Until We Have Faces
How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?
When I was a little girl I once declared that green was my favorite color. My older sister replied, “No it’s not.” Instead of contradicting her I was filled with doubt and wondered what my favorite color was, since it obviously wasn’t green.
An unfortunate confluence of my own proclivities, my family dynamics, and the way the gospel was presented to me turned me into a person who was quite literally selfless. When I say ‘selfless’ I don’t mean generous, or kindly, I mean an empty shell who was what everyone had instructed me to be. For example, my favorite color was the color that my older sister liked best, because it was the best color. My life plans were the plans given to me in Young Womens. I believed that there was one, objective, correct way to be human, and I supposed to be that way.
As a teen I was told that God knew me better than I even knew myself. I was so relieved to hear this, since I didn’t know myself at all. I prayed earnestly that God would show me who I was. That He would tell me what I should do with my life. I wanted to be commanded in all things, even down to the clothes that I wore, and the way I cut my hair.
I grew up, got married and had kids. The depression, and pressures that came with motherhood wiped away what little ‘self’ I had left. There were things that bothered me, polygamy, priesthood, the place of women in the Celestial Kingdom. I prayed in anguish that God would just make me feel the way I was supposed to feel about those things.
But God was silent.
Soon after I fell silent as well.
In all the years since that time I haven’t said a private prayer. For a while I felt guilty about it. I see now that nearly all of the prayers I had ever prayed before were the ‘vain repetitions’ we hear so much about. They were prayers said because praying is what I was told to do. I recited the ‘correct’ words every night and morning because that was the ‘correct’ way to live. There was no part of ‘me’ in those prayers.
I wonder now if God’s silence wasn’t ultimately the answer to the earnest prayers I gave as a teenager. I wanted to know myself, and so God withdrew from me so that I could have the space to learn for myself. I no longer feel guilty about my lack of prayers.
Yes, God wants us to bend our will to His, but in order to do that we must have a will of our own. Yes, God wants us to give ourselves to him, but in order to do that we must have a self to give. Yes, he wants to speak with us, but in order to do that we must have a voice of our own. Someday I will pray again, and when I do I will be speaking with God face to face, but in order for that to happen I must first have a face.
1. “[C.S. Lewis] in a letter to his long time corespondent, Dorothea Conybeare, explaining the idea that a human ‘must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask.'”