He sat down in our living room , putting his head back on our chair like he hadn’t slept in a while. Still uncomfortable, he shifted and pulled his smart phone out of his sweatpants and placed it on our coffee table. He settled back into the chair again and closed his eyes.
“How was this weekend?” my husband asked our friend. I had forgotten that this had been the winter retreat weekend at the college campus center.
“Good,” he replied. His phone suddenly turned blue and vibrated. He picked it up, read something for a moment and smiled, and clicked it shut. He looked at us again a little more intently, “Yeah, it was really good,” and he said, sharing details about the weekend, the long drive, a peaceful night in adoration, the miraculously long lines for confession, and then casually, “and my friend received the gift of tongues, so I was happy for him.”
My eyebrows shot up. I will admit it: I am dazzled by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I know they’re supposed to be for the building up of the community and not for show, but really, it’s just pretty cool to see the Holy Spirit show up in such a concrete way. Trying not to give myself over to sensationalism and wanting very much to show our friend—who was a little nonchalant about it all—that I understood the purpose of these powerful gifts, I listened to the stories about the rest of the weekend, purposefully commenting on the true miracle of all those college students receiving the sacraments. Which really was a miracle. For sure. I’ve always imagined our college campus center as a powerful little center for grace in the middle of an expensive Calcutta. But I still really wanted to hear more about the gifts given that weekend.
When I could stand it no longer, I had to ask, “So what does it sound like?”
He paused for a moment. “It’s different for each person.” He said that for one friend it sounds like Spanish, for another like an African dialect, still another Aramaic. He mentioned friends who had the gift of tongues, friends we had heard him talk about for years, and others who had different gifts of the spirit like healing and prophesy. He revealed how they had asked for the gifts to better help the students at the retreats, how they then used the gifts to help pray over kids. He told a story about one college student who had left the room after having been prayed over to another room where he fell prostrate in front of the Eucharist, looking like spiritual chains had been broken.
Our friend’s phone chirped and he flipped open a miniature keyboard to type something, paused, then put it away again.
I was agape. Here, our ultra-hip friend and his cool friends, every bit millennials, receiving these ancient gifts to build up the kingdom of God. Kids who had Facebook and Twitter accounts, iPods and earbuds, laying hands, speaking in tongues, and prophesying on the weekends. I looked at our friend who was looking more and more like an iApostle.
At the end of the evening, he picked up his backpack and we bid him farewell as he drove back to campus. His stories stayed with me for days. Making a bed one morning, I smoothed a comforter over a pillow, thinking yet again about the whole scene. What struck me most is that those kids received those gifts simply because they had asked for them with faith. Simply, of course, but with great faith from trusting hearts.
As I picked up toys and put away dishes and cleaned around the mysteriously dirty hinges of the toilet lid, I felt a pang of jealousy. Did I want the gift of tongues? I scrubbed some more. I didn’t think so. But I did want patience and gentleness and joy. I’m pretty sure that if I started being patient, gentle, and joyful during the day, my family would be more convinced of God’s power and mercy than if tongues of fire had blown into our house. I washed my hands. I didn’t deserve those gifts, no. But maybe I could just ask Him for them. I’d then have to send our friend a text to say thnx.