Writing Her Way into Truth: Till We Have Faces (9)

Before children and homeschooling, I worked as a compensation analyst in a large hospital, so whenever a manager wanted to change a position or to reorganize a department, it was my job to look at the changes in relation to their impact on the incumbents’ compensation.  Are the additional duties essentially the same kind of work they’ve been doing all along, or do the proposed changes require additional skill or give the employee increased responsibility?  Often, I would come to the end of all my meetings and market research with a pile of information and no clear sense of what my recommendation would be.

And then I would start writing.

I laid out the facts:  changes in reporting relationships, job duties, skills required, percent of time spent in various roles.  As I wrote, it all became clear to me so that by the time I came to the end of my writing, I was ready to make recommendations and to confidently explain my reasoning.

I see something similar going on in this blogging life of mine, and, so I wonder if, perhaps, Orual might have become a blogger if the kingdom of Glome had acquired the technology in her day.  In Book Two of Till We Have Faces, she shares her discovery that her case  against the gods set forth in Book One was not what she had thought.  Coming to the end of her writing, she found that “the past which I wrote down was not the past that I thought I had (all these years) been remembering.”  Whether she knew it or not, Orual had begun the process of writing her way into truth.

Plot Summary

Orual’s nephew and heir to her throne has been notified that she is near death. Even so, at the end of her long life and reign, the elderly queen is finding the strength to set down a revised perspective on her life.  Two events seem to have triggered the avalanche of memory:

  1.  An encounter with Tarin (her sister Redival’s old beau who was made a eunuch by their father the King) gave Orual insight to Redival’s lonely childhood during the days in which Orual was occupied first with The Fox and then with Psyche.
  2. Upon the death of Bardia, captain of the guard, Orual visited his widow, Ansit whose bitterness eventually overflowed into this (courageous) accusation:

” . . . I know that your queenship drank up his [Bardia’s] blood year by year and ate out his life.”

The rite of the Year’s birth in Ungit’s house and a series of dreams sent from the gods lead Orual into still deeper insight into what the god of Grey Mountain meant when he spoke out of thunder and chaos with the words, “You, woman, shall know yourself and your work.  You also shall be Psyche.”

Reflection

Ansit (Bardia’s widow) and Orual have a conversation that evolves from tense civility to electric warfare.  In giving up Bardia to his work, Ansit had refused to “make him so mine that he was no longer his,” while Orual realized, in hindsight, that she had been using up Bardia through his work, “heap[ing] up needless work to keep him late at the palace, ply[ing] him with questions for the mere pleasure of hearing his voice.  Anything to put off the moment when he would go and leave me to my emptiness.”  Orual is coming to the realization that she has spent her life filling up that emptiness with the lives of others, that like the Shadowbrute, her loving and her devouring are all one thing.

As Orual dreams of sorting seeds by night, she sorts through her memories by day, “separating motive from motive and both from pretext,” (Kilby, p. 177).  But that’s not the end of revelation, for, as she becomes more willing to see truth, she finds that she is “drenched with seeings.”  Visiting Ungit’s temple for the rite of the Year’s birth, Orual laments the waste of the temple girls’ lives and the endless silver that is offered to a god who offers no return on investment, and then later sees that she, like Ungit is “an all-devouring, womb-like yet barren thing.”

Lewis scholars note parallels between the gods’ pursuit of Orual and C.S. Lewis’s own encounter with The Hound of Heaven.  This is reasonable since Lewis has described himself as “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . drug into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”  It is interesting that Till We Have Faces was published in 1956, the year after the memoir of Lewis’s conversion, Surprised by Joy.

Some Issues to Ponder

Orual’s growth in self-perception has been an unveiling process.  When she tore off her veil in the presence of Ansit to reveal the ugliness it hid, Ansit was also able to read the Queen’s heart and call out the love for Bardia that had been hiding behind that veil for decades, a love that, sadly, had deteriorated into something that Orual described as “nine-tenths hatred.”

In her dream of descending into Pillar Room after Pillar Room, each one deeper and smaller, she is confronted with her own image in a mirror and sees, to her horror, that, in the dream, her face is the face of Ungit.  Realizing that she is known by her veil rather than by her face, Orual begins to go bare-faced into her kingdom when she wants to go undetected.  Is it a coincidence then, that when she is unveiled, contemplating suicide, and realizing that she is even too weak for this that she hears the unmistakable voice of a god once again?  This time, there is “no rebel in [her]” and so she hobbled home to await the meaning of the god’s words:

“Die before you die.  There is no chance after.”

Orual’s journey encourages me to embrace Truth as it comes to me, for like her, I am also a “cold, small, helpless thing.”  And yet the voice of the true God invites me into a holiness that is neither dark nor ugly, but is full of light and beauty and that calls me to deeper Truth — about God and about myself.  May we all be open to His Truth, and may we find that we, too, are consequently “drenched with seeings.”

Your Turn

Chapter 1 and 2 of Book Two comprise some truly elegant thinking and glorious insights into both human and divine nature, and since nothing I can say will improve upon them, I will remind you of one of these sections now, and invite your thoughts, insights, and interpretations on it, or upon anything else that swept you away as you read.

“Of the things that followed, I cannot at all say whether they were what men call real or what men call dream. And for all I can tell, the only difference is that what many see we call a real thing, and what only one sees we call a dream.  But things that many see may have no taste or moment in them at all, and things that are shown only to one may be spears and water-spouts of truth from the very depth of truth.”

I will remind you, too,  that links to your blog posts are welcome in the comments below, and I look forward to your insights.

Next Time

I will be here once again next Thursday, March 9, for the last installment of our book discussion.  Since those last two chapters really put a ribbon on all of Orual’s journey of self-understanding, feel free to refer back to content from earlier chapters, especially if you are blogging about the book.

Blessings to you!

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Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

31 thoughts on “Writing Her Way into Truth: Till We Have Faces (9)”

  1. I breathe a sigh of relief that our dear Orual is finally softening and seeing beyond herself. “Those divine Surgeons had me tied down and were at work.” And she is changing. “The voice of the god had not changed in all those years, but I had. There was no rebel in me now. I must not drown and doubtless should not be able to do so.” How precious that our divine surgeon, the Holy Spirit, is always at work in us, sanctifying us until the day of redemption, when we see our Savior face to face.

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    1. I’m with you, Linnea, in breathing that sigh of relief. Even so, Orual has some hard days ahead, and I’m procrastinating about writing my post for next week because her journey is just so wrenching. May we be women who are sensitive to the Spirit NOW so that a whisper of His voice leads us, and so that our surgery will not have to be so deep and debilitating.

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  2. Michele, I’ve found your comments so helpful in fleshing out my own thoughts about the book. I have to admit that I find it challenging to find these kinds of insights on my own. I get so caught up in the “darkness” of false gods. I look forward to your final installment. Have a great Thursday!

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  3. Dear Michele, Yes, I agree with you that these two chapters were full of rich and beautiful imagery! And, I am so glad you added these thoughts: “But things that many see may have no taste or moment in them at all, and things that are shown only to one may be spears and water-spouts of truth from the very depth of truth.” because I had fully intended to comment on them in my blog. This was such a beautiful way of expressing truth, that it brought tears to my eyes. However, as so often happens when I set out to write also, the Spirit of Truth led me down a different path, uncovering things in my own heart:

    http://raseasons.blogspot.com/2017/03/die-before-you-die.html

    I will be sorry when this study is finished, you have led us on an amazing journey! Thank you for all of your insights and ponderings.

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    1. Those thoughts on dreaming have stayed with me, too, Bettie, and, as usual, I can’t wait to see what path your words have taken this week. Heading over to read your post right now.

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  4. I too will be sad to see this book finished. The weeks have flown! Thanks SO much Michele for taking this on and doing such a thorough job of it. Your analysis every week is so… can’t think of any word but ‘yummy’… to read. I hope we can do it again with another book?!

    It has been hard to restrain myself from polishing off the story this week. I have accidentally gulped down an extra chapter ahead of schedule besides. So much to be said for chapter 3 but will hang onto that for next week…

    “The change which the writing wrought in me (and of which I did not write) was only a beginning–only to prepare me for the gods’ surgery. They used my own pen to probe my wound.”

    I so agree with your assessment, Michele, that Orual might have become a blogger! Yes! I too process my thoughts and their divergence from God’s thoughts through churning them out in writing. It helps me spell things out I can’t quite put a finger on, and lately has been akin to taking off the veils over my heart and having a look from God’s perspective. Mercy! Reading of Orual has been an impetus in this process. So glad to be reading this book at this time.

