I never met Billy Graham. I never attended one of his crusades, but I did see them on TV. So many notable people who knew him personally have written glowing tributes to “America’s Pastor” since he went to glory on Feb. 21, 2018. While my words won’t measure up to theirs, I feel compelled to add a few to the collection because the Lord whispered in my ear this week, “He impacted you too, you know.”
My parents took my sisters and me to church faithfully when I was growing up. I memorized the books of the Bible and was rewarded with a very fancy bookmark. Yet in all those years, no one really told me about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No one told me I would need to surrender my life in order to gain it. But I saw people doing that on TV, and the seed was planted.
As a little girl, I was amazed at the immensity of the crowds that came to hear this preacher with the strong voice and the familiar Southern accent. They filled rows and rows of huge stadiums. Not even the University of Tennessee football stadium, the biggest one I’d ever seen, would have been large enough to hold them all. I was moved to tears one night as I watched people of all ages and all colors leaving their seats to come down to the front where Billy Graham stood. The amazing hymn “Just As I Am” echoed up to every ear, and so they came. They came to accept God’s gift of salvation, and commit their lives to Christ.
Little did I know that when I dried my eyes and went to bed that night, a strong seed had been planted in the heart of this little Tennessee girl. With the seed came a message whispering, “there’s more.” It wasn’t until years later, when my life was derailed by the crisis of divorce, that I fell to my knees with tears streaming down my face and cried out to the Lord. “This is too hard,” I sobbed. “Everything is so messed up. I need for You to take over.” My life changed that day from one ending in death and destruction to one with the promise of eternity. And all because a seed was planted and took root. I knew there was more to a life of faith than what I had experienced because Billy Graham said so, and all those people leaving their seats agreed. Just as I was, I came.
Can you just imagine the conversation in heaven last week?
God: It’s time for Us to bring my servant Billy Graham home.
Angel: But why now? He’ll be 100 in a few months. Shouldn’t he stay for the party?
God: Now is the time because he has fought the good fight. He has finished his race. He’s too weak to deliver my message of salvation again himself, but once he comes to Us, those reporting his passing will proclaim it throughout the land once again! Throughout a land that needs the good news of the gospel message as salve for its wounds. We will bring him home now.
And so it was. With a grateful heart I praise God for raising up a man like Billy Graham in our generation. I didn’t meet him here, but I’ll meet him there. In the meantime, I believe I have some seeds to sow in his honor.