Baptism & Surrender How to Speak in Tongues

By Michelle Williams


To be upfront about it, this is not an article that will outline the steps taken to develop the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. Paul spoke a lot about this mysterious ability in his first letter to the Corinthians, and the concept is intriguing. I can’t pretend that I know what it’s all about—but I do believe that the Holy Spirit has recently provided me some pointed practice with communicating through love instead of language. 

I’ll share three stories that occurred this past June in the span of about a week. Maybe it’s not relevant that they occurred so close together, but it certainly got me into a state of contemplation! In each unique instance, a communication gap existed and language wasn’t filling the need. But I fully believe that the Holy Spirit moved in ways that filled the gap through love.

My first story is from Grace Kids Camp where I volunteered in elementary crafts. During a session when we were decorating superhero capes, I noticed one of our Lift friends approaching my table who appeared to be in distress. His two Lift buddies explained that he was experiencing a sensory reaction to the bright lights being used by the video team on the other side of the room. They found a spot around a corner to try and help soothe the reaction. I told one of his helpers that I could bring a cape for him to decorate if he wanted to choose a color—but listing off the colors to him verbally only seemed to add to the stress. That’s when the Holy Spirit nudged me to bring one of each color to show him. As a giant smile grew on his face, he reached for a red cape and the distraction of the bright lights melted away. Thanks to a little help from the Holy Spirit, he spent his remaining craft time joyfully decorating his new red cape.

Within days after volunteering at GKC, my husband, Rob, and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary by taking a Mediterranean cruise—with an Italian cruise line. We met about 4 other English-speaking passengers (like, literally), and so you can imagine the language barrier we were up against for my next two stories!

On our cruise, I sang in the “Voice of the Sea” competition—where a handful of passengers served as the evening’s entertainment in the format of The Voice on NBC. Although I wasn’t the only person singing in English, I was the only native English speaker in the competition. Only one other contestant, a German, could really speak with me in English, and the rest mainly smiled and politely nodded.

So, the eight of us sat in the green room waiting for our turn to take the stage for an audience of about 500. Needless to say, we were all a bit nervous. I normally don’t fluff up my naturally curly hair in front of people, well, because it honestly looks a little ridiculous! And sure enough, when I flung my head upside down and vigorously shook my fingers through my curls a few times, the friendly little Italian man sitting next to me enjoyed a good chuckle. I joined in for the laugh and said, “Want me to help you with yours?” I acted like I was about to ruffle his hair, and we both smiled. He may not have been able to follow my language, but we both understood that we were sharing a good moment as two friends just helping each other to shake off a case of the nerves.

About two evenings later in the ship’s dining room, I noticed a young man with a widely-recognized genetic disorder walking toward our table. He was looking straight at me, so I smiled and said hello before looking back to continue my conversation with Rob. Instead of passing us, he stopped to look right at me for a few moments, and then continued on toward his own table after saying “va bene.” (A frequently-used Italian phrase that translates to “it goes well.”) Rob then recognized him from the show audience two evenings before when he’d seen him dancing and cheering during my performance of Happy by Pharell Williams. This time, it was the Holy Spirit nudging me to receive a message I might not have otherwise understood. I believe it was a message of joy and thanks—no words necessary. Although my recognition didn’t kick in soon enough to stand up and shake his hand in that moment, I might just be tuned in with the Holy Spirit enough to capture the next chance that comes along.

Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious. 1 Corinthians 14:1-2

I won’t claim to possess the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues, but I will say this: Love is a language that we can all recognize—and when we follow Jesus, I believe the Holy Spirit can show us how to speak through it.


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