The daughter of Billy Graham explains how the love her dad reveals the love of her heavenly Father.
I was late one Friday evening, and the phone rang. I thought, Oh dear, who is calling me at this hour? I picked up the phone and heard the precious, familiar voice say, “Hello, Bunny. How are you?”
My father’s call was unexpected—unusual really. For the last several years, we have not been able to communicate well by phone because he is hard of hearing. I write letters to keep him up on what is happening in my life and ministry. When I visit, we talk about the things I have written to him, he addresses my questions, or we sit quietly together. I treasure all my moments with him. That was certainly true on that Friday evening.
I had not realized how much I needed to hear his voice. It had been a long week with much on my mind and heart. Perhaps because I am single, I need my father even more. He is the one who gives me a shoulder to cry on; he gives me the hugs I need; he gives me advice—when asked. And his advice is saturated in wisdom. Establishing a new ministry myself, I have needed his wisdom and advice as never before.
I have written about my father’s legacy. I can best describe it by telling of a pivotal experience with him. After I went through a painful divorce, my family thought it would be a good idea for me to move away and get a fresh start. So I left my rural community for the downtown of a southern city. I would be near my sister and her family and a good school for my youngest daughter.
Though I felt like a fish out of water, life brightened considerably after I was introduced to a handsome widower named Frank. We began to date fast and furiously. My children did not like him. My father called me from Tokyo, my mother from Seattle.; they both told me to take my time.
I was reading the Scripture and praying; I just chose not to see the red flags. Being stubborn and willful, I made a bad decision, a sinful choice. After knowing Frank for only six months, I married him on a New Year’s Eve.
Soon I became afraid for my safety and realized I had to leave. I had no place to go except to my parents’ home. I put a few things in the back of my car and began the two-day drive.
My fears multiplied with every mile. Questions swirled in my mind: What was my life going to be like now? What was I going to say to my parents? What would they say to me? I had failed my children. What kind of example was I? Fear kept my hands on the steering wheel and adrenaline kept my foot on the gas.
As I rounded the last bend in my parents’ driveway, I saw my father standing there. I parked the car and took a deep breath to try and stifle the flood of emotions I felt. As I got out, my father wrapped his arms around me and said, “Welcome home.” There was no condemnation, no “I told you so,” no guilt or shame.
One of the sureties of my life has been that I knew my father loved me unconditionally. Through all my ups and downs, heartbreaks, bad choices and sins, he is constant in his love. I have often said that I wouldn’t compare my father to God, but he has shown me what unconditional love, forgiveness and grace are.
My father’s grace and gentleness colour my world. And God has allowed a ministry to be birthed out of my wounds, so I can offer this same legacy of grace to others who have been broken by life.
Ruth Graham is the founder of Ruth Graham & Friends, a ministry that helps people find hope in the struggles of life. Her father is evangelist Billy Graham.
As I got out, my father wrapped his arms around me and said, “Welcome home.”