The Holy Spirit: a defining aspect of early childhood Christianity:
While much of my childhood experiences of Christianity were more mainstream, the ones that concrete themselves in my mind as a young boy are those which were not.
One of these phenomenon was called “the gift of tongues”. For those who are not familiar this is a practice whereby the speaker believes that God has gifted him to be able to speak words of praise to or from God in an individual private language between the speaker and God alone.
In the church I went to during early childhood, tongues could be done two ways. Public praying in tongues was done one at a time in a church setting and required an interpreter. This was someone who believed God had gifted them with the ability to translate what they were hearing in this unknown language into English so everyone could understand.
The other type of praying in tongues was a private conversation between the speaker and God. This required no interpretation and could go on for as long as one liked. The benefits were that through this private unknown conversation, God’s Spirit (not his essence or personality as in “a man’s spirit”, but considered a separate person by many Christians) would bless the speaker.
Both my parent’s practiced this gift, and so it was something quite common in my childhood to hear various unknown foreign sounding languages being prayed to God.
Another concept taught was called “being filled with the Holy Spirit”. Unlike many sects of Christianity which teach that the God’s Spirit dwells with you at salvation, the Charismatics believed that there was a fuller or greater filling one could receive with prayer after salvation. This was strongly encouraged and was a precursor to receiving the ability to speak in tongues as well as other spiritual gifts such as prophecy (foretelling the future, usually more general concepts such as “there will be great challenges in your future” rather than “you will lose your job on March 3rd next year for showing up to work late too many times”).
Being in this culture, I was strongly encouraged to become filled with the Holy Spirit. Eventually I tried it, sincerely hoping to receive the gift of the spirit such as speaking in tongues. I prayed and was prayed for, multiple times, but never received a supernatural ability to speak unknown language or prophecy or any other gift. At first I thought perhaps I lacked in faith, but eventually realized it just wasn’t going to happen to me.