Savannah Guthrie on the “Bonus Commandment” and Two-Part Salvation - Living Strong Television Network
Savannah Guthrie on the “Bonus Commandment” and Two-Part Salvation
Savannah Guthrie

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Choosing your favorite verse is like choosing your favorite child – it’s kind of impossible! A verse I recite to myself often is, “I love the Lord for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because of this, I will call on him all the days of my life.”

I also like, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.

I just noticed those two verses have a lot in common: mercy! I guess I always feel in need of God’s grace, and grateful to hear that it is unfailingly present.

In Chapter 3, you talk about hearing Mark 12:28-31 on your drive to work one morning, and you say, “a thought occurred, the kind of revelation that feels otherworldly and buzzes with electricity. In a way, a bonus commandment was hidden within the two that Jesus mentioned. Love the Lord God. Love your neighbor. And love yourself.” 

Have you found practical ways to put the “bonus commandment” into practice?

To be honest, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I still have that part of my upbringing that was drilled into me, “don’t think too highly of yourself” or “don’t get too big for your britches.” I am not one to sit around loving myself!

But I do believe, deeply and viscerally, that God loves me… and his loving me makes me more lovable to me. It helps me accept myself. I remember: if he can accept me, then so can I. So should I, in fact.  It is not a spiritual virtue to self-berate and self-condemn; in fact, when we do that we are substituting our own judgment for God’s. He is the judge of our souls, and because of the sacrifice of his Son, his judgment is love.

So really, this is how I can connect to this idea of loving myself. It isn’t about sitting in front of a mirror whispering sweet nothings to myself, giving myself a pep talk with motivational quotes. For me, self-love is about abandoning self-hate. Loving myself because God does.

Throughout the book, you talk about the practice of and practicing Lectio Divina.

  • Do you have tips for people who would like to begin this practice?
  • How do you stick with it when you are busy?

This is something I only recently discovered when I signed up for an app called Hallow. It has a daily Lectio Divina that you can listen to – which I think is a great entry point for beginners like me. The narrator reads the verse three times to you, and you sit in silence in between each reading. You can choose how long you want the meditation to be, five minutes or up to thirty minutes!

I have an easily distracted, meandering mind. I’m not good at sitting still, but when I can do the Lectio practice, I have almost always encountered some wisdom from the passage just by sitting with it. I find it to be especially helpful with scriptures that are perplexing or off-putting. When you sit with them for a spell, in the presence of God, it is amazing how the thoughts that can come to the fore are often quite revealing and profound.

My advice is just to try it, even if it seems weird or your mind devolves into thinking about your grocery list or all the stuff you have to do. Just keep at it. Don’t give up. And whatever comes up in your mind as you sit there, no matter how odd it seems, consider whether it is something God is saying to you. I’ve been surprised and delighted many, many times during this practice at how a strange thought that pops into my head about the passage can lead to real revelation.

We ran across what may be extremely practical advice about prayer in Chapter 10 of Mostly What God Does. I’m paraphrasing, but you said that when your feelings “betray you,” you pray “with your imagination.”

  • Can you describe that?
  • You tie this back to Ephesians 3:20-21, where it says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” – how did you discover or connect with that verse?

Full credit where it’s due: I got this idea from Shauna Niequist, an amazing writer and now a friend who attends the same church as I do in Manhattan. Her book is called, I Guess I Just Haven’t Learned That Yet. She talks about those moments that we all experience when we are having difficulty with someone close to us, or when we are facing a problem that seems so intractable we cannot find the words to utter in prayer.

Or sometimes, I’ve found that when I am upset about something, I may find my motives to be so mixed that I’m not sure the intent of my prayers are trustworthy and I don’t even know what to pray for. I write a lot about this in the book. (Spoiler alert: I think God wants us to just bring out our whole authentic selves to him – mess and all. That’s prayer.)

Anyway, Shauna talks about praying with your imagination when words or emotions fail you. It can be as simple as imagining the person you love in a place of wholeness, of flourishing, of joy. It is a way of bringing that person to God and bringing the best of your motivations to the forefront, and letting God handle the rest. And I think Ephesians 3:20 is a wonderful corollary when thinking about our imaginations in this way, for God is “able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine.” It’s almost like God had this idea first…!

You write about being tasked with memorizing Psalm 23 as a young girl. 

  • How has your understanding of that verse changed over time? 
  • When do you turn to Psalm 23 now? 
  • You say that God’s words are “meant to be ingested and absorbed into our bloodstream.” If someone isn’t sure where to start absorbing the Bible, is Psalm 23 the passage you would recommend for them to begin?

