Our theme for the month of November is “firsts.”
Forgive me, Father;
I have loved a man.
(not in the Biblical sense but
Forgive me, Mother;
I have stroked his hair but also
stomach and waist and
—you don’t need to know that, I guess.
Forgive me, Lord,
for quicksilver hands and
I am not sorry.
– 2015 –
I wrote this prayer two years ago. I wrote it for a poetry assignment; I wrote it for myself. I needed to remember how it felt to wonder at my own shamelessness—to wonder if my guiltless enjoyment of intimacy was an epiphany or an indication of heretofore unexplored depths of moral decrepitude.
Two years and a thousand kisses later, I’ve privately settled on the former—that this prayer was a revelation that I’ve carried in my body ever since—but I can’t tell you that. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me. I don’t want you to think I’m a slut or a harlot or a whore or any of the other words we use to make women feel dirty. I believed those things about myself off-and-on for awhile, but no longer. While the writing of it took minutes, it took me years to own that prayer and determine that the story of my body will never be defined by unnecessary apology.
I’ve talked to many Christian women who have fear, judgment, and shame written into the threads of their nervous system. That was me, too, but I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to give you the right idea about me instead.
The right idea about me is that I am a confident, empowered female person who rejoices in her sexuality. Whether partnered or single, I strive to embody my sexuality in how I honor other people’s bodies, how I experience touch, how I talk about consent, and how I identify myself privately and publicly. The more comfortable in my own skin I become, the more fully I experience myself and others as diverse refractions of the image of God. And the more I know of God, the more confidence I have that my physical body is a gift of grace, not a mere minefield of temptation.
While I respect the biblical exhortation to put no ultimate confidence in the flesh, I am confident that God created my particular body to love particular people in particular ways. For some people, that particular way is waving or high-fiving. For others, it’s hugging. For very few, it’s kissing. For one, it’s something else.
For years, I wandered all the wrong roads to embodied confidence. I ate too little; I shaved my legs; I signed a purity pledge; I plucked my eyebrows. I built my self-concept upon the favorable gaze of men. I did all of these things, and more, until I found healing grace in the hands and feet and eyes of women. Yes, women, and in their friendship, love stronger than blood that flows straight from the heart of god.
None of this is radical, and I know it. Embodied liberation, thank God, is bigger than any one angsty white Protestant girl figuring out that she probably won’t be condemned for kissing and being kissed in all the best places. I’m not the first Christian woman to grow into her own skin, but maybe that’s the point. I’ve glimpsed what powerfully embodied women can do together and, wow, we can be electric. We can, collectively, grow in confidence and spunk and wisdom: we can do that work with our bodies. We can embrace those who mourn, interweave fingers with friends, turn pages of books, voice important questions, write and speak bold truths, ask before we touch, expect to be asked before we’re touched, give enthusiastic consent, and anchor each other in God’s love.
Because of you—dear, fierce women—my prayer has become a declaration:
Forgive me: I am not sorry.
Caitlin Gent (’15) graduated with a writing major. She lives in Milwaukee and works in fundraising and development. When she’s not working, Caitlin is usually walking with a friend or singing in the kitchen. She likes to wax poetic about Wisconsin to anyone who will listen.