Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenance?
by H. Wallace Goddard
As my four brothers, two sisters and I grew up, our sweet and faithful parents taught us to seek God. Their lives pointed us to service. Their talk focused on His perfect plan. Even a short trip in the ancient family car was seized as an opportunity to talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ, and prophesy of Christ (2 Nephi 25:26). Dad liked to quote D&C 93:1 to us:
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am (emphasis added).
I have longed to see the Lords face. I have yearned to be encircled in the arms of His love. Mom and Dad encouraged us to seek that mighty change of heart that would cause us to receive His image in our countenances (Alma 5:14). Yet it seemed too much to hope for a personal interview with Him in mortality.
I thought it would be nice if someone one day stared into my face and said, Wow. You look somehow different. You look like I imagine Jesus looked. Other than an occasional comment about my graying hair or catsup on my chin, I have never had anyone take such a keen interest in my face. Even so I have not lost faith in the promises . . . but I have come to realize that there are many levels of fulfillment.
Recently a ward brother and I were drafted by our group leader to tame the raging yards of two single, aging sisters in our ward. I had never met either of them but their yards needed attention and we had no adequate dodge when the group leader invited us to serve. We were told that the weeds and grass were knee-high in one yard and almost waist-high in the second. That was a daunting task for the best of gas engines and for the most determined of priesthood volunteers.
On the appointed Saturday we mowed the first yard and discovered unexpected hazards such as fallen branches, rotting lumber, and old building materials. We persevered and completed the yard. But as we pulled up to the second yard, we faltered. In the southern states where we live, untended yards are famous for sheltering poisonous snakes and bedeviling insects. We would not have been surprised to find much larger game hidden in the tall grasses, weeds, dead branches, and litter in this yard. Since the house itself seemed to be threatening to sag to the ground, it seemed a serious matter whether it was worth the effort to cut the grass.
But we had said that we would. We stiffened our courage and decided to give it a try. My companion knew that his mower was not equal to the tall grass but dove in with a weed-whacker. I pushed in with my mower. As we struggled inch by inch through the wilds, I tried to encourage myself with the words, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40) But the natural man in me resisted: Jesus would never allow His yard to get like this! Then the natural man went on the offensive: She has an able-bodied son living with her. Why doesnt he help out in the yard? My better side instinctively knew the answer: He is painfully cautious and sadly untrained. You could help him learn new skills if you are Christian enough to do it with love and compassion.
The debate between my nobler self and my natural self continued through the task. When, at the completion of the work, the about-30-year-old son appeared on the back stoop, I rallied my most gracious self (and besought heaven for an outpouring of divine goodness) to get to know him. I noted that he had surprisingly few good teeth for a man of his age. He never finished high school. He told me with the open-faced innocence of a child that he spent his time playing video games, watching television, and practicing magic tricks. I asked if he ever had a chance to use his magic skills. He told me about the Taylor family that periodically invited him over to demonstrate his tricks. He concluded: I just love Sister Taylor. She is like a big sister to me.
Like a sister. The words struck me. Too often I stand ready to be an accusing parent. God invites me to be a loving brother.
Jesus lived His life and gave His life for that man and his mother just as surely as He did for me. "What a King stoops to pick up from the mire cannot be a brass farthing, but must be a pearl of great price" (Fosdick, 1918, The Meaning of Faith, p.269). To use a different metaphor, He is working to weave us all together into a tapestry of love and service. No threads, even the seemingly weak and soiled ones, are neglected as the Master Weaver does His work.
I returned home from the project grass-stained and perspiration-soaked. When I looked in the mirror at my disheveled appearance, I thought I saw a flicker of something working inside of me. It was not something that anyone would notice. But I knew that Jesus had been teaching and refining me that day. I knew that I was better than my natural inclinations because I tried to make room in my soul for His renewing work. I thought I saw the slightest hint of His image in my countenance.