Back when I thought I knew something about God, I sought arguments. God is this, and God is not that, and those scriptures you think say one thing actually mean something else, don’t you know. I thought her simple and silly, though good-hearted. Hers was the Sunday School God, the “Jesus Loves Me” God, a God unsuited to the intellectual nuance I mistook in myself for faith. She was too simple to understand God, I reasoned, but good-hearted enough to get to heaven.

Her Bible was at the funeral. It was filled with notes, acquired after she’d filled the ones before it to the brim. Plenty of people make notes in their Bibles. In my own I’ve underlined passages that substantiate treasured theological points, and crafted marginalia exploring connections between verses.

Her notes were much simpler. No abstruse ruminations on the nature of predestination, or the essence of the members of the Trinity. Her notes were sentences like, “Thank you, Lord,” and dates marking the dozens of times she returned to certain verses, and names of people for whom she prayed. Each page—like her life—was filled with thanksgiving and prayer.

She was simple but not simple-minded, and good-hearted through and through, and only now that she is gone does it occur to me that I might labor a lifetime and still not be worthy to be mentioned in the same breath with her name. Even if every word that comes from my mouth until my dying day is a kindness for someone, I won’t come close to the benedictions she gave to all she knew, even the likes of me, her sometime antagonist, who hadn’t the good sense to know that heaven is not filled with scholars but with saints, and that a lifetime living “Jesus Loves Me” is a life well-lived.


  1. Ethan Smith

    Lest we discount the work of scholars too heavily, let me offer my gratitude to you for another well-written practical theology mini-treatise. May the Spirit help apply your words to take root in my life.

  2. Ashlee

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection. The intellectual quest–while I believe it is valuable–may be more important for some than for others, and can easily become a journey of “missing the point.” I need to be reminded of this often, so thank you.

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  4. Beth

    In his declining months, my daddy sang “Jesus loves me” all the time. Almost his last words to me, after I’d given him a big hug and told him I loved him, were “You love me, and I love you, and Jesus loves us ALL.” The best lesson of my life ever was in his simple faith, lived more than spoken most of his days, and spoken in such a simple and beautiful way in his last days.

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