Kiss and Tell
I kissed a boy and I liked it.
I liked it so much, I kissed many. I never believed in considering future consequences, only the here and now, only in the moment where my body lusted and craved another.
I believed in hedonism.
I was a lover of a sugar-coated world, biting deep enough to reach the salt beneath; left parched and bereft. But when invited to dine with the Divine, I counted up the cost and I conceded that He was worth it all. Because when you see the light, darkness doesn’t stand a chance. When you see the light, you cannot deny its existence.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
We tend towards hiding our not-so-pure stories, locking them deep into caskets that no one may see or hear. We profess forgiveness like we do breathing, yet shame whispers “tell no one” and we trust its every word. In a community amongst those who testify to the living Word, Who is pure and holy, Who calls us to be as He is, we feel there is no room for our stories of grace. We see the awe in people’s eyes as they intently listen to testimony after testimony, whilst observing how the same story-tellers are not trusted, always on trial. So we sit in silence, hear stories like ours being called a disgrace, bite our tongues as people express the need to marry only a “pure” spouse.
Yet, forgiveness does not beckon silence. And grace does not hide away our past sins. Rather it holds each thorn up to the light and transforms them into pure white lilies, with each petal holding a unique story, not to be forgotten, lest the power of grace be forgotten.
There’s a woman whose story I know well. Or perhaps, it is she that knows mine. A nameless woman, yet not a faceless one, for I have seen her face countless times when I’ve looked in the mirror. The courageous woman on the sixth hour of Wednesday eve.
She can see the Man she came for. She had heard that Christ had come to the house of the Pharisee. It was not too late to turn around, forget it all, save looking foolish, call it a moment of insanity. Yet, despite any doubt, she feels her feet carry her forward. Ardent, panting and perspiring, she makes her way to the large inner chamber of the banquet weaving through all the people. She does not dare look up. She can feel the heat of their burning disproval on the back of her neck. She hears the steady hum of conversation dwindle to hushed tones of disgust and scandal as they recognise her. People are moving a safe distance away from her. She pays them no mind, her eyes locked on this one Man. She had boldly chased after many men, but none like this. The room is silent now as they realise Who she came for. Does she really have the audacity to come before this righteous Man who claims to be God?
She walks forward, with one thing in mind. Sharp inhale. She stops right in front of him. Without lifting her eyes from the ground, she quietly and slowly kneels and lets down her hair. Memories flash before her of all those nights she used her hair as a snare to seduce, remembering all those fingers that ran wild and passionately through them. Her vision blurs as her eyes pour. Thick, heavy droplets of regret fall to His feet. She remembers the words spoken to her, how it was always her eyes that drew them in and held them captive, possessing their own alluring power. The eyes that stained her life with sin, now moistened His feet.
She stammers. With no words to say she does the only thing she could; she washes His feet. She takes her trembling hands, the same vessels that fed the pleasures of men, cups His feet and holds the thick strands of her locks to wipe them. She wonders if she has crossed a line, but He does not stop her or move away. She was accustomed to desiring men, but never desiring their forgiveness.
She takes her lips, lips that eagerly sought and caressed bare flesh, and kisses His feet. The room breaks out in shock; horror and objections ring loud in the room. An exchange of mutterings, naming her immoral, worthless and irreverent. She feels Him staring at her but she feels no fear and no shame. The others see Him staring at her, in a way they haven’t seen Him stare before. His eyes glisten, there is warmth. She knows how it feels to be stared at by a man, a ravaging stare full of fervent desire, but this was not the same. She feels Him look right through her. She is known, for the first time.
She pulls out her alabaster flask, her costly jar of sensual pleasure used to arose her lovers. The memories race, the images flash. She forcefully pushes them away as she breaks the alabaster flask. Her tears mingle with perfume and she continues to wipe with her hair. She kisses and pours; impure lips become holy. The beautiful fragrance rises. He does not speak but she feels His radiating, pure love. She feels something unexplainable she has never known before. Is this acceptance? Is this what it means to belong? She lifts up her head, looks Him in the eye, and she knows; nothing will ever be the same.
Luke 7 has its ending, but I’ve always wondered what happens next. I think of her departure to her normal life after being told that she was forgiven and loved. I think of how she must have replayed that moment over and over again in her head, how she must have wanted to tell everyone, scream and dance because of how light she felt and how her heart must have burst with joy. That cherished moment she shared with Her Saviour will forever be theirs. I also think of the men who must have knocked on her door that night. All those men that kept knocking because they never believed that she could change. I think of years of learnt behaviour that was like second nature and all she saw from her former life when she closed her eyes to pray. I think of her walking back into her bedroom, those four walls that contained all her unchaste amorous nights, and trying to pray. To rise in the place that she fell.
For, redemption is no passive, tidy ideology. Redemption is real and redemption is messy, it is as messy as sweat and a bloody cross. And it is on that same cross that the proclamation was made, “Tetelestai,” confirming the end, it is finished, it is done. No need to walk with head hanging low, shame raised high, but walk joyously in the light. The light that beckons every soul; those who have given in to every single fleshly desire and all those who haven’t. Because the Light does not differentiate, it infiltrates every darkness; and darkness has no measure. It is that same Light that looks upon us with the eyes of compassion and gives us the assurance that,
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Our belief in this truth is dependent solely on ourselves and not in other peoples responses to our former life, our own thoughts or the enemies lies. Our remembrance of our sexual sin can be crippling. We may be crippled by the way we once behaved; disregarding the holy in ourselves and in others. We may be crippled by the fear of falling back into old ways, and the fear of being too marred in the eyes of another. The taste of sexual pleasure is not an easy one to forget, and we may fear our longing for that same gratification. We may be haunted by the words spoken once on dark nights, or the daily glances that remind us of the power we possess. It is a life-long battle to fight, whilst holding tight to the truth that there is now no condemnation, and expectantly praying, “According to your good will, O God fill our hearts with your peace. Cleanse us from all blemish, all guile, all hypocrisy, all malice and the remembrance of evil entailing death” (The Liturgy According to St Basil the Great).
And as we pray this, may we approach the Eucharist, His own flesh and blood, just as the woman approached Him, offering every piece of herself at His feet, broken like the alabaster jar. She recognised Him not as an ordinary man but as her Saviour, yet we often approach Him as mere bread and wine, blind to the Majesty that pours Himself out before us. Let us walk repentantly, with fear and trembling, towards the Holy One and partake of the exchange of life that He offers, no matter what sin we laid with the night before, knowing that His love grants us the audacity to approach Him with confidence and being rooted in His Life, the mystical power to flee all other lovers.
So I will not be afraid to speak of my past sin, the desire of sin on skin, the Edenic memory of Adam and Eve’s freedom in expression and pleasure corrupted and abused. Because, this I know, forgiveness and freedom is mine, and though I am a woman of unclean lips, as my lips touch His feet, there is redemption’s tale to tell.
Let the fragrance rise.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”
A swift sword
A time bomb
This soft skin that curves around me
That frames and encompasses me
I have seen its unsurpassed powers
I have tasted its intoxication
Eyes wide open
To its irresistible magic
Hard to forget
Its delicious sweet nectar
Dripping subtle, potent poison
Is not a body
But a weapon
Of charm and deceit
Of self seeking ambition
I waste in admiration and affirmation
I glory in attention and adoration
I am a queen
Fluent in Sensuality’s language
The power euphoric
The formula, tried and tested
A gaze and a flutter of the eyes
The control to summon and cast away
The siren song that calls your name
To shipwreck on the stones
And I howl
“Come, I will take away your pain”
To those that pant for it gladly
Like a dark mist
Leaving corpses rotten and defiled
Asphyxiating all breath, all life
So I numbed all feeling
Revelled in my conquer and rule
Sank my feet in my reckless storm
Is just a body
Empty, hollow and cold
The more it consumes
The more it seeks to devour
This body is flames
A trail of dust in its wake
Nothing it touches will escape
Nothing is left standing
Least of all myself
This body is foreign
I do not want it
So I hide and cover it
Who can free me
From this body of death?
A stranger in this body of death
Dismembered from my lifeless soul
I feel my body’s betrayal
Under a man’s unrelenting gaze
I feel the poison flood my veins again
When their heads turn
I am reminded of the queen I could be
The thrill of control
I feel the rumbling and the stirring
Threatening to take over
Seduction is awakening
She is hungry from her slumber
But I will deprive her
Lay her down in silent, painful death
Bind her in burial cloths and dig a grave
Roll a boulder in front of the entrance
For indeed, it is finished
Because I am not poison, I am not sword
And I wait on a promise like a thread
Keeping me from fraying at the edges
Of the God who calls out to dry bones
Giving life to sinew after sinew
The God who never fails those who wait
The God who wore humanity’s chains
To shatter our every chain
The God who rolls heavy stones away from tombs
And raises from the dead
The God who puts heavy stones down out of your hand
And says, “Live loved”
In truth, I believe that in Him
All the old has passed away
In the Spirt
I am finally liberated
The Veil torn
My face unveiled
He steps into my tomb
And when I look Him in the eyes
I see myself
He tells me who I am
Not thorn but Lily
He tells me Rise and live
I believe, help my unbelief.
Co-written with Sandra.