Sunday, August 4, 2013

So..."tongues" have "died"?

So...of course, writing about Brother Thompson the other day made me think about his beautiful wife, Sister Thompson. When I was a little girl, I didn't know what to call the kind of beauty she had. These days, I would say she was elegant and grace-filled. Every now and then, she would sing a solo in church. When she sang "The Love of God," at some point during the song, it was like she became so moved by this Love that human language was simply not enough, and she would begin singing in tongues.

Photo by our friend, Marlon Rampy;
words are possible because of Becca :).
Now...before you just dismiss this thing called "tongues," let me share a story with you.

A few years ago, for months, I had hovered very close to a place I can only call despair. A beloved friend had left in a way that seemed to take a large part of my soul with her. For months, I had prayed and cried, begging God to help me move on from this ever-present sadness and depression. felt like my prayers made it no "higher" than the living room ceiling. Going to church was, be honest...a burden--I just sat there and cried at the first few words of a song...which just led to worrying about what people around me thought.

Then, one Sunday morning, as I was getting ready for church, I prayed this prayer at my bathroom sink, "Jesus, you've got to help me today. I need to know that you see me, that you care about what I'm going through."

Well...that balcony seat in that Baptist church was taken; so, I had to sit in a different section. ( should keep in mind that, these days, I go to a Baptist church--it becomes significant a little later in this story.) When it came time to "shake hands and greet those around you," I noticed I didn't know a soul around me. But, I put on a smile, shook hands, and greeted away.

That morning, Brother Doug's sermon was about living as a follower of Christ when life has pulled the rug out from under you. Needless to say, I was a puffy-eyed, snotty-nosed mess by the time of the altar call--had even considered getting up and leaving, but didn't want to embarrass honey (any more than my snuffling already had.). Then, Brother Doug asked for everyone who felt like they needed prayer to come to the altar. But...I didn't...just couldn't.

(I feel I should remind you at this point that I was sitting on a Baptist church pew where I normally didn't sit...and had never met the couple sitting behind me.) I sat there weeping...the man behind me leaned over, placed his hand on my shoulder...and began PRAYING IN TONGUES for me.

Me...who had grown up listening to my Sister Thompson sing about "The Love of God" in some heavenly tongue...and hearing others pray in tongues my whole life! And...remember my "blackmailish" prayer earlier that morning--"Jesus, you've got to help me today. I need to know that you see me, that you care about what I'm going through."

And He did. He orchestrated that entire Sunday morning...for me. On a Baptist church pew, I sat there and wept some more, and drank in that beautiful "other" language interceding for me. And I was taken back to the song my beautiful Sister Thompson used to end up singing in an "other" language:

"The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

....*Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky."

Well...of course...after the service ended, I HAD to tell this man whose name I didn't even know the part he had played in Jesus answering my desperate, early-morning prayer. And, just like God, my sharing helped him--who said he often wondered why God had him--him, who has this "thing" called "the gift of tongues"--at a church which believes that, of all the gifts, that gift alone has "died."

I'm just grateful it hasn't.

After that Sunday morning, as I continued healing and moving on from my brokenheartedness, I would remember that "other" language prayer...and KNOW that Jesus does see me...does care about what I'm going through...for then...for now...for always.

If there's one thing I'm learning, it's that, while I may try to fit God into a tidy little box, He just flat out refuses to stay there.
I love the LORD, because he heard my voice 
and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.…
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful….
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living….
What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation 
and call on the name of the LORD….
O LORD, I am your servant;…
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
(from Psalm 116, ESV)

(*FYI, a footnote on the Hymnal page for "The Love of God" reads: "The words of the last verse of this song were found penciled on the wall of a narrow room of an asylum by a man said to have been demented. The profound lines were discovered after his death.")

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