Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint…
It’s no secret to those who know me well that Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis’ is one of my favorite works, and one of my favorite passages in the book is found in chapters three and four of Book II. Orual, the narrator of the book, stands before the gods preparing to read her written complaint, seemingly Till We Have Faces. But as she begins reading her complaint she finds it is not her original complaint about how the gods take away those she loves the most and then demands of her complete love and devotion, rather, it was an indictment against her that she had done the very thing she accused the gods of doing.
Orual described it this way, “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, you’ll not talk about joy of words. 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?”
I think what Lewis is saying is that often the words and content of our complaints against God are never really our true complaint. We hide behind the veil of false accusations when all along there is something more insidious lying within us: something about which often even we are unaware.
Orual said, “Now I knew that I had been reading it (her complaint) over and over – perhaps a dozen times. I would have read it forever, quick as I could, starting the first word again almost before the last was out of my mouth, if the judge had not stopped me. And the voice I read it in was strange to my ears. There was given to me a certainty that this, at last, was my real voice.”
Orual’s discovery of her real voice reminds me of the words of David in Psalm 64:1, “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint…” Even though David offers specifics to God regarding how his enemies sought to ambush him and snare him through words of deceit (64:2-6), and even though he described how God protects him (64:7-10), I think David knew his complaint was about something more than the grubby details of his daily struggles. Ironically, however, I don’t think David knew the nature of his true complaint.
Much like David, we often complain about the details of our life, our health, job, finances, relationships, and more, but I wonder if those are the things for which we are really upset? I wonder if our daily complaints are merely a veil hiding the true issue: a subtle thread of discontent woven throughout the fabric of our lives for which we have grown bitter; something we once were able to clearly state but now with time and circumstances piling up we have forgotten? Do we hide contently behind the veil of our daily troubles, unwilling to stand barefaced before the Lord seeking true healing?
I could be wrong, but I think this is the very thing that Paul meant when he said in Romans 8:26-27, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
I think David knew this when he penned the words in Psalm 64:6, “For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.” I think he knew his immediate complaint was only a veil hiding his real complaint deep inside him: a complaint even he did not fully understand.
As I’ve grown older I’ve I realized how easy it is to hold onto an injustice and harp on it for a long time hoping for God’s delivery. But in those lucid moments when I step back I realize there is another issue, more insidious and more pervasive hidden behind the veil of my present circumstances. And although I know it exists casting a shadow over everything I do, I find myself unwilling and unable to look behind the veil to see its ugly truth.
Lewis said that when Orual finished reading her complaint, “There was silence in the dark assembly long enough for me to have read my book out yet again. At last the judge spoke. ’Are you answered?’ he said. ‘Yes,’ said I. The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.”
I think this is where one of the true mysteries of prayer lies: knowing that God knows our true complaint and that through our meager veiled words he is somehow helping us to know it as well so that he can finally bring healing.
“Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint…”