The baptism of the Holy Spirit has been a subject of great curiosity for me for a long time. My earlier experiences with it were generally negative, so for a long time I viewed the gift of tongues with skepticism. When I married and started attending a church where people do speak in tongues, I watched and listened – looking for signs of manipulation, insincerity and superiority in those who practiced it. But what I found was authenticity and humility. I tried to understand what I was seeing and hearing. How did this benefit these people? They can’t even understand what they are saying – isn’t it just a bunch of gobbley goop? I had never actually witnessed someone receive the baptism either. I became fearful that the only way you get it is if you go to the altar to be prayed over and then suddenly you drop and flop on the floor in a giant public display of weirdness. I definitely didn’t want that!
So I started asking questions of people that I knew had the gift. How did they receive it? I had stories of being alone in prayer, or woken from their sleep, or being in small group prayer or while praying over someone else. What I didn’t hear were any drop and flop stories! That was a relief. I also didn’t hear any stories of tongues of fire or rushing winds. Apparently God can meet and fill you when and wherever – He doesn’t need to follow the original recipe.
Then I started asking what changed in you when you were filled? I mean – if the Spirit of the Living God fills you, something must have changed! This question seemed harder to answer. They didn’t suddenly start healing the sick or raising the dead. Some would say their prayer life became different. Others indicated an indescribable change in perception. I was surprised – I think I must have been expecting halos to appear or wings or something. All I knew was that I wanted to be changed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in me. I didn’t want to speak in tongues just to be part of the group. I wanted the genuine article.
I did enough research to finally belay my fears and then I started seeking. I would pray for myself. My husband would pray for me. But I was hesitant to go to the altar to have hands laid on me specifically for that – what if it didn’t happen? What if I wasn’t good enough to receive? I finally admitted my fear to a dear lady in Christ who assured me that it doesn’t always happen right away and to allow myself to be prayed over. So she did. Then she told me that speaking in tongues also required a step of faith – don’t be afraid to speak it. So from that point on I prayed and waited. And waited.
One Sunday in church I was overwhelmed by the presence of God and a couple of syllables of a language not my own were raised in my spirit. But I stopped it. I was afraid that it was just me. After all I wanted it so much that maybe subconsciously I was making it up. It went away. Then another Sunday it happened again. I allowed myself to whisper a couple words and then stopped again. Was this me? A few more weeks went by.
Then this past Sunday, while in worship, there it was again – only this time I didn’t stop it. As the phrases came in praise, I could feel my body being filled. Starting at my head and working its way down. My soul and spirit said “yes!” as those deep places of longing for the intimacy of the Lord were finally filled. It was like the “Ahhh” when you have a cold drink on a hot day, or when you lay in a comfortable bed at the end of a hard day of work. The yearning for His presence was over – He was here!
As I praised the Lord in worship and was running out of words to describe His awesomeness, the Spirit took over to declare “the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:11). My praise was elevated beyond my earthly capacity. My spirit united with His to truly worship.
The power that comes with the Spirit I have not explored as of yet. I haven’t raised the dead (of course I haven’t actually tried…..). I don’t know how He may choose to manifest it in my life, and I have a feeling that I may never fully comprehend the depth and breadth of it. All I know is that I am ready to move with the Lord, wherever He leads.
Most comforting however, if the absolute assurance that I now have. Any doubt that what I believe is only man’s rules, and the thought that my belief is “head knowledge” is gone. My knowledge of God has moved from my head to my soul, spirit and heart. “I know whom I have believed!” (2 Tim 1:12) Oh that all would know Him like this! I believe I now more fully comprehend the lyrics of the great old hymn, Blessed Assurance, sing it with me…
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.