When we talk about speaking in tongues, a lot of Christians get scared (despite the fact, I must say, that in the past couple of decades, Pentecostalism has been among the world's fastest-growing denominations). They think we're talking about unintelligible gobbledy-gook, weird utterances that nobody anywhere can understand.
That's not the kind of tongues that I'm talking about, and it's not the kind of tongue in which I am speaking.
The whole concept goes back to a scene in Acts 2, and it is in this context that we have to understand the phenomenon. A group of believers had gathered together for Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit came upon them all. All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak. This is about as far as most of our discussion goes. It's...weird. So weird that we quit reading.
But keep reading with me. Check this out: Devout Jewish men from every nation were living in Jerusalem. ...Each person was startled to recognize his own dialect when the disciples spoke. Stunned and amazed, the people in the crowd said, "...Why do we hear them speaking in our native dialects? ...We hear these men in our own languages as they tell about the miracles that God has done."
Then someone accused them all of being drunk. (Yes, really.)
See, it's not jibberish that starts coming out of these men's mouths; it's real language, a real tongue. It's just one that they didn't happen to speak before this moment that the Holy Spirit came upon them. Even Paul is going to affirm this later, when he says, essentially - don't speak jibberish. If you're speaking in a tongue, there better be at least one other person present who speaks it. Otherwise, you're a distraction and nothing more.
So it's not that all of a sudden, nobody knows what we're saying any more. Rather, when the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to speak in another tongue, it's for the sake of those who need to hear about the miracles of God in their native language.
For me, that means, I think, that I speak theology because there are persons around me who have never heard it spoken in their own language. I speak theology from brokenness for the broken who have never heard the miracles of God. I speak theology from poverty for the poor who need to hear. I speak theology from the questions for those who are questioning.
God has taken my story and put a theological tongue to it so that when I speak, those in their own stories of brokenness, poverty, questions can hear the miracles of God in their own native language. From the darkness, I speak light so that others in darkness may see.
And it is only by the power of the Spirit that I am able, at all, to do so.
It's not jibberish, I don't think (I hope!) coming out of my mouth. It's not nonsense that I speak out into the world. It's not some unintelligible utterance, some meaningless drivel. These are the miracles of God of which I speak, and in that beautifully paradoxical way that God has about Him, it is yet another miracle in and of itself that I speak them at all.