Savannah Guthrie, MOSTLY WHAT GOD DOES

Savannah Guthrie, MOSTLY WHAT GOD DOES


Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of NBC News’ TODAY and now #1 New York Times bestselling author, joins Zibby to talk about her deeply personal essay collection, MOSTLY WHAT GOD KNOWS: Reflections on Seeking and Finding His Love Everywhere. Savannah reveals the inspiration behind this book and then shares anecdotes of grappling with doubt, navigating setbacks, and ultimately finding solace in her own understanding of God’s love. She touches on anxiety, motherhood, and forgiveness, and then shares how grateful she is for the overwhelming support her book has received.


Zibby: Welcome, Savannah. Thank you so much for coming on Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books to discuss Mostly What God Does, Reflections on Seeking and Finding His Love Everywhere.


Savannah: Thank you. Thank you, Zibby. I love the name of your podcast. I feel like you see me. I don't have time to read. I don't know where I find time to write.

Zibby: Seriously, maybe that should be the question of the hour. But, um, first tell listeners what your book is about and what inspired you to write it.

Savannah: So, my book is a book about faith. And it's a series of essays. They're just really short, little reflections about different aspects of faith, but it's not a memoir. I can write out and say, this is not a memoir. This is not my life story, but at the same time, it's really personal because if you're going to write about faith and what you believe and what you've learned along the way, you end up telling a lot of your personal stories.

And so I do. And usually they're They're not stories of my great triumphs. They're more often stories of sadness and disappointment and setbacks and questioning and doubt and all of those things. So I tried to write not from a place that certainly any special knowledge or expertise. I come right out and say at the beginning, I'm not a theologian or a biblical scholar.

And I'm not holding my life up as any kind of example that anyone should follow, but just a person who loves God and who figured out that God loves me and every human heart and figuring that out and how I figured that out has changed everything for me.

Zibby: Well, it's surprising that you didn't go to divinity school or anything like that because your command of the Bible and the Psalms and all these things.

I mean, it's, it's pretty good. I mean, I feel like I did not pay as close attention in Hebrew school, I must say. So, you know,

Savannah: I mean, over the years I've been interested in, so I've studied and I've been writing down. So it's sort of like 20 years of thinking and reflecting, but I was so nervous when I wrote the book because, you know, It's to put that out there.

You're like, Oh my gosh, people who actually know could read this. And so I was so happy because my publishers said, don't worry. We have a theologian that can, will read the entire book and make sure like you're not making up stuff. So that's a big relief for me.

Zibby: Yeah. Thank God for fact checkers.

Savannah: Yes.

Zibby: What I really want to know is more about your shoplifting.

Savannah: Oh, I know. Well, I told you, I told you these lessons get learned not on your bright, shining moments, but in your, in your embarrassing ones. Yes. I confess that in junior high, I had a little shoplifting phase as a teenager and I use it as an example of, you know, those times when you are overwhelmed with guilt. But how good it feels to come clean and be forgiven. And so I remembered that from, from being 13 years old and having as, as I've now learned many 13 year olds go through this exact phase, you know, where you go to the drug store and take Tic Tacs or mascara or whatever. But I lived with that guilt for the good part of a summer.

And then finally confessed to my mother one day who was fully disgusted with me as she should have been. You know, that was an obvious moment where you do something wrong. It's horrifying. It you're flooded with guilt But then having come clean told the truth to yourself and in my case to my mom's, my father, you know Then I felt released and so I kind of used that as a jumping off point to talk about, we all often carry some guilt or shame or something that we, we know we've somehow fallen short of love in our lives.

And that there's such a singular relief and telling the truth to yourself and telling the truth to God and finding out that you're forgiven and loved anyway.

Zibby: It's amazing. I feel like I was less forgiven than you when I stole some sun kissed, from the stock room of, I don't know, my mom. I remember the sun.

So I feel like everyone remembers the story of when they stole the first time or if they tried and what happened. And I was so mortified because, I like took the sunkissed and put it in the car and she like made me get up out of the car and back in there and apologizing to the guy. And I was so humiliated that I never did it again. So there you go.

Savannah: Well, it, then that's, it stuck with you, but see, you got caught immediately where mine was that I had a short shoplifting career. So she couldn't, it wasn't really possible to say, "Go back to the store and return everything", but believe me she was not pleased.