When I first encountered Psalm 23, I was a little girl. My older cousin gave me the challenge of memorizing it – the old King James Version to boot! I can assure you I didn’t understand one word. I certainly didn’t get why it was such a famous passage. But I dutifully memorized it, and it stayed with me. Over the years, I have found the words to be peaceful, pastoral and comforting – in my book, I write about literally visualizing the scenes in times of worry and stress. Psalm 23 is a tranquil space for an anxious mind to sit a spell. 

I’ve also come to understand it to be an astoundingly compact and efficient description of our journey of life with God. God is our caretaker, our shepherd, always with us. He provides for our needs: for rest, for sustenance. The psalm also speaks of walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” – a straightforward recognition that life is not all peaceful pastures by trickling streams. We go through dark places. But we won’t be alone. Our path is purposeful, and our destination is assured.

I truly believe Scripture holds divine possibility, especially when mulled and meditated over. To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest Psalm 23 as an entry point – it can seem a bit abstract and impenetrable at first (it did to me, at least). On the other hand, sometimes it is those verses that seem most opaque and perplexing initially that hold the most treasures once we commit to going deeper.

You quoted Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation.” You talk about how you discovered salvation has two parts. Can you expand on that?

I think we often emphasize the repentance part – and that is appropriate, of course. Recognizing where we have fallen short of love and our need for God’s grace is fundamental. But I think God also calls us to rest in our salvation – not to continually berate ourselves or repeatedly return to our failings.

Resting in our salvation, to me, means absorbing the goodness of God’s mercy and the completeness of our forgiveness, accepting that he sees not the old, flawed us but the new, beautiful creature we are in him. To do that, if we can, is transformative. It has the potential to change how we relate to ourselves and how we move through the world.

You turn to Scripture a lot in your book. What is the most eye-opening moment you experienced from reading the Bible while you were writing?

The biggest revelation came when I was writing an essay about the blessings of faith. “Bless” is one of those words that’s all over our culture (“too blessed to be stressed!” “have a blessed day!” “bless this mess!”), but I came to have a deeper understanding of what the word means in the context of our faith.

I knew the concept of being blessed couldn’t possibly refer to material things, or even necessarily being shown favor by God when we are the recipients of good fortune (although that certainly does happen!). If blessings simply meant “good stuff that happens to you,” how do we explain the beatitudes? (Blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are the meek, blessed are the persecuted, etc…).

I came to understand that to be blessed in the spiritual sense is simply to receive more of God. So when I pray for a blessing – “God, please bless this travel I must take,” or “bless this difficult task before me” – I’m essentially asking for more of God’s supernatural presence and wisdom, not any particular outcome.

To be blessed is not to have all problems solved, it is to have more divine intervention and presence in a situation. When understood that way, the scriptures about blessings make much more sense to me.

“Loving strangers is hard.” That one sentence pulled from the middle of Chapter 28 rings with truth. Can you explain how God’s love transformed you to see the joy in helping others?

It is a lifelong pursuit to love and care for other humans. None of us are all that good at it. It isn’t necessarily our natural state of being. But when we truly contemplate how God loves us, and let that knowledge really penetrate us, our hearts are inevitably softened, and our horizons broadened; we see that all the love, grace, adoration and delight God has for us extends equally to every single human we encounter.

Every. Single. One.

Again, this is not a rapturous state I walk around in all the time. I live in the real world! But I try to remind myself: we are all God’s children. And if we are all his children, then every human is my brother or sister. We are siblings.

Mostly What God Does has such a loving and encouraging message. It shows have spent a lot of time reading the Bible, in various versions, to communicate that message. What do you want people to get most out of reading your book?

I hope they receive it as a gentle call to be loved by God – and then, filled with that love, to go out and share it. I think that is the essence of our mission as followers of Jesus.

Often, people of faith recognize the service part. They are aware of our obligation to give and serve others.

But the book reminds us not to miss the first, integral step: fully absorbing and appreciating the love that God has for us. That is what imbues us with a generous spirit, where those acts of love and service are done not out of obligation, but out of an overflowing abundance of love that simply cannot be contained within. 

Mostly what God does is love you.

If we could believe this, really believe this, how different would we be? How different would our lives be? How different would our world be?

Unspooling personal stories from her own joys and sorrows as a daughter, mother, wife, friend, and professional journalist, the award-winning TODAY show coanchor and New York Times bestselling author explores the place of faith in everyday life.

Savannah Guthrie is the co-anchor of NBC News’ TODAY, NBC News’ chief legal correspondent and a primary anchor for the network’s election coverage. She was named cohost of TODAY in 2012.

Savannah is a graduate of Georgetown Law, and a New York Times bestselling author for her book Princesses Wear Pants and the sequel Princesses Save the World. She is the executive producer of the Netflix show “Princess Power,” based on the book series. Savannah is married to communications consultant Mike Feldman and the couple has a daughter, Vale, and a son, Charley.

Mostly What God Does is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

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