Tongue talking, thinking, and feeling

I’ve been reflecting today on how I ended up in more charismatic tradition, and though I’m not a part of one anymore, why part of me is still the tongue-talking type. I think for me it all goes back to a more charismatic worship style which eventually bled into my theology. I grew up in a baptist church where the lifting of hands wasn’t the most common occurrence. Only during the lines “we lift up holy hands” or any song with a real focus on the Holy Spirit, did people lift up their hands.

I remember praying a prayer committing my life to Jesus at a baptist camp in the mountains when I was 12. I remember the way I felt when I stood up from the tile floor in the lobby where I had just knelt and prayed. As I walked back into the auditorium it felt like I was looking at the world through a different lens. I remember the song playing. I had this enormous desire to dance and run laps around the room, but thought “I’ll look stupid.” So I remained frozen.

In the years to come any time we went to away to a church camp, I was the kid who raised her hands in worship until I thought they might fall off. When I closed my eyes it was like I soared and became one with the music.

Some of the memories that stick out to me the most are the moments where I’ve of felt something tangibly during worship experiences. I recall sitting in my station wagon at the beach with a friend late one night. I had my guitar sitting in the front seat. We sang “Forever Reign” for a good 15 minutes or so. It was like time had stopped and I never wanted to leave. There was this deep, physical sense of longing that burned in my chest. There’s no other way I can think to explain it. Or the tingling I would sometimes feel throughout my body while having my own personal worship time in my room growing up. The way I would lay on the floor and pray and it felt like a force kept me there on my face for a while. I typically don’t like talking about these experiences. There’s a stigma that exists when talking about things you can’t understand or explain. They’re a little “out there.” Sometimes you look unintelligent or anti-intellectual.

I had a similar emotional-physical experience while being prayed for this morning at my Episcopal Church. Since it happened I’ve been trying to tear it apart, analyze, and explain it.

I love these type of experiences because they fascinate me on the deepest level, but they also shake me a up a little bit. They’re mysterious. I believe they’re interactions with the divine. They’re profound. You don’t easily forget these experiences. But I don't believe these experience are God. I think God brings these experiences to fruition, but when they disappear, that doesn't mean He's disappeared too. Faith rides on weightier things. Just like intimate relationships don't ride solely on sex. It's a part of the relationship, but there are other things that ground a relationship like love, attraction, commitment, and dedication. 

I’ll fight for marriage equality and higher restriction on guns all day. I’m not so sure that Muslims are going to Hell either. I’m not even sure that I've completely nailed down what exactly hell is anyway. I’m obviously on the more progressive end of the spectrum, but I still believe God has the ability to do some pretty crazy things. I think perhaps it’s because I believe in the bigness of God, that I'm a little more open to different perspectives. I live in a sort of tension. I regularly listen to music created by a church where God allegedly sent gold dust fell flying from the ceiling. I soak up the music and doubt the gold dust. I reside at the intersection of feeling and thinking. 

I’m also a believer that God is gracious enough to meet us right where we are. If you want to dance around, prophesy, and speak in tongues, I think God will meet you there. If you want to read liturgy and experience the Eucharist, I think I God will meet you there. If you want to walk your dog or cook tacos, I think God will meet you there too.

There’s more to charismatic theology than just physical expressions of worship. Jonathan Martin said it well a few months ago, so I think I’ll close with a few words of his:

“Pentecostals are not fundamentalists who speak in tongues. Pentecostal spirituality is a distinct way of being in the world with God, a distinct understanding of the kingdom of God.  Pentecostals are people with an apocalyptic sense of urgency, because they believe the Holy Spirit is empowering the Church in dynamic ways in preparation for the return of Christ.  But we are not just a people anticipating the consummation of the kingdom, we are participating in the kingdom already being established on the earth.  This apocalyptic expectation is hardly a pie-in-the-sky, detached, other-worldly escapism.  Pentecost is about the Spirit falling to the earth to particular people in particular places—and where the Spirit touches ground, the kingdom does too.”