At 17, I was prayed for to receive the baptism in the holy spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. That’s when my Christian life took off.
While born into a Christian home, my parents weren’t strict in their practices of the disciplines of the faith. We attended the United Methodist Church off and on during my childhood. I was involved in the youth ministry when I got a little older. I went to the altar and asked Jesus to be my savior around the age of 10.
But we didn’t talk about the bible in my household. Never saw anyone reading it, never heard anyone reference it. We didn’t pray except at the dinner table. God wasn’t active in our lives and we had no expectation that he would be.
That changed with the baptism in the holy spirit.
In my teens, I plugged into a youth group full of kids my age who were claiming to experience god in a literal way. They spoke in tongues. They prayed and expected answers. They actively studied the bible and then had lively discussion about it over fudge cake at Shoney’s.
My new circle of Christian friends claimed answers to prayer all the time. Any little thing that would happen was attributed to prayer. God was always at work. Angels were saving the day … devils were hiding in bushes. Some even claimed to have seen them.
Not me. But, boy … I wanted to.
I attended a bible study with them one night where an invitation was extended to go in the back room and be prayed for to receive the baptism in the holy spirit. I didn’t walk … I ran. “Just let your tongue move,” they encouraged as the group murmured in tongues.
There was nothing in the world I wanted more that night than to speak in tongues. But nothing was happening. I didn’t feel anything at all. The room was crowded and hot and I prayed with all my might.
I tried and tried and waited and prayed. The other person being prayed for started praying in tongues. Everyone went nuts praising god and clapping. So I tried harder. I wiggled my tongue and hummed. Nothing. I quickly repented of any unknown sin. Nothing. I rebuked satan … nada.
I was getting worried.
It felt like a pressure cooker. What if I didn’t get the gift? What would that say about me? That god didn’t trust me to have it? That I wasn’t good enough or spiritual enough or mature enough?
“Just make this noise,” someone said. Then he went something like, “She Be Goin In A Honda” … So I did my best to repeat that. “There you go!” he shouted in victory, “You’re speaking in tongues!” Everyone in the room started to clap and praise god.
He encouraged me to keep going, to keep making noises as they came to me. They assured me that I had the gift of tongues. That THAT was it.
I was still worried. Was repeating someone else’s babble really tongues? I kept doing it … for about ten years!
Tongues was one of the things I could never fully convince myself was real. Even with the many trusted sources in my life saying that it was … deep down I knew something was wrong. Was it me, was it god, was it them? I didn’t know.
It seems to me like there are layers of belief. There are things that you know … really know. Those things are easy.You don’t even really talk about the absolutes much. I never wax on about how certain I am about the sun coming up. I know it will.
Then there are things you feel strongly about but with an openness to the possibility of learning differently. Of changing your mind. And it’s okay. Kind of like I know that butter is healthier than margarine, but I’m open to new findings.
Then there’s knowing what you don’t want to know. Knowing a truth that will separate you from the pack. So, you push it back, you push it down and you forge ahead into the truth you wish to be so you don’t lose your footing with the people you’ve come to rely on.
That’s what I did. I kept on babbling for years and years, praying in the spirit as I heard others do all the while, pushing that nagging thing as deep as it would go. “She Be Goin In A Honda” … they told me it was real. My gut said otherwise. And I had no idea what to do with that given the Christians I’d surrounded myself with.
I’m ashamed that I faked that part of my life for so long. That I denied myself the truth. That I played that mind game out of fear.