False Prophets, Part 2

As a freshman in college, I felt the need to live intentionally, so my primary spiritual objective was to learn God’s plan for my life. In my previous story, I introduced the slightly charismatic church group I joined up with that formative year. I’m an all-in kind of person, so even though I met with them three times a week already, I still felt like I was floundering in understanding God’s will. So, when they invited me to go to the multi-campus retreat at the beginning of the school year, I said yes.

That weekend, similar college groups from all over Texas came together for a couple of days of Bible study and worship. Saturday evening’s service was standard fare: dark room, everyone migrating out of the pews so they could put their hands up, loud music with lots of bass drum and long instrumental breaks with spontaneous rounds of vocal Yes, Lords and Come, Jesuses. After a few songs, a sermon, and after the sermon, an announcement by a guy too old to wear skinny jeans: this weekend, they were recruiting people to go to Nashville and plant a church there. Anyone who felt called, he said, should join him on stage.

It took people a while to hear the call. He needed to invite people several times. But eventually, people stood up. Someone in the Abilene group I came with jumped up on stage, shoulders back, face set with determination. (Side note) He had told me earlier that week that he was called to New Zealand, but maybe God’s plan had changed?

But the response wasn’t enough. The call needed to reach more people.

How many of you are baptized with the Holy Spirit?

I was baptized at age 11 because I sang alto and I thought my church needed me. Also for the forgiveness of sins.

You may be baptized with water, but it might not be a true baptism, skinny jeans explained. If you are truly baptized, there is something you should obviously do. You should start speaking in tongues.

Tongues. The language of angels. The stirrings of your heart that the mind can’t recognize and only God can decipher. The literal speaking of another language to share the gospel with strangers. Speaking in tongues is described a variety of ways that I intellectually knew but, like prophesy, had never encountered in present-day church.

Do you want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

All-in. Of course. I wanted to do everything I could to know God, and so please understand that what I did next was not a brainwashed reaction to the emotional contagion of a room full of students with their eyes closed and arms raised. This was grit.

I stepped out to the aisle. I prayed for such a baptism. I waited.

People I didn’t know started putting their hands on my shoulders, head, back. They spoke syllables incongruent with any language I knew of. Then, frenzy. Shouting, pushing me to the floor, their cooperative weight making it difficult to breathe. They yelled at God to let me be baptized. They screamed at me to accept it and speak.

I tasted my unseen, terrified tears when my mouth opened, struggling to make sounds that did not form language. When the crowd heard my voice, their yells dissolved into hallelujahs and more unintelligible prayers. I was helped onto my feet. Had I done it?…

No.

Around me I saw the ecstasy of those around me experiencing God, unaffected by the rip tide of fear and shame. I couldn’t speak in tongues. Either I was rejected for this spiritual deepening or they were wrong. At the time, I didn’t know which. But as the title explicitly states, I know now.

But back to the call that started this mess.

The next day I was trying to act as normal as possible in front of my group who also seemed really nonchalant about the fact that they had pinned me to the floor the previous evening.

“So, Nashville?” I asked the guy who had confidently jumped on stage when skinny jeans proclaimed the mission.

“Oh, no, I’m not going. I just felt called to stand up there in the moment.”

“Oh. So are you still going to New Zealand?”

“Probably not.”

Double you tee eff. Whether a false alarm or a fabricated claim, him discarding the call pissed me off. How could he cheapen the voice of God to something as fickle as an emotional high, especially when I was suffering to hear even a whisper to no avail? (See again, the title).

This would have been a good time for me to stop agonizing over knowing God’s plan for my life. But that would not have been true to myself. And so, more stories to come.

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