All gifts are given with a certain strategy and purpose in mind. Tongues are no different. Far be it from us to seek to understand God's rationale for this crazy, sometimes humiliating gift.
I come from the understanding that the true spiritual gift is the Holy Spirit himself, with the "gifts of the Spirit" being visible extensions of that reality. As a wise man reaches into his chest and pulls out treasures new and old for any given situation (see Matthew 13:52), so God reaches into us, into the treasured resources within his indwelling Spirit, and pulls out anything that's needed to compliment whatever is going on around us.
As a chef fingers across the vast array of spices on the shelf, knowing just what she needs to make her meal scrumptious, God, too, fingers his way across our hearts, seeking the precise spices needed for his purposes in the world around us - the only difference being, that we have the ability to refuse, or accept, the blessing that comes from participating in the thing.
The first time I was nudged by God to share a prophetic word I was terrified. I sat in my seat with the distinct impression that I needed to say something but, since I had never done that, I asked God to show me a bit more of the message he was asking me to share and then I'd stand up.
He didn't budge. Something about not operating in faith, I believe.
I struggled and wrestled and wiggled around in my chair like I had ants in my pants, doing everything I could to refuse his Graceful Invitation.
At the end of the day, I flat out denied accessibility to him. I wasn't going to stand up and make a fool out of myself and that was that. It was a the peak of my denial when, much to my surprise, when the guy next to me began to wiggle and squirm around in his seat, just like I was doing (but not anymore, of course). After an inordinate amount of what seemed to be an eternity of silence, he slowly rose to his feet, cleared his throat, and framed what he was about to say with the words, "I have never done this before ... but I sense God is saying..."
And to top it off, he shared the essence of the very same word I had been nudged to share.
So God's ministry goes out, with or without us. That day I didn't loose my salvation, nor his love for me. I jus lost out on the joy of participating in what God was "cooking up" in the room, and the blessing of him faithfully coaching me through the thing in real time.
Here's the deal: When we shut down any spiritual gift we alone are the losers. Fully participating in the gifts give us the privilege of hanging out with God and enjoying fellowship with him. Quite simply, it's a blast. God sees a situation where he needs to break in and, like the chef mentioned above, sees the best way to get into that situation. He seeks for a willing believer to step into that situation to be used, in whatever way he chooses, to reveal his purposes needed in that time and place. It isn't a matter if it's "not my gift." All the gifts are potentially ours as he dwells within us. With our blessing, as we are willing, he digs around in the treasury of our hearts and pulls out a rhema gift - a gift that specifically reaches into the sweet spot of what he's doing right there and then.
In his sovereignty, he has given us the choice to go with it or not. We have a choice to teach the hard thing, to love out of sacrifice, to exhort a brother, or speak a word to a sister. God taps the door of prophecy, administration, mercy, or even tongues numerous times throughout the Pilgrimage.
And he waits for us to open it.
Jesus, you are the One who stands at the door and knocks. Thank you for the many opportunities to participate in what you do. There have been times when I've intentionally bolted the door of my heart by telling you what you can and cannot do, or suggesting what you should or shouldn't do.
Some ways I have locked you out are ... (confess your specific bolts) ... all of which I now unlock. Forgive me. Draw near me, teach me, and shepherd me as we step onto new turf and a new adventure. I am wholly yours. Reach into me and use me, as you will, and always to the glory of your Name. Amen.