You Didn’t Quote Scripture


Meadow Rue Merrill -Didn't Quote Scripture4By Meadow Rue Merrill | Twitter: @meadowruewrites

In the dim light of a Maine morning, I glanced out the living room window to see you sitting in your car, headlights off. My husband and our four remaining children were upstairs, tucked safely in their beds, asleep. Grief was my dark and constant companion and had been since our daughter Ruth’s devastating death a couple of weeks before.

I thought you were praying, sitting there in the motionless morning gloom, calling down grace for my barely-beating heart. A moment later, your headlights flashed on. The rumble of an engine echoed off the silent houses lining our still-quiet street. And then you were gone.

We’d met in church. It was your first time. You were round with joy and the life of your unborn child. Giddy and glowing and so new to it all: the fellowship of faith, the Word poured out, and the impending mantle of motherhood. I couldn’t wait to welcome you in, to dip my ladle into the wellspring of blessings I’d received and pour them over you.

When your precious son arrived, all those good church people helped set up your new apartment. I hunted up a rocking chair and the softest clothes—tiny onesies and snap-up sleepers. I was more than a decade older, and your own family was far away. It was a delight to help.

In the months that followed, I babysat when I could and invited you over to learn how to bake brownies—something you’d never done before. Me pretending to be Julia Child with my phony French accent and make-believe cooking show. You mixing ingredients and pouring the batter. Together we devoured the still-warm squares as our reward.

Only slowly did you empty out your own story of struggle and loss. And I was at a loss—with all of my pious jargon—to know how to comfort and strengthen you. What words may I have said that hurt you? What empty answers left you still clutching your deepest questions?

I had not yet learned the wisdom that comes from mourning.

The silent listening.

The present of presence.

Neither had the woman who came the night Ruth died and sat across from me, on my couch, to explain why God had taken my daughter. She quoted scripture and prayed and read from a devotion book while my devotion—my very faith in God—was shaking to the core. And then she left, leaving me more confused and empty and aching than before.

But you—you who had not grown up in church and who were many years my younger—in the overwhelming days after Ruth died, when my youngest son had a doctor’s appointment, you came along and took two of my children for hot chocolate. After, you walked the aisles of Goodwill with me, helping me find clothes to wear for Ruth’s funeral. Red. Her favorite color.

I thought I would be fine, running errands alone. But I could still barely form words, still barely find my keys or write a check or comprehend what had happened and all that still needed to happen. Then there you were, beside me. And the following week, there you were again, parked across the street on that still-quiet morning. Praying, I thought.

Until the telephone rang.

“I hope I’m not calling too early,” you said. “But I was on my way to buy doughnuts. I just stopped outside your house, watching to see if you were awake. Mind if I bring some over?”

Did I mind?

I laughed out loud, maybe the first time since that dreadful day.

“Doughnuts?” I said. “I saw your car and thought you were praying!

With all of my deep-steeped Churchdom, I had not realized that doughnuts too are a form of prayer—something I discovered when you brought by a dozen of Maine’s finest, a grace sweeter than chocolate glaze.

You didn’t quote Scripture.

You didn’t offer answers.

You offered yourself.

That’s what true prayer does.

It dwells with.

And fills.

And listens.

And lifts.

It’s hard, knowing what to say to someone facing tremendous loss. We fumble. We try to fill the absence with empty words. But unlike hollow recitations, true prayer nourishes the body, as well as the soul.

And together we devoured the reward.


Meadow’s book, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, just released this week and all personal proceeds will benefit orphans and people with disabilities in Uganda.

Meadow Rue Merrill -Didn't Quote Scripture1


About Meadow:

meadow-rue-merrillMeadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, has written for The New York Times.The Boston Globe, and Down East magazine. Part travel adventure, part family drama, and part spiritual memoir, her book reveals how God wants to bless hurting and broken people through us, even though we too may be hurt and broken. All personal proceeds benefit orphans and people with disabilities in Uganda. Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Connect at or follow on Facebook:


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  • “The present of presence.” There’s a whole counseling course in those words, Meadow. Best wished to you as your book releases to the world.

  • I was deeply moved by this Meadow and I hope I’ve learned a bit more in how to pray with doughnuts and presence.

  • Helene Burns

    What a beautiful gift – the practical and loving power of presence. (I have a 13 year old granddaughter with the same name as you, though her parents chose to spell it a little differently. Love it xx)

  • sandyhay

    In our world full of words, sitting in the presence with another has been thought to be pointless. Wonder why we think we have to have an answer or a scripture when a hug or a smile or a hand squeeze is such a gift.

  • “But unlike hollow recitations, true prayer nourishes the body, as well as the soul.” Wow. These are wise and powerful and humbling words Meadow – the very best kind. Thank you for sharing your story here and I’m so sorry about Ruth. I actually texted my husband this morning asking for advice on how to walk alongside a friend going through grief at the moment – and this post is an answer to that question.

  • Melaney G Lyall

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Even here I am stumbling over words, but wanting to share strength with you in your great loss. The gift of presence is priceless…

  • This. Is. Beautiful.

  • “That’s what true prayer does.

    It dwells with.

    And fills.

    And listens.

    And lifts.”

    I so love this, Meadow. <3 to you as you revisit so many memories and feelings with the release of Ruth's story into the world. May there be more doughnuts.

  • Hooray for loving people well over trying to do the right ‘spiritual’ thing. Thank you for so much beautiful truth!

  • fiona lynne

    This is beautiful and so timely for me right now. Thank you x

  • Jenni

    such a lovely portrait of love doing, showing up, acting as Love would do. prayers for you in your grief.

  • Tasha

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. “With all of my deep-steeped Churchdom, I had not realized that doughnuts too are a form of prayer…” Amen.