Ruth Graham, Billy Graham's third daughter, detailed some of her personal strugglesincluding divorce and depressionin the 2004 book In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. In 2005, she wrote A Legacy of Love about her mother, Ruth Bell Graham. Her latest book is A Legacy of Faith: Things I Learned from My Father (Inspirio, 2006, with Stacy Mattingly). Stan Guthrie, CT's senior associate editor, spoke with her.
Why did you write A Legacy of Faith?
Everybody always asks, "What was it like to grow up being Billy Graham's kid?" Well, this is my answer.
Growing up, you didn't see a lot of him.
No. As a matter of fact, this book was hard to write, because there were fewer memories [than I had of my mother]. But I kept every letter, every note, every scrap. I even carry his signature in my wallet. Going back through them, I saw his letters of love and advice. He may have been in Africa, but he would write in longhand, four pageslong pagesjust giving me advice, encouragement.
What are some of the principles he passed down?
One principle is depending on God. I started my own ministry [Ruth Graham & Friends] and asked him, "Daddy, did you ever feel inadequate or intimidated?" And he said, "Oh, yes, all the time." I said, "How did you prepare for that?" He said, "I prayed." The next morning, I said, "Daddy, what was your prayer?" I was looking for a formula. And he said, "I would sit in the rocker in the mountain cabin, and I prayed by the hour, 'Lord, help,' and, 'Holy Spirit, fill me.' " Simple. Everybody has access to that.
After my failed second marriage, I had to go home. They had [previously] warned me, "Don't do this." Daddy had even called me from Tokyo to tell me to slow down, but I was headstrong. It wasn't long before I realized I'd made a terrible mistake. And I had to flee. I packed up what I could in my car and started for home. It was a two-day drive. Questions swirled in my mind. What were my parents going to say to me? "You've made your bed; now lie in it." "We're tired of dealing with you." Were they going to accept me or reject me? The guilt and the shame built with every mile. As I rounded the last bend in my parents' driveway, my father was standing there. As I got out of the car, he wrapped his arms around me and said, "Welcome home." That's grace.
Just recently I was talking to Mother and Daddy around the dinner table about dealing with one of my children, who is driving me nuts. My father is quite deaf, and I didn't think he was paying attention, and Mother was giving me advice. As he turned to leave the room, he called me to him. "Ruth," he said, "she's trying to do the right thing. You need to support her." Grace.
How has your view of your father changed from when you were a kid?
I'm much more warmed by the embers than I ever was by the fire. My father has mellowed. His softness and his gentleness have come out. He's so dear. Calvin Thielman, who was our pastor in Montreat for years, said, "The older you get, the more like yourself you become." My father is becoming this gentle, kind, thoughtful, gracious man. Not that he doesn't get his back up once in a while. And we know when he gets his back up. His eyes flash, and he gives you that deep stare, and you know you've gone too far.
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She is also on the board of directors of Ruth Graham and Friends, an organization to "reach out to the wounded in our church and communities with real answers for real hope from a real God."
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