I first read Till We Have Faces when I was about eight years old.
My big brother wanted me to.
I think he thought I was just a little smarter than I really was because I was reading adult books only a few months after learning how to read.
So I read it.
I thought I understood it. I didn’t.
It’s a tough book.
A lot of metaphor. Lotta metaphor.
So I took everything at face value. I thought that the story was about an ugly girl and her gorgeous half-sister who marries a god.
Over the years, I have read Till We Have Faces many more times. And over the years, I have come to understand it better. I get more out of it every time I read. It has so much depth. I will probably continue to see some new aspect of it every time I read it.
And so, a book that once totally baffled and bored me, has become my favorite.
It’s kinda crazy.
If you have never read Till We Have Faces, you should.
It’s that good.
Don’t believe me? Allow me to give you just a glimpse.
1. “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing.”
Pysche has always felt like she was created for another place. She never felt like she fit in.
How many of us have had that feeling?
I’d be willing to wager that all of us have. And more often then we’d like to admit.
I’d go so far as to say that most of us spend the greater part of our lives trying to find a place where we belong.
But Pysche… she embraces that loneliness. It is the sweetest thing she has ever experienced.
2. “Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but going back.”
3. “Then I did a thing which I think few have done. I spoke to the gods myself, alone, in such words as came to me, not in a temple, and without a sacrifice.”
This quote makes me smile. In a sad kind of way.
Orual thinks she is so brave. But she is so ignorant. She thinks she is being so daring. She thinks she is doing what no one has ever done. She has no idea that things don’t have to be that way. That they’re not supposed to be that way.
God was never supposed to be Someone we were afraid to approach. Someone we had to placate with sacrifices and blood. Someone we found in a temple and only had access to through a priest.
My heart bleeds for Orual.
4. “Holy places are dark places.”
A major theme in the book, this quote encapsulates the Priest’s philosophy. In some ways, I agree with the Priest. In others, like Orual, I want to fight against this idea.
That God cannot be understood.
I want to believe He can.
5. “Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
6. “Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are the things they cannot help?”
I find this quote so profound.
Is it true?
7. “There is a cold doubt, a horrid shadow, in some corner of my soul. Supposing – supposing – how if there were no god of the mountain and even no holy shadowbrute…?”
8. “But there is no judge between gods and men, and the god of the mountain will not answer me.”
Again, this quote from Orual makes me sad. Her sense of despair. Her bitterness at the gods. Her unwavering belief in the futility of trying to make peace with them.
9. “When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over… I see now why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
Obviously this is the most important quote in the whole book, the quote the whole book is centered around and named after.
People complain that God does not speak. That he is silent. And I think that this quote is the most satisfying explanation I have ever heard.
10. “Do you think that we mortals will find you gods easier to bear if you’re beautiful?”
Orual is angry at the gods.
Even in her anger, though, she never ceases to be honest. She is willing to admit that the gods are beautiful.
But it does not make her hate them any less. In fact, it may make her hate them more.
11. “Did I hate him, then? Indeed, I believe so. A love like that can grow to be nine-tenths hatred and still call itself love.”
“I was facing them – I with no strength and they with all; I visible to them, they invisible to me; I easily wounded… they invulnerable; I one, they many.”
12. “They will neither… go away and leave us to live our own short days to ourselves, nor will they show themselves openly… Why must holy places be dark places?”
Isn’t this the cry of all our hearts?
Why must holy places be dark places?
Why can’t God just play fair and come out into the open where we can see Him?
I think the reason that so many people struggle with God is due to this very thing. He does not simply walk away – set the world in motion and then leave us to our own devices with it, but neither does He meet us face to face the way we want Him to. He speaks to us in whispers and hints, in a breath of wind or in a sudden gleam of sunshine or in the pounding of the rain.
But we want Him to be clearer.
We want messages posted on billboards or written in the sky, we want lightning and thunderclaps, we want a discernible voice shouting at us from the heavens, don’t we?
God doesn’t work that way.
The Priest knows this. But Orual struggles against it. You can hear her desperation in this quote.
13. Orual: “Are the gods not just?”
The Fox: “Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?”
Something we don’t think about a whole lot. We rail against God all the time. Accuse Him of all kinds of awful things. And we think we’re justified in doing it. We think our complaints are valid.
How often do we think about the fact that if God treated us the way we actually deserve to be treated…?
We accuse God of being unjust.
He is unjust.
And you better thank your lucky stars that He is.
What do you think? Which of these quotes is your favorite? Have you read C, S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces (you should!)?