Zibby: I think I was like six.

This is like really bad. But anyway, I know if I feel like there's so many stories You're right that if I were a manager of a drugstore, I feel like I would just keep my eyes trained on 13 year olds non stop, 13 to 16. It's like forget it.

Savannah: Prime suspect.

Zibby: Prime suspect. Yeah, that's a better way to say it.

You jump around in the book from, deeply emotional passages to more, fun and then telling us about, having kids and then like this devastating, pregnancy loss of a good friend. There's one passage that I thought was really great. Because you open up the most. I know you started by saying it's not a memoir, but I felt like not to be creepy.

I just like wanted to know more and more about you, you know, like tell me, trying to find the you in all of the stuff. So can I just read this paragraph? Is that okay?

Savannah: Of course, of course.

Zibby: You said, like so many people, I struggle with dark and foreboding thoughts. I don't know if mine has a clinical name, anxiety perhaps.

No matter. I don't need to name it. I know it by heart. I would know it anywhere. That heavy feeling of dread, worry, and guilt gripping my heart like a vice. The tightening, gnawing feeling of discomfort, unease. It is a dis ease, if not an actual disease. A persistent, occasionally relentless sense of impending doom.

Its defining feature is its mystery. Why do I feel like this? Why do I feel this way? Often, I can't even put my finger on it. I rack my brain for the source, scanning my memory, movements, and interactions, looking for the real reason I might feel so unsettled. Did I do something wrong? Tell me about this feeling.

Savannah: Welcome to my psyche. You're going to go run screaming. It's so funny because when I wrote it, I asked my editor at some point, I'm like, am I coming across like a basket case? I'm actually quite chipper, but I think, I actually, I think a lot of us struggle with versions of these kinds of dark thoughts, you know, mine might kind of head toward guilt and shame and others might go through anger or frustration or despair, but you know, that kind of feeling like, why do I have this heaviness about me?

And I think that was in a chapter that I wrote called turn your eyes. And it's about how in those moments, we, especially today, we're so lucky in our modern culture. We have so many different Wellness techniques, meditation, journaling. We have so much more access to therapy and that kind of thing, but I'm saying beyond all those things.

And in addition to sometimes what we really need is. A perspective, the perspective that is far beyond ourselves. And for me, that perspective is faith and looking up and out of my circumstances and realizing that I'm not in charge. Because when you worry like that, And when you have that anxiety, or you're exacting this terrible judgment on yourself, of course, what you're actually doing, the subtext is, is that you're in charge, that you are kind of the God of your life.

And actually, it's quite a relief, especially if you believe in the God that I believe in, that a God of love and compassion, who has been human, And connects with every human heart to lift your perspective and remember that that's, who's actually in control. It's a great relief and a great comfort. And when I'm feeling that way, that sense of foreboding, this is something I try to do, look up, look out and turn my eyes upward and heavenward.

You know, I write about the first day I anchored the Today Show as the main anchor and how terrified it was. I came in at a moment of controversy for the show. I mean, people were out clamoring for Savannah Guthrie to host the show. You know, I kind of got thrown in there and I was pretty sure I was a temporary transitional solution that was going to get thrown by the wayside.

I was so scared. I mean, the morning I was to begin, I knew the eyes of the world were on me, at least my news world, and I came down with a blinding migraine. And the kind of migraines I have, you know, I can't see my vision is cut out, you know, words disappear. And so I laid down 20 minutes before air on the floor of this dressing room.

And I was just like, I prayed and this verse came to me and the verse was, I had memorized it years and years before, but suddenly it popped into my head. Seemingly out of nowhere, I looked to the hills. Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. And I knew in that moment that the call was to look up and out and know that help is on the way and the help wasn't, it wasn't for me to do it myself because here I had run right into my own shortcomings and fears and weaknesses and physical frailty and every kind of frailty, but to look up and out and look on the horizon and who's on the way, who is coming up with the cavalry of rescue. God himself, the maker of heaven and earth. And that's how I understood that verse in that moment. And the fact that it came back to me in that moment was a great comfort because if nothing else I felt, and I knew in my heart that God was there and that I wasn't alone. And the message I took was, you I brought you this far.

