How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again. Part 2 of [3!]

Part I here

The days passed and the months came. Those experiences had taken a spiritual toll on me and I began to withdraw myself from Church functions and other ecclesial events. I had become a youth leader at the Church I was attending. Whereas initially I had been  outwardly enthusiastic and committed, inside my mind was roiling. I began to grow non-committal and distant. I was the one guy who didn’t speak in tongues. I was the one guy who couldn’t get it together. I was singled out by the Lord as unworthy of his gift and unworthy to communicate with him in this manner. Hell, I probably wasn’t even saved. The impact that had on me was devastating, and it meant I had to live a lie for a long time.

During Church services we usually had people come up and give prophetic messages. They would say “Thus says the Lord our God…..” and then proceed to give a message in tongues. Sometimes we would leave it at that and the pastor would thank them and we would continue as normal. Other times he would tell us that God told him that someone here had the interpretation, and the service would grind to a halt until someone spoke it.  Oftentimes I thought I had the interpretation. I was taught that after someone gives a word, if you clear your mind and focus on the words, that a thought would pop into your head. That thoughts was almost always the interpretation, and that we should stand and give it. I had spiritual things mulling around in my head during those times, and one time I ventured a guess. I stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I love my people and I am pleased with their worship.” And then I sat down as fast as I could. The Pastor stared at me from across the room, and then said “That was good, but that was not the message that the Lord wanted to give us. Anybody else?”

I sat there with my ears red and my face burning, stewing in my own shame. After a few minutes one of the women elders in the Church, our go-to interpreter, stood up and said [approximately] “Thus says the Lord, I am coming to do a new thing. I am coming like a flood to wash away your impurities, so long as you walk in the new things. You cannot put new wine in old wine skins, and you can’t put old patches on a new shirt. So come to be and give me your hearts, humble yourselves and seek my face, and I will heal your land and bring prosperity.”

I was mortified that I had gotten the message wrong. Later during my midweek discipleship time with the pastor he told me that I was acting in the flesh when I stood up, because it didn’t make sense that someone who couldn’t speak in tongues could interpret those tongues, as only “spiritual could interpret spiritual.” I never ventured an interpretation again.

Then one day during Friday night youth group something happened. March of 2004., It was my practice that however long the youth service lasted, I would arrive early and pray for a corresponding length of time.  During the prayers I felt troubled and uneasy. Agitated and mentally wandering. Probably the best description would be “angst”. My heart felt like it would overflow and burst with angst and recreancy. The service began and I sat there, leaning with my back against the wall, listening to a few praise songs, then watching and brooding as the worship leader began to lead a song in tongues.  Disappointment and disillusionment welled up and broke the dam. Even my worship was defective. Deficient. Incomplete. Inadequate. Flawed. The hollow ache finally overcame me and I wept. Weeping and sobbing out of sheer frustration and futility. One of my friends came and put his hand on my shoulder, probably surmising that I was having an encounter with God, when the exact opposite was true. It was an awful, tortuous experience.

Then, in one last ditch effort, I bit my tongue as hard as I could, and blurted out something, anything.  In my mind it was my final effort to speak in tongues. Sheer desperation. I was tired of crying. tired of trying little speaking in tongue tricks. Tired of trying to make my mouth and lips do things they wouldn’t do. Tired of trying to force the issue. Tired of the constant awareness of inadequacy. So here it was- my final offering upon the altar of God’s  faithlessness and indifference.

Out it came.

I was saying the words “God forgive me, God forgive me” over and over again, and I could think myself saying them, but I heard other words come out of my mouth. It wasn’t English or a language that I knew, but something altogether different.  It bubbled forth and spilled out of me. It sounded like “Sundaya-kasho-run-daya sho-ko-tototo”. Even all this time later I can still repeat those words and feel the familiarity wash over me. I gasped. The music was blaring from the front and I could feel the fuzzy reverb bouncing inside my chest. I was hot and sweaty and exhausted,  but all of a sudden I felt alive. Given over to reckless abandon and joy. I stopped speaking, waited a few seconds, then tried to say something again. I tried to say “Is this for real?” but all I could say, in my state of exhilaration and rapturous wonder  was “shandya-ra-so-tototo-shun-da” .

OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod

To be continued…

Great Matt Chandler Quote

“If you ultimately long to be holy, hope to be holy, hate the sin in your life, and are struggling to get there but keep falling short, and you’re in this kind of weird cycle where you kind of run to God for a season, then you run away to clean yourself up, then you run back to God, then you kind of run away when you screw up, and then you run back… If you have yourself in that cycle, I’m telling you, you’re walking in a fear-based religion that does not quite understand that God has already decreed you as holy and blameless. He has, in his adopting work, decreed to the universe that you are his and he delights in you, is proud of you, loves you, and cherishes you. You are a co-heir with Christ of all he has.” Matt Chandler

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again

I remember being at one youth conference when I was in my teens where the speaker was encouraging us to speak in tongues and telling us how important it was. He spoke of  how it would radically change our prayer life, our sin life, and our personal walk with God. At the time I was dealing with some pretty heady stuff and I had been taught a lot about this gift and there was nothing I wanted more than to receive this.

For the last few months I had been having a lot of spiritual teaching regarding this. In fact my pastor devoted hours working with us and teaching those who hadn’t received the gift yet some techniques to start speaking in tongues. He told us that first we had to clear our minds of any thoughts, that because our minds wouldn’t understand what we are doing, and would want to war against and question what our mouth was doing, and so it was important not to overthink it, or think it at all. Then he told us some methods that would help get us going, and used the analogy that it was like starting a car on a cold day. Asking to speak in tongues was like turning the key, and all you needed was a little kick to help the engine turn over and get it to start roaring.  These were some of his suggestions.

1 If you know a foreign language, start speaking that and ask God to transform it into a different one on the go. 2. Repeat the words “shoulda-bought-a-honda-couldove-bought-a-honda. or “shabbada-shabbada shaka-whaoh” over and over again. This will train your mouth and your tongue to lose control and get used to making strange sounds. 3. Pick a phrase from the scriptures and say it over and over again, as fast as you can, until the words become unintelligible  in your mouth. When you can’t say it anymore faster take a leap of faith and say the first things that come to your mind-oftentimes this will be your new tongues 4. Start making intercession with groaning that can’t be uttered. Start to groan and moan while curled up in a ball on the ground, from deep within your chest, and visualize your sounds transforming into words. 5. Read Bible verses but take out the vowels from what you’re reading,  and try to pronounce them all the while asking God to give you the gift- this oftentimes acts like a kickstart 6. Hold your hands over your ears so that you can’t hear yourself speaking, and start saying words and making sounds as the spirit leads, and then have a friend come over and listen. The reason you are plugging your ears is because as you are getting disappointed with the English words that are coming out of your mouth and then losing faith, which will kill it.  If you do start speaking in tongues, your friends will be able to hear it and confirm it for you.

I spent months practicing these things, trying to get my mouth to turn over, but to no avail. I especially tried the groaning one, where I would crawl into my prayer closet and start to heave as I pushed my hands against my chest, growling and moaning and making sounds that I didn’t know I could make. I was warbling by tongues and lips in between guttural gasps in an effort to make something happen. Anything. But to no avail. Consequently I had become hopelessly disappointed. I had gone to the altar on a weekly basis for prayer, my cheeks wet with tears as I sobbed and wept and asked God why everyone around me could do it, but I couldn’t. Didn’t he love me enough to help me speak in tongues? I had been told that it was one of the main proofs of salvation, and my heart was becoming a ball of confusion and distress. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t repent enough. I didn’t tithe enough. All these things rocked my little ship of faith. And then this conference happened.

It had been two days of manic worship music, ultimate frisbee, and sleep deprivation. A man with a bald head and a beard appeared on stage and said that he was going to slay us all in the spirit, and when we awoke we would have the gift of tongues. The room was hot and sweaty and the stench of stale body air was everywhere. Under blue and pink lights he approached us and had all thirty of us line up around stage and starting left from right, he would put his hands on people and almost throw them to the ground. Thankfully there were adults behind us who would catch us as we fall, to ensure that the impact of throwing a body gone limp would not crack our skulls on the floor.  “SHANDALA-HUNDARA” he screamed as he picked us off one by one. Boom! Boom! Boom! Bodies were hitting the floor as if being cut down in a swath. I could hear some of the girls who had gone first starting to rise and stir as sounds of giggles filled the room.

Finally he came to me. I couldn’t breathe with anticipation. Finally it was going to happen. I knew it was. Oh. My. God.  This was going to be amazing. All I could think about was the coveted tongues. I wanted it so bad, and the knowledge that I would go under and come up a new man was exquisite. He gripped my head with his hands. I braced my soul.  He blew a rush of air and spittle in my face and then  yelled “Spirit be released in Jesus’ name!”

But I did not fall as almost every other had. No- instead I felt none of the impartation that I had hoped for, that I had built myself up for. I wanted my knees to go weak. I wanted my legs to buckle. I wanted my mind to be assaulted by a hundred million senses and to come up for air with new words and a heavenly language and the powerful rapture of being so close to God that we shared a secret language that only we knew. Instead my legs remained strong. I did not bend or bow. Instead, despite being nearly hurled towards the carpet, my instincts kicked in and I twisted my body in such a way that I was  able to catch myself on the front row chairs as I reeled back.

The speaker, content with seeing me displaced, went back to the center and compelled the praise band up to keep on playing while my friends and strangers laid with their backs on the floor. Their hands were raised slightly at their side and facing heaven, weeping and laughing . I could hear the sound of garbled voices while I sat there. Heads in my knees. Begging God’s forgiveness for being such a disappointment to him.

To be continued…

Matt Chandler Quote

“I continually want to lay before you that really in that moment where you blow it, you have this really beautiful opportunity to marvel at the gospel. When your heart goes to a place it shouldn’t, when your mind goes to a place it shouldn’t, when your external actions go to a place you know is forbidden, you have this opportunity to just marvel at the gospel. Just marvel at it. Marvel that you didn’t surprise God, like God didn’t see that one coming. You have this chance to just slow down and rest in, “He calls me holy. He calls me blameless. He calls me spotless. Even in this he delights in me.” Matt Chandler