Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Oops (01/14/10)
TITLE: A Confusion of Tongues
By Gregory Kane
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That was all that I said. Well, more or less, seeing as how I don't speak the language as such. It was 11:45 on a Sunday morning and our church service was well under way. We might not have any chandeliers to swing from, but we were giving the angels a serious run for their money. Pastor Dave switched off his keyboard, lifted his hands and exhorted us all to storm Heaven with our praise and prayer.
So I did. Or at least I tried to do so until that little Chinese woman bashed me with her handbag. Okay maybe she wasn't actually from China, but one of those countries where they eat loads of rice and the dogs run for dear life when someone picks up a meat cleaver. Nevertheless my yelp of surprise stopped the meeting dead. And then this shrivelled up granny started shrieking: “This one, he say, my bottom too big. But not so. My bottom normal.”
I have never seen Pastor Dave looked so shell-shocked as he did that day. It took more than half an hour to calm everyone down and to explain that I, a long-standing member of our Pentecostal church, had merely been speaking in tongues and that I didn't mean to cause any offence. During the following week I received 17 entries on my FaceBook wall and more forwarded jokes about glossolalia than any man should have to endure. What really bugs me is that you hear all these testimonies of missionaries praying in tongues in hotel rooms with paper-thin walls, only to discover that everyone within earshot has just heard the gospel for the first time. But, me, what do I do? I get to set back cross-cultural relations by more than a decade!
Two months later something even worse happened. I felt led by the Spirit to stand up and give an utterance in tongues. The moment I finished, Mrs Hullard sprang to her feet and gave the interpretation. But instead of the usual, “Thus says the Lord” sort of message, she interpreted my tongue as if it were a straight-forward prayer. “Lord, I'm a mess,” she intoned in her best sanctimonious voice. “I'm ready to confess my many sins before you.” As you can imagine, this captured everyone's attention. The old dear went on to list (accurately!) a catalogue of infractions, including several that no one else could possibly have known about. But it was when she said, “And Lord, you know that women find me unattractive,” that the place exploded. I tried to take all the ensuing jibes in good humour. But the following Wednesday everyone in the young singles group walked in with paper bags over their heads. I saw red and let rip a few choice invectives that Mrs Hullard wouldn't dare repeat in a month of Sundays.
I believe in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, don't get me wrong. But, just once in a while, you get to wondering what's really going on. I mean like, my nephew is constantly blathering away with one nonsense word after another. It wouldn't be that hard to string together a load of monosyllables and let on that you were praying in the Spirit. Who would know? And then there's prophecy. I've never given a word in church but I bet I could pull it off if someone dared me: “Behold my people, the Lord says that you should use the organ much more. Verily, I say to ye, the deacons must wash the windows twice a week.” Mr Smythe would be sure to holler Amen to that.
Two nights ago, I had this really cool dream. I was getting married to Angela, who's in our singles group and is drop-dead gorgeous. At first I just wrote the dream off as wishful thinking. But when I mentioned it in passing to Angela, she admitted that she had had a very similar dream, only she couldn't see the face of the bridegroom. Fantastic, I thought, God's going to bring us together. Then Aaron and Pete came round for our prayer triplet and it turns out that both of them had the exact same dream as I did. I don't know, is someone up there out to get me? Are the angels running a competition to see who can embarrass me the most?
Some days I think it would be so much easier just being Baptist.
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