Testimony Tuesday // Christopher
The tragedy was this: I simply didn’t realise what I was missing.
For so many years, Christian faith had been important to me, but my own spiritual life was pretty thin.
I had felt called to report on religion as a BBC correspondent, in the hope that some might hear of Jesus as a result of my work. But the dynamism of the book of Acts felt distant, even unattainable. Had I spoken of the Holy Spirit back then, it would probably have been to mention a tingle down my spine during the final verse of a rousing hymn.
And of course that was, and is, the work of the Holy Spirit – sometimes gently, almost imperceptibly, offering reminders of his gracious presence.
But there is more.
In summer 2010, on my final foreign assignment for the BBC, I reported on church growth in China. At the end of one long and difficult day, I was conscious that I had not prayed as much during the trip as might generally be expected from someone about to train for Christian ministry.
I sat at the desk of my air-conditioned and sound-proofed hotel room, and called up Evening Prayer on my laptop. I spoke my prayers aloud. And when it came to the time of intercession, I felt that I should kneel.
As I began to pray, I can only really describe a process that felt like some sort of new internal operating system booting up for the first time. I heard myself pronouncing various strange sounds, all the while connecting with God at a new depth. For reasons that were deeply significant for me personally, I then began singing in tongues with a vocal freedom unknown to me for years.
I once heard an eminent preacher tell of some advice he’d received: ‘make sure the congregation realise the difference between being filled with the Spirit, and not being.’ At the time, I felt it sounded rather arrogant.
But when I read about the early church in the New Testament, I read of communities where spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues, are a normal and precious part of church life.
It took me years to appreciate this. Even now I recognise that to many it seems, shall we say, rather odd.
But I can assure you that after being filled with the Holy Spirit, there is no looking back: a life-changing journey begins.