Prosopagnosia: When You Cannot See the Face of God

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prosopagnosia the face of god

Prosopagnosia is the inability to recognize faces. Can you imagine a life where you can recognize everything but the people you love most? Imagine not recognizing your parents, your spouse, or your children.

Imagine being baffled by your own reflection.

Your life would revolve around a new question:

“Who is that?

For some, prosopagnosia is more than a thought experiment; it is an everyday reality.

One woman now suffers from prosopagnosia after surviving a stroke. A recent article about her inspirational story described how “even her own reflection is a mystery.”¹ This almost-unimaginable condition allows the person to “see” faces in real-time; however, once their eyes are closed it is impossible to recreate the faces in their mind’s eye.

How does she get by? She uses other cues to determine the identity of people she knows. She can recognize them by their outfit or their hairstyle. While she cannot “see” their face, their identity is clearly seen by expressions and actions caused by the mind behind the face.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you recognize yourself? Do you know who you are?

Most of us will ask these questions at some point:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I going to be?
  • Why am I here?

Some will continue asking these questions–never finding an answer strong enough to satisfy their restless souls. Some of them will try to find the face of God.

And some of them will fail.

There are times in the Bible where God hides his face from those who are living in rebellion:

“But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, NIV).

An old English proverb says that the eyes are the window to the soul. The concept of the eye as a barometer of spiritual health is found in the Gospel of Matthew:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23, NIV)

prosopagnosia the face of god

How fascinating is the concept of light. Without it, we cannot see. When we can “see,” it is merely a reflection of the noumenal.

The eye, it seems, is like a switch for the soul. When the eye allows light to pass through, we will not only see–we will be filled with light. If the eye rejects light, it fails to see the reflection of reality, and although you can stare into a mirror, you can never peer directly into your own soul. The mirror is simply a reflection. But a reflection of what? Failure to answer this single question leads to a lifetime of questions without answers.

But there is an answer:

prosopagnosia the face of godYou are a reflection of the living God.

Not in the literal sense, but in the spiritual sense. You have been made in the likeness of Him, sharing the greatest of all possible qualities:

  • Designed for rationality
  • Infused with consciousness
  • Built to love
  • Crafted to seek relationships
  • Privileged with Free Will

You will never see God if you only look for his face. Were he to reveal himself undeniably, you would have no choice but to love him (thus violating your free will–your free choice–to love him.) As C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters:

“He cannot ravage. He can only woo.”²

But God has given us enough, and Romans 1 lingers like a stern warning from the ultimate authority:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, NIV).

When we cannot see the face of God, we must “see” him by the things he has made. When you accept the light of God, you will no longer be frustrated by your own reflection.

prosopagnosia the face of godThe only way to know who you are is to allow his light to reveal his image in your own reflection.

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Augustine told us in his work Confessions:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”³

Give your heart rest by giving it to God. When you do, you will see the face of God and ask a new question to the person in the mirror:

“How can I serve Him?”

What allowed you to see the face of God?

prosopagnosia the face of god

Related Briefs

¹ Lisa Sigell, “Her Own Reflection is a Mystery Due to Face Bilndness,” CBS Los Angles, Local, November 1, 2013, http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/11/01/her-own-reflection-is-a-mystery-due-to-face-blindness/

² C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 39.

³ Saint Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, tr. Edward Bouverie Pusey (401 A.D.), Kindle ed., 4.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jason B. Ladd

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Christian, husband, father of five, and Marine fighter pilot. Seeking Peace, Waging War, Defending the Faith. What are you fighting for?
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  • Susan Irene Fox

    Stunningly beautiful post. It is rare when I look into the mirror that I see the face of God. I will now be reminded, and find it easier to see Him through my own eyes. Thank you, Jason.

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Thanks, Susan

  • http://adjustedsails.wordpress.com/ AdjustedSails

    i WISH i had time to thoroughly read this right now. as a neuropsych geek, i’m already sold! thx for your service. love the bio! seeking peace, waging war…i love that our God is both the Prince of Peace and a Man of War. glory to His name, n may He bless u with long life and show u His salvation!

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Thanks for reading. Glad to connect!

  • Rachel Patton Toalson

    I really like this, Jason…and I’ve been looking around at other posts. I’ve liked everything I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing your heart so beautifully!

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Rachel, thanks for reading, and for the feedback. Come on back later !

  • Cristina

    I see it every time I look upon the face of my children, the majesty in creation, and the beauty of wisdom. God is goodness and all things good are a reflection of Him. So, while I might not see His face, I am able to see those things which mirror back His infinite love.
    Excellent post!

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Cristina, Thanks for reading. We accept so many things that we cannot see directly, yet so many demand to see an image of God. They really need look no further than the mirror for a glimpse.

  • Sam Hall

    Thought-provoking; stirs the emotion and spirit. Thanks, Jason.

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  • http://rebecajones.wordpress.com/ Rebeca Jones

    “The only way to know who you are is to allow his light to reveal his image in your own reflection.” So true. It is all too easy to get caught up in the ‘costume’ I wear…to only see my own flawed reflection. When I look closer though, I can see Him, and the freedom (and relief) that follows is indescribable. Beautiful post!

  • http://adjustedsails.wordpress.com/ AdjustedSails

    i’m in clinical neuropsychology n as expected, i enjoyed this very much. God is so awesome. God bless :)