The gifts of the Spirit were expounded in the teachings from the pulpit, both at the Lutheran church where we first began our journey in this deepening relationship with God, and at Crossroads, the Christian community church into which the Lord soon placed us.
Probably the most controversial gift of the several gifts of the Spirit has been (and perhaps always will be) that of ’speaking in tongues.’ First, controversial to those on the outside of the church- who view the phenomenon as simply ‘crazy,’ and then on the inside of the church itself, falling along sectarian divisions, running the gamut from acceptance on one end to repudiation at the other. (I feel you can judge the degree of acceptance, based upon the corresponding degree of veneration for the Word of God).
[Aside – Of course there can be problems with the high degree of acceptance on both scales, if they conclude that “speaking in tongues” is the sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, leading to a doctrinal conclusion (I believe falsely), that you are not a Christian unless you speak in tongues. That is simply not the case, and Scripture does not support that particular conclusion.]
Against this background understanding I was led to seek what this meant for me. From the time that I invited Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life, I felt a presence physically. Though nothing visibly touched me, there was something about these experiences that gave the sensation of touch. I can only describe it as something similar to when someone comes up beside you, out of the range of your vision, yet you feel their presence, palpably. Most times it is strongest during worship and my body reacts physically to the weight of the presence.
So, I had no doubts that the Holy Spirit was pleased to dwell in me. This, coming from the simple belief that if you accepted Christ into your heart, you have the Holy Spirit, for that was (and is) His promise. I had seen the operation of some of the other gifts via others and through myself (perhaps, more on this at a later date), but as to ‘tongues,’ I was waiting.
I do not recall that it was right away. There was a bit of time between my learning about such things and my direct experience of them.
I did not note down the day, for I did not keep a journal at that time. But I do know what I was doing and what happened.
I was on my way to work – alone, driving down Interstate-5 to Portland. I must have been praying, with my eyes open, of course. Anyway I felt the presence of the Lord. And I wanted to thank and praise Him for His nearness. I opened my mouth to do this and instead of expressing my thoughts in English, another language flowed effortlessly from my lips. Actually I was singing in this foreign language.The realization dawned on me slowly that I was singing in French, and the words were celebrating the elements of communion.
As those of you who have read pertinent posts in my blog, you know that my major in college was French. I can state that I am more fluent in reading French texts, than trying to speak it in conversation. Even then it is halting as I have to go through the process of selecting the words to express my ideas. Such was not the case here, that part of the control center of my brain was bypassed.
As I continued to sing, the French dropped away, and something new was substituted in its place. I felt as if my very spirit within was expressing my adoration towards the Lord in a direct one to one correlation. A language that I can only describe as that which is obliquely referred to in Scripture as “tongues of angels.”
I believe this latter experience to be what the Apostle Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 14 as that use of a tongue, without the interpretation, and is for the edification of the one speaking. It was for my benefit.
And as I am writing this it is with a renewed realization of the work of the Lord in my life to make me into the man he created me to be, for the work he has called me to do, began that day.