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    1. Yes, the timing of this read has been just right for me as well. For one thing, it’s reminded me of how much I love reading fiction, but have gotten away from it in my present day blogging/reading/studying. I love how Lewis’s writing forces me to slow down and really READ and THINK!

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  5. What an astute observation of the human tendency to see only from my perspective:
    “For it had been somehow settled in my mind from the very beginning that I was the pitiable and ill-used one. ”

    Orual completely missed what her sister was going through, blinded by her own self-preoccupation (and envy!). These prevented her from experiencing compassion. I am too like Orual for my own comfort….

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  6. Here’s hoping three replies are better than one!
    “A god’s voice had once shattered my whole life. They are not to be mistaken. It may well be that by trickery of priests men have sometimes taken a mortal’s voice for a god’s. But it will not work the other way. No one who hears god’s voice takes it for a mortal’s…
    Lord, who are you?” said I”

    I love the way C.S. Lewis distills wisdom and drops it into the story line. In a culture intent on hearing from gods of our own devising this is a timely observation. We may easily be deceived when a man speaks for god, or claims to have words from god, (especially when they bring comforts and ‘peace, peace’. But when God has spoken that is quite another thing and will not soon be forgotten or easily ignored.
    I am reminded of Saul/Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road.

    “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”…5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” (Acts 9)

    When Jesus spoke there was no choice but to acknowledge His right to be Lord. It seems to me that hearing from God may be more than we have bargained for. It is for sure more than mere affirmation and comfort, though it will surely lead to these…
    Every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is the rightful Lord…

    Likewise, Orual eventually realizes that she had it all wrong… but I’m getting ahead of chapter 2. Whoops.

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    1. Three definitely are better than one! I’ve appreciated the way you’ve hung in there with this little experiment called a book discussion group. Chuckled at your Whoops, but totally different reaction to that quote you shared. That one stopped me as well, and we so need to hear His unmistakeable voice in these days.

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  7. I do so love being your link up neighbor! Michele, I love how you began this book discussion. As a writer, I completely relate to unraveling my conundrums through an excessive word count. It’s truly how the Lord teaches me and guides me. It’s how I figure things out. This book sounds extremely intriguing. I’m going to have to start making a list of Michele books to read! Happy Friday! Megs

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  8. I love your review and reflections (as always). I think the thing that has struck me was how difficult it was for Orual to come to the truth about herself and how true that can be for us as well. Even as believers, we can sometimes fail to look into the mirror of God’s Word to see the truth about our condition. I would say that reading the book the first time and then following your review and the discussion has definitely caused me to want to read it again (sooner than later) as soon as I can get it back from my daughter and granddaughters who are now reading my copy! Have a blessed weekend!

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  9. Michelle – I found you today at #SpiritualSundays where we are neighbors. OK, I think I say this almost each time I come read your book reviews, but I LOVE the way you review a book and again, this is one I haven’t read. Thank you for always being so thorough. I love that about you. This book is fascinating and I am intrigued by the statement writing her way into truth.
    Also, I would love if you would consider linking up to my NEW Thursday Party #TuneInThursday it stays open until Sunday. You can find it here: http://debbiekitterman.com/new-linkup-tune-in-thursday-1-who-is-your-god/
    (Please feel free to delete the link if you feel it is inappropriate to post here).

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  10. Michele, I love this: “writing her way into truth”. That phrase feels like home, a place I know, and often find myself longing to spend time there. What an amazing way to describe so many of us who love to write and infuse hope in what we’re writing. I believe as we write we often discover our voice and God’s voice in us. Enjoyed this piece!
    http://www.joellepovolni.com

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    1. Thanks, Joelle, for your identification with this notion. I’m even finding these days that paraphrasing what I’m reading from the Bible is helping me to get closer to the text as I write.

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  11. Michele, I’ve enjoyed your thoughts. I always found journaling a way of self discovery and hearing from God. So I like how you said she was writing her way into the truth. I’m thankful Jesus cleanses us. Because it is pretty scary to see who we are without His grace.

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    1. So true, and I feel as if I also need to say that if we don’t have our foundation in Biblical truth, we will never be able to “write our way” into it with only ourselves and our own thoughts as a resource. Speaking strictly for myself, if I do not have my roots sunk deep into Truth, my own thoughts can tend to be garbage.

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