It was after Sunday’s church service, and my sister had gone off to collect her children from their classes. But they don’t call it a service a the Vineyard, it is a celebration. Leaving my mom in the auditorium where she was conversing with one of the prayer guides, I went out to the lobby and greeted a few friends. Eventually I found my way back to where my mom was still deep in conversation with the Joe the prayer guide. My sister’s friend Sonja was standing quietly nearby.
Joe was saying something to my mom about speaking in tongues. “You can be speaking in tongues in less than five minutes,” he said. “I’ll lay my hands on you and you follow my lead and the Holy Spirit will fill you and you will pray, but it will not be in English.” Huh?
This I had to see.
Joe led the three of us down a hall to a part of the church in which I had never been. He bade us to enter a small room and take a seat, then closed the door behind us. I did so, only because I wanted to see if he could really make my mother speak in tongues. What strange company for me to keep, I thought to myself, as Joe laid a hand atop my mom’s head. He began to speak gibberish. It was really quite fascinating.
Joe asked my mom to repeat after him for a while, and then he asked her to speak, to praise God in a foreign tongue. Sonja and I sat in silence staring, waiting for something to happen. My mom was silent.
Actually, I think that if she had started spewing gibberish I would have freaked out and run from the room. Meanwhile, my sister was outside wondering where we were and pretty much having a panic attack.
But you know, I’ve been struggling with this hole religion issue for a while now. I’ve been told “You can’t write about vampires and make up stories about fake Gods and Goddesses and still be a Christian.” and “You can’t wear goth makeup and still be a Christian.” And who said I wanted to be Christian? Was that my decision or one someone make for me? I don’t have a problem with being a Christian, but sometimes I think maybe I do. I don’t want to be told what I can do. I want to be myself and I want to lead a good, productive life. And do I have to speak some nonsensical language to speak to God? Talk about confusion. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand. But this weekend, something happened, and I started to get it.
Saturday night I went down to the Freedom Festival in Greenwood and helped the Vineyard pass out free bottles of water. I walked up to one woman, and she had three small children. I offered her a free bottle of water. With tears in her eyes she thanked me, saying that she didn’t have any money to buy anything.
I didn’t have to do very much to help that woman. I’m 24 years old, and I’m just now beginning to see that I don’t have to go to a third world country to find someone suffering or going without, someone who needs help, help that maybe I can provide. If I had wanted a drink Saturday night, I could have gone out and gotten anything I wanted. The woman I gave water to didn’t have that option.
So I don’t think it is about letting some religion tell me what I can or can’t do. I don’t think it’s about giving large chunks of my money to a church. I don’t think it’s about speaking in foreign tongues as a means to talk to God. I think it’s about doing what I can to help the people around me to lead richer, fuller lives, and by so doing, enriching my own.