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Savannah Guthrie and What God Mostly Does

David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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. A graduate of Georgetown Law, she is a New York Times bestselling author and executive producer of a Netflix show.

She is also a devout Christian who just released a book on her faith that includes frank conversations about sin and grace and the problem of evil, and is replete with quotes from C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Tim Keller, Oswald Chambers, Beth Moore, N.T. Wright and Frederick Buechner.

I have been a long and faithful viewer of the “Today” show, incorporating it into my morning workout routine for years. Guthrie impressed me from the moment she debuted—a respect and appreciation that has continued to grow over time.

I recall when she was on the air and had to break the news about the dismissal of her colleague Matt Lauer for sexual infidelities. She was clearly distraught, and revealed later that she and her cohost Hoda Kotb had spent time in prayer for Matt before they made the fateful announcement.

Later, reading a feature on her in a newspaper series that chronicled what various celebrities did with their Sundays, she unapologetically revealed the centrality of church attendance.

All to say, I was eager to read her reflections and I was not disappointed. She is quick to say she is not a trained theologian, and even quicker to admit she is not the poster child for a consistent life in Christ over the years. But she is deeply sincere about her faith and deeply committed to it. It has clearly become an increasingly vibrant part of her life, and now takes center stage.

And for good reason. She is the first to say that she has had to cling to it—desperately—to survive, including the death of her father when she was a teenager and a brief failed marriage in her mid-30s. Even her ascent to her role on the “Today” show was challenging due to longtime viewers’ anger over the treatment of her predecessor Ann Curry.

The stackpole for which she gathers her thoughts is simple: “What God mostly does… is love.” She’s right. With every subject—from sin and grace, to evil and parenting, to doubt and prayer—she returns to that one steadfast truth: God is foolish over us, and we can trust Him. Or as the subtitle of her book puts it: “Reflections on Seeking and Finding His Love Everywhere.”

For example, in writing poignantly of her role as a mother of two, she ends with: “He loves. Like a mother. But better.” After introducing her daughter Vale to a collection of Christian songs (courtesy of her own mother), “Jesus Loves Me” came on and her little blue eyes lit up. “That’s my song!” she exclaimed. Guthrie then reflects on John saying that he was the apostle who Jesus loved but noting that it was neither ego nor pride speaking, but rather his own sense of selfless identity. She then adds that we are all deeply loved by Jesus: “It’s a child hearing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and saying, ‘That’s my song.’ It’s an apostle witnessing the Messiah and saying, ‘I’m the one he loves.’ But it’s a fact that belongs to all of us.”

In writing of prayer, she speaks with the depth of someone who has committed herself to it and struggled with it at the same time. “Maybe you’ve heard that famous quote: ‘80% of success in life is just showing up.’ In prayer, it’s 100%. By simply arriving to a quiet moment with God, its purpose is accomplished.” Those who attempt to be practiced in prayer know exactly what she means. She also speaks of God’s silence and her frustration with it. During one particularly trying season, she wanted God’s rescue to come, and it didn’t. Not in the sense she looked for or longed for. She then adds what she learned at the end—an impression she couldn’t help but take as a word from God:

This, Savannah. This is the rescue.

This moment, this pain, this anguish—this is the path to freedom. This is the road that will lead you out. Because this is what will force change.