I headed across campus and stepped into the student chapel. Spring was erupting, and doors were clumsily propped open to welcome in the breeze. I was on my way to the community outreach office where I led a team of fellow students. I had grabbed my mail on the way and saw an acceptance note from a campus publication. My head down, I almost slammed into a male colleague coming the other direction. He kept walking but turned to say:
“I see you have your note! I was on the team. I can’t believe they accepted your poem. I told them no. No godly woman should be writing with that much lust. That’s inappropriate.”
My cheeks burned. I wasn’t embarrassed. I was angry.
Kissing you should be as simple as
Drinking a cup of water
Opening my lips and secret to you
That you may bury your root rough
Fingers in my earthy hair…
That moment and this poem are frozen in time for me. His accusatory words were shoved on me, with cowardly, mobile finger-wagging, all because something had been stirred in him. Something had moved and breathed and curled around his narrow vision of what proper godly women write, think, and dream about. He was excited, and he was ashamed.
I thought about all the male writers who write of curves and bare shoulders and longing gazes. Men whose poems are deemed romantic, who are quoted in wedding programs, who do not dodge their explicit eroticism and desire. Prestigious.Yet for a woman of faith? Slutty. Lusty. Inappropriate.
I live in the constant tension of bucking the American stereotype of a “passionate Latin woman.” Either my explosive nature of welcoming the fullness of all human emotion requires limitation as soon as the room becomes uncomfortable, or the opposite – the notion that because I’m a wildcat when explaining my ideas, I must be some sort of wildcat everywhere else. With a wink. As I once heard, “Madonna, the holy mother, by day, and Madonna, the singer, by night.”
I hear the collective hum of the women around me who want to experience desire as holy.
We long for desire to spark as a firecracker that slow fizzes in our chest until it explodes and quakes our bodies. A consistent representation of what it means to be fully alive in our humanity – in our brokenness AND our wholeness. I make desire depraved when I assault it with boundaries born out of shame or pride. When it is free to be beautiful, it synchronizes my heart, soul, and body to move as one force that can present itself boldly.
I have not picked up my writing book in a while. When I do, I think of that young man. I know that my words of longing made him feel something divinely placed inside of him, yet he felt that it was something ugly. I wonder if he found a way to let them be redeemed. I wonder where his fingers have landed.
Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor, and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can, because she believes in you.