your life?” (Christian, you really better be demonstrating some joy in yours before asking this) 4). “Do you have a sense of peace today?”  (Life is both uncertain and often hard for everyone. Where is your anchor? What keeps you stable or brings you back into balance after a setback?

Kudos to the staff at Park Ridge. Hey, this is so simple even a brain surgeon can do it. I think you will find that people are more willing to talk about spiritual matters if they aren’t pushed or intimidated and if we are willing to listen without arguing or defending. Good questions are “can-openers.” When we are gentle and sensitive to a person’s needs and their receptivity, we then have the potential to move them in their spiritual thinking just a little bit further down the line. To be sure, prayer helps. Would you agree questions like the ones above are pretty harmless? Why not give them a try this week? Think About It.