I'm not about to admit, abandoned you now. Somehow I rolled out of that dressing room and did the show. And you know, it's not like, oh, and then my migraine disappeared. It just was able to go on and for me, that's an example of how getting a different perspective when we're deep in our worries, our concerns or our shame spiral or our anxiety or our anger or whatever we go through as humans, that perspective.

To me has been so valuable and that's something that I cannot self. It's not self generated. We modern people are so self reliant and that's wonderful but faith for me brings something that I cannot bring and i'm so grateful for that.

Zibby: That's amazing. You're gonna put the whole anti anxiety medication field like out of business.

Savannah: Well, I don't know because I and I say that in the book, like i'm not I say we can avail ourselves of all of these Different Ways of dealing with anxiety.

And I'm not saying that anxiety is a spiritual problem because for some of us, and I probably would put myself in this category, you know, it's a chemical problem too and it's emotional problem. And we need the therapy and we might need a dose of something, but above all things, I think we also need faith or we can benefit greatly from it.

Zibby: You're, you're absolutely right. I am, I have anxiety as well. I get, I get your dark days. I get the whole thing.

Savannah: See you at the next meeting.

Zibby: Exactly. Exactly. This is one path I had not tried. So who knows? Barking up the wrong tree. You write about something that had happened to you in law school that had filled you with a lot of shame, but then you don't go into some of those details.

You leave a lot of holes on purpose, and sometimes you're like, not telling you that. Like, okay, got it.

Savannah: Yes, I know. The second chapter is like, and I wrote it when I started Writing the book and then I thought Oh, they're never going to let me keep this in and maybe I don't even want to, but it's all about here are all the things I don't want to write about this bad thing happened and that bad thing.

It don't drive yourself crazy, imagining the worst, but just know that yes. I've had hardships. I've had extraordinary blessings and luck and no one is more aware of that than I am. But if you're wondering, what the heck is she talking about? Does she really know anything about being sad or struggle? Yeah, I do.

But we don't need to get into all the why's and how's. So yes, I do leave a few little holes.

Zibby: But what's stopped you from sharing some of that?

Savannah: I mean, it's because it's personal and because it wasn't necessary. I think, I hope, I hope I gave enough To me, this book is incredibly personal. No, I'm excerpting.

Yeah. I'm excerpting journal entries that I cringe to reread, let alone publish to the world. You know? So I knew that if you're going to do this, you can't be a wimp. You got to be authentic. You got to bring your whole true self, but there's a point at which you get the picture, you know? So I dabble in telling you the few of the things, the reasons.

Some of the hard things I went through, but it's not tragedy porn for lack of a better way of saying it. You know, it's not like, Oh, the book isn't about me. I mean, it happens in the context of me, but the book is about faith and it's about God. That doesn't happen in a vacuum. Your faith happens in a real life.

So. You have to come forward and say, you know, I learned this thing when I messed that thing up, or when this beautiful thing happened to me, like motherhood, you know? So I write a lot about my kids because motherhood has been one of the most transformative spiritual lessons of my life. So I'm willing to go there a little bit, but not any more than is necessary.

I hope I struck the balance. I really tried to.

Zibby: No, you did. I was just curious.

Savannah: Yeah, of course.

Zibby: So at your book party, which I went to with the invitation of Christine, all the women standing up with you were saying, I, you know, you were thanking them and they were, it was clear that each one had encouraged you to write this and that you were very nervous about going there and writing this and doing the whole thing.

And now it's a number one New York time bestseller, blah, blah, blah. Just like, you know, how, and you were so. You seem genuinely, like, nervous about, about it. How do you feel now? And what has the reception been like on a personal level for you? And I mean, you were emotional then, I can't even imagine now, have you been like sobbing or what?

Savannah: Yeah. I mean, I'm so touched and tickled. I'm just kind of like, you just, I mean, God is so interesting, right? Like I, and that's not like, oh God made my book a bestseller. It's not that it's just more like I was so scared and I didn't know what people would think. And it's so personal and it's like putting your heart out there.

And then I don't have to tell you, we, you know, we live in a, yeah. world that can be quite cruel and judgmental and unforgiving. And so to be putting your whole real self out there for that scrutiny is extremely terrifying. And the other thing is, is even though my friends and family, this is no surprise, you know, you and I, if you go out for a drink, it would end up at some point.

