Q&A: Billy Graham at 90
But the real question is how we'll face old age emotionally and spiritually—and that's what we often overlook. As I've looked at my own life, and the lives of others, I've come to realize that the time to prepare for old age isn't when it arrives. By then it may be too late. The time to prepare for old age emotionally and spiritually is before it hits us.
I'm hoping to finish a book about this, but in any case I think our churches could do more to help people prepare for those latter years. They can be some of the most fulfilling of our lives—but not if we don't prepare.
Do you have any regrets as you look back on your life?
I regret that I didn't spend more time with my family; I'm sure Ruth and the children paid a heavy price for all the times I was absent. I always tell younger evangelists not to feel like they have to accept every invitation they get, or be absent from home so much. We can do so much today through modern communications.
And then I also wish I had studied more, and spent more time in prayer.
Do you think about your early days in Charlotte?
Old age is a time for reflection and looking back—and yes, I do think often about my youth. Only one of my siblings is left—my sister Jean Ford—but I still have a number of other relatives in the area, and occasionally I'll get to see some of them. I'm thankful for the experience of growing up on a farm, and what it taught me about hard work and about people. And then it was in Charlotte that I gave my life to Christ as a teenager. My parents were devout and took us to church every week, but I had no particular interest in God or religion, and the last thing I wanted to be was a preacher. But then some friends took me to hear a visiting evangelist, Mordecai Ham, and God used him to speak to me about my need for Christ. My life was never the same after that.
But old age for me isn't just a time to look back—it's also a time for looking forward. I'm thankful for Franklin's leadership of the (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), and I'm excited about the many new opportunities God is opening up for our ministry. The door for evangelism has never been more open in many parts of the world and I only wish we had the resources to take advantage of all of them. So I'm confident about our future as an organization.
But when I think of the future now, I think especially of heaven. Admittedly old age isn't easy; whoever said that old age isn't for sissies was right. But as a Christian I know that this life is not all, and eventually we all will stand before God. I'm thankful that some day soon the burdens of this life will be over for me, and I will go to be with God forever. I look forward to that day! This is my hope, and it can be the hope of every person who puts their faith and trust in Christ.
Originally published November 1 in the Charlotte Observer. Copyright 2008 by McCatchy Interactive West. Reproduced with permission of McClatchy Interactive West.
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