Last week the Rev. Billy Graham was laid to rest. As the nation mourned, thousands attended his funeral to celebrate the life of a humble servant as he journeyed home. His body was laid to rest beside his wife Ruth, but Billy Frank, as he was affectionately known, went home to heaven immediately as he drew his last breath. What a homecoming that must have been!
All five of the Graham siblings spoke. During the service, Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth, shared a testimony that brought tears to my eyes as I’m sure it touched the hearts of millions who heard it. Ruth hadn’t lived a perfect life and often times felt she didn’t measure up to her father’s reputation. The third of the Graham’s five kids remembers having to pretend nothing is wrong – even when her world was falling apart. Preachers’ kids (PK’s) endure that, but a famous evangelist’s kid has to be especially careful. Stepping out of line can result in a front page headline in the National Enquirer – and bring shame upon a beloved dad.
Ruth had a deeply spiritual experience at a very early age – and her parents kept the Graham kids out of the public eye. She met famous people all the time. “But those were Mother and Daddy’s friends,” Ruth recalls. “We met them, but that was all.” She went to college and married and had children, but in the early 1990’s, her world fell apart when she discovered her husband was unfaithful. After 18 years of marriage, Ruth was devastated. After the divorce, she remarried “on the rebound” but knew within 24 hours that she’d made a terrible mistake. Thinking her life a shambles, she loaded up everything and sought refuge with her parents.
‘What are they going to say to me?’” she remembers. “As I rounded the last bend in my father’s driveway, Daddy was waiting for me. He wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Welcome home.’”
Ruth struggled with her life for several years, until she found a renewed faith. She fondly remembers once, when she was beating herself up and taking responsibility for her marriage failing, her father said, ‘Quit beating yourself up. We all live under God’s grace and we just do the best we can.’ This is a perfect example of a loving father exhibiting grace and mercy to his child. The same example can be found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Reading this parable makes it obvious that God was, is and always will be at work. This is a wonderful picture of the great love of God towards us. He seeks after us, reaches out to us. When we come to Him, He washes away all our evil deeds of the past, not holding them against us.
How much better to follow God’s example of compassion than heaping coals of shame and guilt on someone. What a difference that could make in this world!
Micah 7:19 “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea”