I’ve never written about “speaking in tongues” because I don’t have a lot of experience with it.
My church experience is based on the Southern Baptist Church my dad started in the 1980s in Massachusetts.
I don’t know if you’ve ever lived in Massachusetts. But if my dad had kicked things off in that car wash we rented as a church with speaking in tongues, I can tell you how many people would have attended: 4.
Me, my mom, my brother Bennett, and my dad. (My brother Will probably would have skipped, too, because even as a kindergartener he wasn’t into speaking in tongues.)
But despite a background that did not prepare me to be an expert on this topic, I do have a friend named Mike who had a rather comical experience with speaking in tongues.
He was new to Christianity. (I won’t ever say the phrase “Baby Christian,” because that makes it sound like you’re going to scream on planes and refuse to put pants on.) And one Sunday he and his wife were at church when someone started speaking in tongues, or “Glossolalia” as you might know it. (You don’t use that word regularly? Weird.)
For minutes, this woman at the back of the sanctuary was disambiguating. (Not that one either? Jeez.)
Mike couldn’t understand what she was saying and thought she might be speaking in another language. She was experiencing a bit of “xenoglossy” if you will. (I am now officially out of words I looked up on Wikipedia.)
Mike sat there while the service continued. (It does continue in situations like that, right? Again, I’m a Massachusetts Southern Baptist. I didn’t even know you guys were using handbells until I came to Alabama for college.)
Out of nowhere, Mike started to understand what she was saying. Her words suddenly made sense to his ears. Like a switch had been flipped, he could interpret what she was saying. Overwhelmed with the joy of what he assumed was the arrival of a new spiritual gift, Mike turned to his wife, beaming. “I can understand her! I can understand her! I have whatever gift that is! I can hear exactly what she’s saying now!”
Expecting his wife to hug him with excitement, thrilled that her husband was so gifted, she turned instead to Mike and said simply, “We can all understand what she’s saying. She’s talking in English now, not tongues.”
I don’t know if Mike heard the sad “Whaa Whaa” trumpet sound in his head over all the people speaking in tongues, but I did when he told the story.
Have you ever had any experience with speaking in tongues?