“Why am I here?” asks Wang-mu, one of Orson Scott Card’s characters in Children of the Mind. It’s a question worthy of every infatuation.
She answers with a healthy dose of self-suspicion and finds beneath her messy hunger a call to something greater.
“I’m no part of any of these events. There is nothing of any god in me. . . . [But] how can I be worried about my own selfish loneliness at a time like this? . . . I am here because I am the one that must love Peter so much that he can feel worthy, worthy enough to bear to let the goodness . . . flow into him, making him whole.” Wang-mu was the one who could give Peter permission to become [a] man (179).
Such a summons is enough to get you committed. The failure of this vision of love is that it won’t bear weight over the long haul. As she notes up front, she is not a god.
She can neither be the goodness that Peter needs to become whole, nor receive that goodness on Peter’s behalf. She is not a god.
Neither is Peter. And shaping herself to serve—god-like and unselfish though her gift may be—is not the same as her own whole-making. Peter is neither her goodness, nor in the case of this story, her truth. He may not even act to serve her own processes of whole-making.
Nevertheless, if she is to withstand his inevitable confusion of her with the goodness that makes him whole, if she is to bear his disappointment, she herself must get whole. A worthy partner must be able to stand face to face with Peter, a whole to a whole.
Or in the case of real-people relationships, a whole-in-progress to a whole-in-progress.
Get a Face
Orson Scott Card does not play out such a scenario. His leading men seem to require multiple women in additive roles to equal the part of “worthy partner.”
So I return to C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, where he explores how we humans are sanctified, that is, made whole and made holy. His heroine also requires multiple characters to match her (though none of them are mates) and often confuses human love and its disappointments with her expectations of the god. In the end, she confesses:
I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. . . . How can they meet us face to face till we have faces (294)?
In Christ we discover, beneath our messy hungers, a summons to something greater: transformation into the Lord’s image, his glory (2 Cor 3:18). This is why we are here. Surely we must act like Jesus to become like Jesus, serving one another’s whole-making, even when that process is still at the filthy-feet stage (John 13:12–17). But the humans that we shape ourselves to serve cannot make us whole.
Getting God’s face “comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). I must bear to let God’s goodness and truth flow into me, making me whole.
Jesus’ disciples may shape themselves to serve me also. Or they may not. Either way, if I am to be a worthy partner in service of the gospel, I must stand to them face to face. And so, I must get a face.