If we had a good talk, we would talk about faith because I'd be like, Oh, well, I learned it this way. So it's, it's very much something that all of my friends, family and colleagues know, but we also live in this cosmopolitan New York City, modern world. And it's, you know, I thought, are people going to be like, this is weird.

But in the end, I had to just not care about that. I felt like I had something good to say about God and I wanted to say it and I wanted to at least try. And then when I started writing, I'll never say that it was easy or effortless, but it came fast. I mean, I did this book in less than a year and because it was such an alive and thrilling experience.

I felt for a long time, all last summer, like maybe this isn't even going to be a book. Maybe this is just some little experience that God and I are having together and isn't that so sweet? And I would think to myself, Oh, God knows me so well. He's thinking I got to give her a project or she'll like, she needs a goal or a deadline, you know, that's my personality.

So for a long time, I was like, maybe this isn't even going to be a book, but it will be a really cool process to go through. And I'm just so thrilled and touched and moved by how people want to connect of all different shapes. In all different walks of life or no faith at all. I mean people of different faiths that i've been friends with for years I'm having deeper conversation with and finding out what they believe And I mean people are sending me songs they like to listen to in hebrew, you know or verses that mean something to them and and these are people I know. These are friends I've had for years. And how cool to open up that lane of meeting.

I mean, I just did an interview with Kara Swisher, who I love and adore and think she's so amazing. And she's so fierce. And she said, I want to talk to you about the book. And I was like, you do? She was like, Oh, I love talking to people about their faith. I mean, I'm agnostic, but I'm so interested. And I love that.

That open heartedness has been what I've encountered, not close mindedness. And that is amazing. And I hope that maybe if people are reading the book, that then that's their experience too. That it's a way in. You know, the book is not to persuade or proselytize, but I hope it's a way in to discuss these things no matter what your perspective is on it.

Zibby: That's amazing. It's like, look who's laughing now. All of you people who want to know. Yeah.

Savannah: Yeah. Well, yes, but maybe they didn't in the end or maybe there's more good in this world. Yes. I know. I'm like, yeah I mean, I don't need to be all Pollyanna about it but and I and by the way, I'm still nervous because at any moment I feel like oh somebody could be like Oh, why did you this or you know some it could the worm could turn at any moment and I know that so I'm just counting My blessings.

I'm grateful and I'm also, you know, I'm just retreating back to like that is quo ante, you know, like I wasn't a writer before. I'm not out there. I'm not looking to change or raise my profile. It becomes to some new version of myself. And now I'm back to just, I wrote the book, I put it out there. I'm so happy that people are responding to it.

And now I'm like back to normal, back to regular programming.

Zibby: I can't imagine that anybody associated with the production of this book doesn't want you to write another book, right? People want you to write another book. Do you want to write another book?

Savannah: Well, no, of course I don't. I really don't want to at all, but I didn't want to write this book.

I mean, I did, but I didn't. So I kind of feel like I'm not going to say I'll never do it. Although I did tell my publisher I'm one and done because I can't imagine, but if some set of circumstances came up in five years or 10 years, and I felt like I had something to say and it felt important and right, then who's to say I wouldn't, but I'm not anxious to do that.

I'm not looking for the sequel. I didn't think I'd have enough to fill a whole book. I certainly don't have enough for two. So I'm like, here it is. That's it. This is the sum total of it. I had to say, and now, but, oh, I, well, I probably shouldn't say I was going to say there is. I don't think I'm supposed to say it.

Never mind. There's one little thing that goes along with this book.

Zibby: It's fine, go ahead.

Savannah: But I haven't announced it, so ignore, I don't know if I'm allowed to, so.

Zibby: Okay.

Savannah: You can close that out. Or be considered a deep tease.

Zibby: A deep tease, yes. We are officially teased. Thank you. Now we'll dig right in.

Savannah: Yes, something little.

Zibby: Something little, okay. By the way, I just noticed on the bookmark that you have a wordle on here. Do you play wordle?

Savannah: Yes, I love wordle, and actually that is, refers back to the very last chapter of the book. The last section is about purpose, and the last chapter I kind of, Talk about what I think my purpose might be okay, which is also really feels very exposed to say I think this might be my purpose and it goes there's a wordle reference.

