Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

Look Full In His Wonderful Face (Jul-Aug 2003)

Filed under: — @ 1:43 pm and

by Mike Cope
July – August, 2003

His disappearance is still something of a mystery. All we know is that he vanished sometime late in the evening of May 2 or in the early morning hours of May 3. No one knows if he was pushed…or if he jumped…or if time just finally took its toll.

You’ve likely seen his picture before. At 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide, the Old Man of the Mountain was hard to miss. He served an official capacity as the New Hampshire state symbol and as the emblem on their state quarter–a solid granite expression of the New Hampshire motto, “Live Free or Die.”

The Old Man was a freak of nature who defied gravity for thousands of years. He gazed out every year at thousands of visitors (including me last fall) who traveled along I-93 to catch a glimpse of his chiseled good looks.

He was apparently the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Great Stone Face.” The piece begins with a child, Ernest, and his mother staring at the face on the mountain. She tells him of an old Indian prophecy of one who will come, bearing the very image of the man on the mountain.

Throughout his life, Ernest would gaze at the face every day, drawing inspiration from it. “He attracted little notice from the other inhabitants of the valley,” Hawthorne wrote, “for they saw nothing remarkable in his way of life, save that, when the labor of the day was over, he still loved to go apart and gaze and meditate upon the Great Stone Face.”

Throughout his life, people kept looking for some spectacular person to be the fulfillment of the prophecy. Again and again they were fooled and disappointed. During the whole time, Ernest kept looking, and he kept getting more gentle, more kind, and more wise.

It wasn’t until he was an old man that, while he was speaking, someone recognized that he—after a lifetime of focusing on the Great Stone Face—was the one whom the prophecy portended. “Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!”

In this issue of New Wineskins, we’re exploring the theme of spirituality. But what is spirituality?

When you boil it down for believers, isn’t it a transformation of people by God through his Spirit into the image of his Son? “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Men and women of faith spend a lifetime focused upon, longing for, devoted to the Crucified and Risen One, and they find that their way of thinking about him and their way of living go hand in hand.

It shouldn’t surprise me, then, when I walk into our 39ers class (our older members) that I’m surrounded by people who seem to be further down the road of spiritual formation than I am. Wendell and Betty, Clois and Betty, Wally and Valrie, Alyene, Ralph and Anita, Grady and Margaret, Roy and Lugene, Lloyd and Irene, Kathryn, Ken and Linda–the list could just keep going.

These are my earthly models of Christ-following. I’ve seen them love and forgive enemies. I’ve watched them embrace people who are different. I recently saw them minister powerfully and tenderly to two teens whose mother had been murdered in her home across from our church’s building.

In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. Spirituality is a mystery, of course. You can’t take it into a science lab and dissect it. You can’t hand it over to mathematicians for a formula. And yet, the path to spiritual formation is no secret! It consists of years of gazing upon Jesus Christ.

Having been drawn by his love, having been convinced of his claims, and having been baptized into him, we are launched into a journey that consists of one primary thing: following him. He is our guide (Hebrews 2:10) and our forerunner (6:20). “Fix your thoughts on Jesus!” the writer of Hebrews said to a group of weary travelers (3:1). And again, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

Helen Lemmel’s simple song has it right:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
New Wineskins

Mike Cope

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