During a tremendously dark time in 1966, Betty was miraculously given an ever-so-thin thread of hope to hold onto. As broken and fragmented as she was, she was still trying to keep up with children who were entering their teens, take care of a busy, demanding husband, teach Sunday school, minister to unwed mothers at the Salvation Army, and lead a Bible study for teenagers. Being so overcommitted, she was, of course, unprepared for the Bible study she had to lead the next day. She needed something to teach from, so she jumped in the Blue Beetle, ran down to Effie Sutton’s bookstore, grabbed a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Friendship, jumped back in the car, threw the bag on the backseat, and raced home to meet the kids and get supper ready before her husband Bryant came barreling through the door.
“That night I got in bed completely exhausted but opened the book anyway, because I had to come up with some kind of a lesson for the next day. When I opened it, I was stunned. Bryant was reading a magazine right next to me, with no idea that lightning had struck next to him. Inside the jacket and the hardback cover of this book by Emerson was a different book entirely. The publisher had printed Henry Drummond’s famous book on love, The Greatest Thing in the World, with the Emerson cover. I had bought a book on friendship but I was holding a book about love.
“As I read it transfixed, I realized for the first time in my life that I didn’t know one thing about how to love. I had been on the verge of quitting my volunteer teaching job at the Salvation Army because I couldn’t get these unwed mothers to respond to me in the slightest. I suddenly realized that I was just teaching them; I wasn’t loving them at all. All of this time I had been preaching to them, all dressed up in my big white Christian god-coat, with the attitude that they were just poor sinners I was there to save. This huge revelation came to me through that little book and not only changed the entire focus of my teaching—it changed the focus of my life. The next day I went back to the bookstore to see if all of the copies had been misprinted but mine was the only one. Imagine that.
“Drummond helped me see all of this by taking each one of love’s characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and breaking them down one at a time. It seemed to me that God was saying very simply that learning to love was the only thing that mattered in life. It deeply spoke to me, and without saying a word to anyone, I took each virtue and very consciously practiced it for three months. I was still very scattered, my priorities were still very misplaced, I still knew absolutely nothing about myself, I still didn’t understand that I needed to let go of all my striving and just be still and listen for God, but I was responding as best I could to what I felt was God’s call. My desire to know Him was strong, and that desire eventually brought me to a deeper place. Many years later, He would use all of my brokenness and all I had learned from Drummond to offer a thread of hope to others who were struggling through the darkness. If we will persevere, nothing on our spiritual journey is wasted—it is all preparation.”
Love is never merely following suit.
Love is always taking the initiative.
Love reaches out, but love accepts.
For love is seeing as God would see.
Love provides the spark, it turns the switch.
Love cleans, deepens, fills, breathes new air
frees another life
to know God’s heart
to find love there.