So the wordle there's a wordle. You will see the wordle in at the end of the book. I actually got to reprint I don't doesn't say wordle, but we just copied the squares

Zibby: Okay. I did not get to the last chapter. I'm so sorry.

Savannah: Oh, no worries. No worries. Now you're, now you'll, uh, you'll be like, "Oh, what is her purpose?"

Zibby: I know. Clearly your purpose is to create wordle puzzles, which I, nobody would have known that.

Savannah: So there you go. Oh, I love wordle. I love all the New York times games except for spelling bee because I can never get it and it's so frustrating.

Zibby: Do you have authors you admire or who have written similarly about faith in a way that you felt like, okay, if so and so could do it, I could do it.

Savannah: I mean, I am embarrassed to say I'm a lot less well read than I should be, but there are writers I admire in this space who I've read, maybe not their whole books. Although in the case of one name, I'll give you, I have read her whole book, which is Seananiquist. And I mentioned her actually in my book. And she's been, yes, Sean is an amazing writer in this space.

Sarah Bessie is another writer in this space that I. I think is profound. And Kate Bowler. Yes. I love Kate Bowler. She wrote this book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lives I've Loved. And she's just such a deeply thoughtful, cool human being who's like my friend in my mind. So those are some of the writers that I admire that are writing in this area.

Zibby: Amazing.

Savannah: But I've never actually read their entire books. Because I have short attention span problems.

Zibby: I relate to that as well.

Savannah: That's why your podcast is for me.

Zibby: I know, it's short and it's short.

Nobody has time to do anything or focus on anything.

Savannah: So, exactly, exactly.

Zibby: So last question, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Savannah: I think my best advice would be to just write. And don't wait for the book deal or wait for where, you know, the book is going, but to just start and the other part of it.

And I don't know if this was just specific to me because, you know, I, my background is in journalism and, you know, I'm used to writing something that has to be ready to be published or broadcast that day. So I'm very, my, my inclination as I was writing last year was to. I didn't want to go on to the next thing until I had really judged it and it was presentable and could have been turned in that day.

And Richard Engel, who is a friend, he's our foreign correspondent, I met him for coffee just during this whole time and I told him, he's written a ton of books, he's prolific. And he said, Don't do that. Just write it. Don't sit there and make it perfect. You know, like massage it and want it to be, just keep going, keep going.

A book is different than what we do every day, where we want something to be presentable and you could turn it into your editor and say, okay, I'm ready. This is ready for broadcast. He's like, just keep going. So I don't know if that applies to everyone, but if you're the kind of person who likes to feel that something is really beautiful before you go on to the next, just write rough.

Actually my editor. He had all these really funny sayings and one that were all kind of irreverent and I loved it. And one of them was write drunk and edit sober. I think he quoted somebody like Ernest Hemingway or Poe or someone that was their quote, but I loved that. Write drunk, edit sober.

Zibby: All right.

Well, this might undo some of the anti anxiety stuff, but anyway, I'm kidding. Never mind. All this conflicting advice on, you know, alcohol and God.

Savannah: I know, I know. Sorry. But just like, you know, let it, let, yeah, let it rip. Let it rip is kind of the idea. And you can, you can perfect it later.

Zibby: Well, Savannah, congratulations.

I'm really happy for you. You seem so genuine and open and kind, and I have no doubt that you are who you are in this book to everybody and that is something I think people can feel and why people respond to your book, right? When you're really open and you really put it out there, people take that as a gift, right?

As opposed to when you feel people posturing in some way in their books and then you're like, forget it. So, you know, you went out with an open heart and people just like took you in and I think it's great. It's amazing.

Savannah: Oh, I'm so, I'm so grateful and relieved. And thank you, Zibby. Thank you for inviting me.

We have a lot of friends in common. I can't tell you how many people since I wrote a book said, you got to talk to my girlfriend, Zibby. So I'm like delighted to be here and be on the podcast. Thank you for inviting me.

Zibby: Of course. Of course. Anytime.

Savannah: And your bookshelves are goals. I love the rainbow. Yes.

Thank you.

Zibby: All right. All right. Thanks, Savannah.

Savannah Guthrie, MOSTLY WHAT GOD DOES

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