It was a hot, August day in 2004. Eighty-two-year-old Edna sat in her living room sipping an iced tea. I sat facing her holding a glass of cold water. The 40-year age difference between us didn’t bother Edna or me; we’d known each other for years. She was my spiritual mother. Each week we studied the Bible, talked and prayed.
That morning I remember Edna putting her drink down on the low table between us and leaning forward. Her intense, blue eyes looked into mine. “Mary, I want to tell you something.” She needed my agreement to go on.
“Okay,” I said.
Slowly and deliberately Edna spoke, “Mary, you don’t love.”
It was Edna’s voice, but it was God addressing me. The raw truth of those words pierced my heart. I didn’t love.
Verses from the great love chapter in the New Testament flashed through my mind: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith … but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–2, NKJV).
Like a flood my life passed before me. I had gone to Stanford and then earned a Ph. D. in Developmental Psychology with the intent of aiding children in need. My husband was a pediatrician and together we had planned to help in orphanages around the world. However, these ideas had changed when, early in my thirties, I had developed Multiple Sclerosis. I’d stayed home and dedicated myself to raising our four children. We went to church faithfully as a family and, as the kids grew older, I began working part-time as a volunteer for a mission organization.
But somehow in that moment with Edna, I understood that in doing all these “good” things, I was nothing but “a clanging cymbal.” I slid out of my chair and lay face down on Edna’s floor.
I’d gotten the most important thing in life wrong. Even though I’d grown up in a Christian home singing “Jesus loves me this I know,” even though I’d “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was 16, even though my family was active in a Bible-believing church, even though I was doing many “good” things, I didn’t really love.
Something was horribly wrong. I knew I was going to heaven when I died, but I wasn’t living life on earth as God intended. I wasn’t loving. And I didn’t know why.
So there on the floor, with Edna looking on, I prayed, “God, I don’t know what is wrong, but I trust You to fix it. I want to love. Whatever it takes.”
Within six months of praying that prayer, my life was in shambles. The shiny ornaments I had used to decorate my life so that I looked “good,” like I thought a Christian should, lay broken to bits. My marriage of 22 years began a decline into divorce. My oldest son, a freshman on Harvard’s crew team, fell into alcohol abuse, dropped out of school and ended up as a patient in a psychiatric hospital. My “good” Christian life had been exposed for what it was—a shiny cover up for the real life God intended for me.
But through understanding who God really was, and by seeing how mankind was created to abide with Him in a loving relationship, God was about to transform the framework of my life.