Last week, I featured two posts on Billy Graham:
Remembering Billy Graham
More on Billy Graham
My last piece on him relates more to his daughter Ruth, who, in 2012, first opened her heart on Beliefnet. Since then, she writes regularly for the site on her page Safe Place with Ruth Graham.
In 2012, Beliefnet recapped her first column in an article called ‘Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth has been through the fire, says it’s time for honesty’. Anyone who has been through a marital breakup or has been dogged by self doubt will want to read it.
The article also has great Graham family photos from the 1950s, which are definitely worth seeing.
Excerpts and a summary of the article follow, emphases mine.
The article begins by introducing her Safe Place page and assuring readers that she will reply to anyone commenting on her posts. Ruth said that she felt it was time to be open and honest, something she could not always do growing up:
She knows what it’s like to have to put on a false smile. The third of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham’s five kids remembers having to pretend nothing is wrong – even when her world was falling apart. All preachers’ kids 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.
Fortunately, for her, she was always a devout Christian:
“I really did have a genuine relationship with the Lord,” she recalls. “I gave my heart to Jesus when I was seven, kneeling beside my bed with my mother. At age 11, I made that commitment public by going forward at the altar call at a church revival held by a friend of my father. Daddy went with me.”
Incidentally, she said that she and her siblings met a lot of famous people who were friends of her parents, but they were only introduced and that was the extent of it.
Ruth was not a rebellious teenager and, at the age of 15, was sent to:
an exclusive boarding school in New York. There, “I came down with mononucleosis and I was miserable.” All alone, it was just her and God. “I just had to claim my faith as my own. At that point, it was no longer Mother or Daddy’s faith, it was mine.”
She followed a conventional middle class route of college followed by marriage. In the 1990s, she faced a greater personal crisis than mononucleousis:
… her world fell apart when her husband was unfaithful. After 18 years of marriage, Ruth was devastated. They went through months of counseling before admitting defeat. Then just a few months after the divorce, she remarried “on the rebound” but knew within 24 hours that she’d made a terrible mistake. Her life a shambles, she loaded up everything and sought refuge with her parents.
She was worried about their reaction. However, all was well. Her father Billy stood in the driveway, awaiting her arrival:
He wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Welcome home.’”
Ruth said that, at the age of 40, she was in a deep spiritual crisis. Although she followed her mother’s example of being active in the church, including teaching Bible studies, Ruth did not feel as if God was ‘taking care’ of her — and her children. One daughter had an eating disorder. Another gave birth out of wedlock in her mid-teens. Her son had to go to rehab for drug abuse.
Gradually, Ruth came to understand that these were severe trials God’s people sometimes have to endure:
He had something to teach me about the difficulties of life: to show me that none of us are exempt, that we all have hardships. We all have things that happen to us that we don’t ask for, but we have to endure.
And it’s OK. It’s all part of God’s plan. I didn’t like having to go through that – none of us do.
But it was very important for me to have that experience – and to grow from it. I’m still growing. The story is not over. But that’s OK, God gives me grace. And God is a covenant-keeping God. He is faithful even when I am not. Now I’m living life. I am just living in the grace of God.
During her crisis years, her father told her she was being too harsh on herself:
I remember one day when I was really beating myself up and taking responsibility for my marriage falling apart – just pouring my heart out. Daddy said, ‘Quit beating yourself up. We all live under God’s grace and we just do the best we can.’
Whenever I go home, there’s always a bouquet of flowers in my room with a handwritten note that reads, ‘Welcome home. Daddy.’
Ruth said she had been focussing too much on meeting other people’s expectations rather than on God’s love:
I have realized that I have an audience of One. As long as He’s happy with me, then that’s OK. You can’t please all those other people anyway. There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t think you measure up.
At each stage as I went through this, I knew I loved the Lord. There was no question of that. At each stage, He has taken me deeper. And I don’t like the fact that the deep things of God are taught in suffering.
As a result, I know God’s grace in a way that I never would have otherwise. I’m learning to tell myself the truth.
Hence the reason for her Beliefnet columns. She wants to help others open up, too:
I want to share that and also to dialogue with my readers – so they can unburden themselves – making my column a confessional of sorts. And they will find no condemnation from me. I am not into shaming people.
I believe in passing along God’s grace.
Ruth told Beliefnet that it was difficult watching her father battle pain and illness. It was also hard for him to lose his beloved wife Ruth after so many decades. That said, his daughter thought he was less distracted and a gentler person in his twilight years.
After her father’s funeral earlier this month, Ruth wrote a column, ‘Taking Daddy Home’. She described the funeral and interment — and the bitterly cold weather:
It was freezing in the tent! Daddy started in a tent in Los Angeles and Franklin thought it would be appropriate. Fortunately, my older sister brought an extra coat for which I was grateful.
Each of us had 3 minutes to speak. I asked the Lord to help me and He did. I felt the freedom from the Holy Spirit to talk of my father’s lasting legacy to me. It touched many hearts for which I am grateful. I want to pass on my father’s legacy of grace.
I stayed until he was buried – even though it was so cold – but I didn’t want him to be alone. I went back the next day to see it all finished and landscaped. At long last Mother and Daddy are side by side!
She also had things to take care of at home. Her refrigerator was not working properly and one of her daughters is staying with her. A tree fell on the daughter’s house and they have no heat, so Ruth is hosting her and her family. As such, she says she has had no time to reflect on her father’s death.
God has been working wonderful ways and I praise Him that I have seen His hand in a multitude situations that could have been difficult. God just paved the way.
He keeps His promises of Isaiah 40:4-5.
Those verses are as follows:
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
May God continue to bless Ruth Graham and her family at this difficult time.