In the last year, I have gotten married, adopted kittens, quit two jobs, started a PhD program, packed up two apartments, lost both of my grandparents, and somewhere along the way I lost my faith. I can’t really tell you when it happened, but at some point, it stopped.
I stopped going to church.
I stopped praying.
I stopped trusting.
I stopped singing.
I stopped believing.
God felt absent. Not dead, but not active in my life. I would recall praying before bed, or writing in my journal to God, like an old pen pal that would always listen to me. Then, instead of practices, they became memories. Singing at church felt like a singing audition instead of praise, and my focus was on hitting the notes instead of worshipping through song. Even opening the Bible felt like a chore.
The one place I continued to feel something beyond myself, something not of this earth, something sacred, was in my bed. Not just through sex with my husband (before and after the wedding), but with my own body. I’ve developed a sexual relationship with my body, knowing what feels good and knowing how to produce an orgasm. I remember going with some girlfriends for my first (and only) vibrator after the breakup with my college sweetheart. When one of my friends saw the price tag, she couldn’t believe I was spending almost $100 on a vibrator. I told her if I can spend this much on a boyfriend, I can definitely spend this much on myself!
I learned how to be with myself and understand my body. My self-exploration became a way to release tension and find a place within that was liberated. There was no correct way to be and no manual that I needed to follow. There was no man to please or pander to. Just me. It was about being intimate with myself. I was getting in “touch” with my clitoris, and it kept my faith alive.
In the sacred space of my bed, my clitoris became a gateway to the mystery of God’s presence. This little piece of flesh became a way to connect to something beyond myself. It was confusing, and strange, because my clitoris became more than an organ of pleasure, but a piece of heaven within me. I questioned what I was feeling; how can I feel such intense passion from such a small space on my body? How can pressure and movement send me into ecstasy? How can God be in this space? How can God not be in this space?
Finding this sacred space did not happen overnight, but has been part of a long journey. In the midst of my own struggle with body positivity, I tried different tactics to learn how to love my body. I began thinking how to love the image in the mirror: my face, my hair, my body, my image. I considered what it would feel like to look at myself the way that God sees me…what would I see? Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Did this mean that God sees something wonderful when looking at me? This idea of being made by God, being made “wonderfully,” continued to grip me, and I tried to see my body as wonderful, as full of wonder for exactly what it is: every curve, every blemish, every freckle, and every line.
There was also an Isaiah text I looked to that reminded me that my body was made with intentionality, like a potter molding clay: “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) This made me remember the intentionality with which my body was made. I am not an arbitrary form, but a body made to take up space. A body made for moving. A body made for me.
I slowly began to see my body as something more than an obstacle or a problem. It started to be beautiful and really be mine. Then, when my faith began to waver, my body image did too. I did not feel the sacred connection to my body. I felt like I was taking up too much space, and that my body was not worthy of love. That’s when I began to reconnect with my body, and with God. This connection was not through these biblical verses, but through the deep recesses of my body.
Feeling the ecstasy of my own body helped, and continues to help, me feel a connection to God. When everything else feels beige or hazy, my clitoris helps me see the vibrancy of lie and the clarity of God’s love. I believe that God loves me, and the reason I can say that with certainty is because of what lies between my legs: the fleshy existence that has one purpose, and that purpose is pleasure. But it is more than that for me, it is a space of holy communion where I feel God’s presence in my life. My prayers are about rejoicing for my body, and my psalms sound more like Song of Songs. My hymns are not appropriate for church, but God still hears them. I feel a deep connection with something beyond my body, and I call that God. My praise comes from between my legs, and right now that is enough. My clitoris is what keeps my faith alive.
Elyssa J. Salinas Lazarski
PhD Student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago