If you haven’t read “The Great Stone Face” you should read it now. Here’s your warning—I’m about to spoil the ending. It’s a short story written by the Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850, and it’s riveting.
Hawthorne tells the story of Ernest, a young boy who awaits the fulfillment of a prophecy. He lives beside a mountain that bears the natural image of a man’s face: “All [its] features were noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet . . . The Great Stone Face seemed positively to be alive.”
The prophecy says that one day, a man would arrive into town bearing perfect resemblance to the Great Stone Face. Every day, Ernest gazed upon the Great Stone Face, longing to see the man who would bear its beautiful image.
Years pass, Ernest grows old, and many men claim to fulfill the prophecy. One built his life on material wealth, another on military strength, another on political leadership, and another on creative magnificence. None of these men, however, doubled the gentle wisdom and tender sympathies of the Great Stone Face. Through all the discouragement, Ernest’s hope remains steadfast:
“‘Fear not, Ernest,’ said his heart, even as if the Great Face were whispering him—’fear not, Ernest; he will come.'”
By the end of the story, after years of gazing upon the Great Face, Ernest’s face grows into its perfect likeness. Someone realizes this and shouts, “Behold! Behold! Ernest himself is the likeness of the Great Stone Face!”
Here’s your one-sentence summary of “The Great Stone Face.”
We become what we behold.
Behold money and you’ll grow greedy and unyielding, buying what you can’t afford just for the image of being wealthy. Behold power and you’ll feel weak, perpetually terrified of someone questioning your authority. Behold the opinion of others and you’ll be a slave to their every desire—doing whatever it takes to be liked. Behold physical beauty and you’ll always feel overweight and unattractive. Behold intelligence and you’ll feel like a phony—that someone smarter than you might turn their nose up at you when they realize how little you’ve read. Behold religion and you’ll feel like you’re never good enough before God—that to earn God’s approval you have to read more, pray more, and live more nobly.
Behold Jesus, and you’ll be transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
God has mercifully invited us into the process of becoming like Him. The gospel doesn’t end with our forgiveness. The gospel demands our sanctification. Will this be easy? No. But “be confident . . . he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). As we stare at Jesus, we become like Him—one degree of glory to the next.
So don’t behold your spiritual efforts—your performance before God. Behold Jesus. Behold His gentle wisdom and tender sympathies. Behold the nail-scarred hands of His ultimate sacrifice. Behold His great, beautiful, glorious face.