You have probably heard of the death of Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, last week. We learn from the Bible that the death of God’s people is precious in His sight. Yet, I am sure that her death has grieved her family and husband. I am writing this blog because her story, actually their story, gives us a fantastic example of everything we have been talking about for the past couple months in our Everybody Loves Marriage series.
Ruth grew up in the home of a missionary. Her father was a missionary doctor in the Far East. Ruth loved Jesus and lived with a desire to pursue Him and His purpose in life. During her teen years, Ruth felt that God was calling her to serve as a missionary in Tibet. Then she met Billy Graham at Wheaton College, and they married in 1943. Over the next 60+ years, she has served her husband as he preached to over 210 million people. She never did go to Tibet to live as a missionary, but she used her gifts in writing stories and poetry, and in raising five children, often while her husband traveled the world.
OK, so let me make myself clear so that you don’t miss my point. I am not saying that a woman should give up her dreams on behalf of the man, only to follow him and serve him. At the beginning of the series, I compared God’s purpose for covenant marriage to a triangle. Two sides of the triangle are images of the two people in a marriage, and the pinnacle of the triangle represents a destination, a pursuit. When two people have a common purpose and pursuit in life, and they choose to go on that journey together, at every step of the journey, the two people will be closer to each other, just as the sides of a triangle grow closer as they move toward the top. For those who follow Jesus, the pursuit should lead them to a growing, passionate relationship with their Creator. This is the only pursuit in life that will bring ultimate value and joy in life. The destination may be the same for all of us, but the path to that destination varies. Two people who marry have chosen to take a common path to that destination.
What is so beautiful about the story of Billy & Ruth is that they loved Jesus and went on a journey together. The route of the journey was not what Ruth had originally planned for her life, but the destination was the same. Rather than living as a single woman in Tibet, she lived in a covenant marriage with her husband, and the impact has been world reaching. Not only has her husband had an incredible ministry, but her children continue the efforts. Their son Franklin leads a ministry called Samaritan’s Purse that ministers to hurting and needy people all over the world, and he leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, started by his dad. All of their kids are serving Jesus and making a difference.
After her death, Billy Graham said, “Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team. “No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.” Millions have met Jesus because of Billy Graham’s ministry. Yet, without his life partner, his completer, his wife serving with him, who knows what would have been different.