I’m not a visual artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I once went through a phase for several months where I made daily attempts to draw human faces, using black and white photographs for reference. Though my pencil sketches were mediocre at best, I still think back on those artistic attempts fondly because I made a fascinating discovery: there is a magical moment in the process of drawing a face. It’s when you’re coloring in the pupils and irises and suddenly sense that someone is looking back at you. This moment often gave me chills.

I have wondered if the Lord feels a celestial version of those chills when He begins to see His countenance reflected in the faces of His children, and senses that we are allowing Him to make us over in His image. This deep change is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, as we repent, embrace the Lord’s commandments, and align our will with His. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see side by side photographs of Alma the younger, first as “a very wicked and… idolatrous man,” and then later, after his powerful repentance experience, when he was living a consecrated life? (Mosiah 27:8) It doesn’t seem possible that Alma could have experienced such a mighty change of heart without that change showing in his face. He posed this thought-provoking question: “Have ye received his image in your countenances?” (Alma 5:14)   

This question brings to mind a personal experience: Just a month or so after my mission, I traveled out of state with my mother to assist her with some musical programs, and our hosts took us to a restaurant for dinner. Maybe it was because I’d returned so recently from my mission, but I was unusually sensitive to how noisy the crowd was, how loud the heavy rock music was, and how immodestly many of the people were dressed. I realize I was judging everything according to my own standards, but I was uncomfortable in that atmosphere.

As we waited for our food to arrive, I looked across the table at my mother, and for just a moment I felt like the Lord showed me her soul. It almost looked like her face was glowing, right in the middle of the crowd. I will never forget that experience, for the Lord revealed to me why He often uses my mother to do His work: it’s because her heart is so pure, and she has somehow managed to keep herself free from the stains of the world. It made a powerful impression as–in a bustling, noisy restaurant–I saw “the beauty of holiness” shining in my mother’s face. (Psalm 29:2) Interestingly, Mom had written a song a year or two earlier which included these words:

“We seek for light and learning
as followers of Christ
That all may see His goodness
reflected in our lives.
When we receive His fullness
and lose desire for sin
We radiate His perfect love,
a beauty from within.” (1)

Long ago, in a little journal, I recorded a poem by Sir Thomas Browne. The first stanza creates a wonderful picture in my mind:

“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf
And say, ‘This is not dead,’
And fill thee with Himself instead.”

I love the thought of emptying “all [my]self of self,” of making room for light and truth and the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of King Benjamin’s counsel to “[put] off” the qualities of “the natural man” and replace them with the characteristics of Jesus Christ:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God…and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

I once spoke in a stake women’s conference about letting the Lord make over our lives, our spirits. After hearing my words, a woman encouraged me to write a song on that subject. Though I didn’t write anything at that time, the idea has been simmering on a back burner in my brain for years, and I recently felt like it was an ideal topic for a simple hymn, “Make Me Over in Thine Image.” I wrote it as a prayer, and included the deepest longings of my heart: “Wilt Thou strip away my vain ambition, and tame my foolish pride, till my heart is in a new condition, only love left inside…Till I stand in purity before Thee, my spirit clear and bright. Let my countenance reflect Thy glory, ever sharing Thy light.”

Free sheet music download:

Make Me Over in Thine Image
Music, text, and piano by Lynne Perry Christofferson
Vocals by: Tammy Simister Robinson, Tanya Barkdull
Caleb Jardine, and Mark Child

Make me over in Thine image,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Shape me to a finer finish,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Smooth away my rough and ragged edges
and polish me inside,
thus, erasing every inward blemish,
leaving nothing to hide.

Make me over in Thine image,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Shape me to a finer finish,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Wilt Thou strip away my vain ambition
and tame my foolish pride,
till my heart is in a new condition,
only love left inside.

Make me over in Thine image,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Shape me to a finer finish,
dearest Lord, dearest Lord.
Till I stand in purity before Thee,
my spirit clear and bright.
Let my countenance reflect Thy glory,
ever sharing Thy light.

Notes:

  1. Janice Kapp Perry, His Image in Your Countenance, from the album The Light Within.