I was about to make some supper the other day and needed to find the right mood music. It seemed to be a Beatles kind of day, and I happen to have a pretty good Beatles playlist. So I went about chopping my garlic and doing my best Ringo-head-bop. That’s when Nowhere Man came on…what a sad song!
He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
The lyrics reminded me of Orual’s book of complaints in C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. This is a brilliant retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Throughout her whole life, Orual had been recording her bitter complaint against the gods in a book which she treasured. Finally, at the end of her life, in a vision, she is brought before the courts to make her complaint to the judge. The veil which she wore over her face was torn, she was stripped naked, and told to read her complaint.
Suddenly, Orual realized her book was much smaller than the grand masterpiece she always imagined it to be. It’s words appeared as childish scribble. Terrified, she didn’t want to read it, yet heard herself griping out its words anyway. The judge cuts her off as she was still uttering her complaint. This “enough” made Orual realize that she was reading the same small complaint over and over again. It was a revelation to her that the strange voice reading this meager complaint was in fact her real voice.
The judge asked, “Are you answered?” Orual answers, “Yes,” realizing the complaint was the answer. Orual narrates, “I saw well 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 that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” (294). She awakes from her vision and in her death ends her book with the words no answer.
Orual concludes, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” (308). As soon as Orual looked outside of herself and was before the judge, she recognized that although she had become queen and was writing this important work against the gods, she was merely living the life of the Nowhere Man.
Now let me offer you the Somewhere Man, or better yet, the Here I Am Man. Michael Horton has a great chapter in his book, The Christian Faith on Being Human. In it he addresses God’s Image and Embassy: The Imago as Gift and Task. He concludes:
We come to know ourselves as human beings—that is, as God’s image-bearers—not only by looking within but chiefly by looking outside of ourselves to the Divine Other who addresses us. It is only as we take our place in this theater of creation—the liturgy of God’s speaking and creaturely response—that we discover a selfhood and personhood that is neither autonomous nor illusory but doxological and real. Who am I? I am one who exists as a result of being spoken by God. Furthermore, I am one of God’s covenant children whom he delivered out of Egypt, sin, and death. I am one who has heard his command but not fulfilled it, one in whom faith has been born by the Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel. Because human beings are by nature created in covenant with God, self-identity itself depends on one’s relation to God. It is not because I think, feel, experience, express, observe, or will, but because in the totality of my existence I hear God’s command and promise that I recognize that I am, with my fellow image-bearers, a real self who stands in relation to God and the rest of creation. No one can escape the reality of God in his or her experience, because there is no human existence that is possible or actual apart from the ineradicable covenant identity that belongs to us all, whether we flee the summons or whether we reply, “Here I am” (405-406).
What is our answer to the Great King when he asks, “Where are you?”
*Originally published on April 13, 2012.