I don't come from a charismatic background. I went to a Pentecostal Lighthouse once, and there was another time that I went to a charismatic prayer service, but I was young in faith at the time, and it was mostly a chance to get out of school for a bit. I didn't know there would be persons speaking in tongues there.
I didn't know I would be speaking in tongues later.
Now, before you go and write me off or click away from this page (I know, too late), hear me out. Because I'm not really talking about the kind of charismatic, unknown language, fired by the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues that you're probably thinking of. I'm thinking more of, well, what you're reading right now. And what you've been reading here for a long time.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what I say in this place, as well as what I've been saying in other places. Seminary, for example. And there's really no explanation for the way that I talk. There's no reason for the things that I say.
These words, this is not my vocabulary. At least, it never used to be. Growing up, I didn't know the words to Amazing Grace, let alone anything at all about how amazing grace really is. You wouldn't hear me talking about "beautiful images of a bloody Jesus" - not one of those things meant anything to me. I'm working on a sermon series right now that seeks to set some our favorite verses back into their Scriptural context, and I'm pulling on word studies and Hebrew language and cultural norms, none of these things that I would consider my natural tongue, but yet, I find that I speak them fluently these days.
People look at me, and they hear me speak, and they think this is probably normal for me. They think this is probably just the way that I naturally talk. And it's coming to be, but I don't think...it ever becomes normal.
I mean, who am I?
Most of the time, I still feel like just a kid trying to figure her way through the world. Asking more questions than I seem to have answers for. I still feel the darkness more heavily than the light most days. I still feel the famine more than the feast. I'm plagued by my own insecurities. What I do not lack in competence (it seems), I more than make up for in an emptiness of confidence.
I know more of the back roads of this world than I do the highways, more of the brokenness than the solid ground. I know those moments when the air is so stale that it's hard to breathe, and I know those times when the fresh air blows deep into the depths of my lungs and I feel, I don't know, human again. Or something.
There is absolutely nothing special about me, nothing that would suggest that I am anything worthy or meaningful or...charismatic.
But when I speak, it is this voice that comes out of me. This voice that knows the quiet whisper of the Spirit. This voice that knows how beautiful a bloody Jesus truly can be. This voice that holds in perfect tension Amazing Grace and a wretch like me. This voice that speaks theology as freely as it does current events or common life.
I don't have a background in the charismatic church, but I'm coming to understand that scene in Acts anyway, that one where the Holy Spirit comes upon the people and they start speaking in all of these new tongues. I'm coming to understand because I'm coming to live it - I'm speaking in this language that I never knew, this tongue that I didn't think I knew how to translate, and it's only by amazing grace, by the power of the Spirit come over me.
I'm speaking in tongues.
Who ever would have thought?
(And yes, I'm going somewhere with this. You'll have to stay tuned to see where.)