As a teenager I attended a very charismatic Pentecostal church in Hawaii. While there for a service it wasn’t unusual to see people jumping up and down, getting “slain in the Spirit” (which involves falling down backwards to the floor) and also speaking in tongues, which is also called glossolalia.
When I first heard someone speak in tongues it was extremely off-putting, mainly because it’s just plain weird on the ear. Glossolalia makes no sense to the passive observer, sounds jumbled and strange, and honestly like a whole lot of malarkey.
I remember going to youth camps where young men in their twenties would “train” us in how to speak in tongues. They taught us to start with nonsensical words like “shum-buh-luh” and then just keep rolling with it. They promised that if we did that and also WANTED to speak in tongues, then anything that came forth would be tongues. At the time I did what all those other teens did: I obeyed. Meaning I allowed myself to emit string after string of ridiculous sounding non-words, even though in the moment I felt like a fraud.
I stayed in the Pentecostal church a few years after that and took my place as a tongues speaking member, like many others. And? The whole time I never stopped feeling like a fraud.
Except for twice.
I should state that these two instances actually took place after I made a choice to leave Pentecostalism. In my mind I had left the phoniness of tongues behind, which meant I was ill-prepared to experience real and true glossolalia.
The first time was when my father died. I was so caught up in grief that I was sobbing alone on the floor of my apartment, broken. As I sobbed, the sounds of my cries began to shift and take on a new form. They changed into words. While I didn’t understand the words, they were definitely words, and because I was so grief-stricken I didn’t have room or energy to feel self-conscious or strange about it. I just let them pour out. The language sounded beautiful to me, not rehearsed or forced, but pure.
The second time it happened I was overcome by the beauty and awesomeness of God. I fell to my knees and cried out, and once again felt the bubbling up of that strange, pure language. I felt deep and ancient energy begin to well within me, propelling the unknown words forward until they flowed out of my mouth. The entire experience was energetically and spiritually exhilarating; an upward spiral of divine utterances that spilled forth and filled up my mind, body and spirit.
It was amazing — and I believe it was real and true glossolalia.
Several weeks ago I was on a Live broadcast in The Lightworkers Lab when one of my members asked what I thought about speaking in tongues. The question took me back to my youth, and also back to those authentic encounters. In my answer I get to the heart of what I believe glossolalia truly is, and why it’s important.