It happened again this week. I glimpsed my reflection in the mirror – silvering hair braided down my back, creased eyes rimmed by glasses – and thought, I look like my mother. I sound like my mother too. One night, chatting with my daughter, who was visiting from college, I mentioned an article I’d read about the eruption of an Indonesian volcano in the early 1800s.

“The blast was so powerful that it altered weather patterns around the world,” I said. “In parts of Europe and North America, crops froze and caused a huge famine.”

“The way you said that—” Lydia’s eyes widened in surprise. “I just heard Savta.”

“It’s true!” I laughed in recognition, missing my mother’s voice.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the many characteristics I share with my mother, who passed from this life to the next more than seven years ago. Perhaps some distant day, my daughter will look and sound like me. But the older I get, and the older my children get, the more I hope that we will look and sound like Jesus.

“For whom He [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son,” the apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans (8:29 NRSV).

My mother’s hefty Bible concordance, which sits beside my desk, reveals that the Greek word used here for ‘conformed,’ comes from two related words meaning ‘together with’ and ‘shaped.’ In other words, God’s plan, begun before I was even born, was to shape me together in the image of his Son.

Or as Paul later wrote in the same book,

“Do not be conformed to [or shaped into the image of] this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2 NRSV).

As geo-political conflicts erupt around the world like that long-ago Indonesian volcano, it’s easy to be shaped by fear. I can no more stop Russia from attacking the Ukraine, than I can alter the weather. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can allow God to shape me together like Jesus so that I can respond to the events around me with faith and love.

Because deeper than my DNA, I am formed by generations of believers, going back to the cross. And even before that, I am shaped by those who held onto God’s promises, enduring every kind of difficulty as they waited for the day when God would reveal his plan of salvation to the world.

So during this first week of Lent, rather than being shaken by the events around us, let us repent of our wrongs and seek God’s righteousness. Let us cry out for justice and mercy and peace for the oppressed. And above all, let us pray that God will transform us into the image of his Son so that more people will see and hear Jesus.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays with activities that build children’s faith. Connect at