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Bible, Church, Culture, Family, Legacy, Life, Only One Life

The Beauty of a Life Surrendered

March 27, 2018

Editors note: This article was originally published at foreverymom.com

Billy Graham’s funeral earlier this month marks the celebration of a man whose impact is incalculable. This was a man who spoke to 215 million people, wrote dozens of books, founded the influential Lausanne Movement, counseled thirteen United States Presidents, and led the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in his lifetime. He no doubt should be recognized for the great man that he was. But as we reflect on his life, we would be remiss if we didn’t take the time to recognize his partner in all of his accomplishments: his loving wife of over 60 years, Ruth Bell Graham.

The cliché goes “behind every great man is a great woman.” In Billy Graham’s case, this is certainly true.

As the world knew Billy Graham for his packed crusades and gospel preaching, fewer knew of Ruth Bell Graham’s equally important role in crafting the Graham family legacy.

Ruth Bell Graham: A Legacy of Loyalty

Ruth was born in China to missionary parents Dr. Nelson and Virginia Bell. Growing up with missionary parents, Ruth developed her own love for foreign missionary work and felt a deep sense of calling to move to the largely unreached nation of Tibet.

Before pursuing her calling as a missionary, Ruth attended Wheaton College in Illinois. While there, her life and calling would forever be changed after meeting a young man with a passion for preaching. That man was her future husband, Billy Graham. When Ruth and Billy fell in love, Ruth had to decide what to do with her conflicting desires. She wanted to marry Billy, but he had no plans to become a foreign missionary.

Ruth ultimately set aside her fears and confusion, married Billy, and trusted God to work out their mutual calling. Neither of them had any idea that her heart for the world and his heart for preaching would end up serving them well in their future ministry together. Ruth chose to be loyal to her soul mate, and she worked alongside him in ministry for 43 years.

In those 43 years, Ruth may not have been the one on stage, on air, or on television – but her ministry and legacy is equally as important. Former president of Wheaton College Dr. Duane Litfin once remarked, “Strong, steady, and dauntless, Ruth Bell Graham was the glue that held the many of the parts of their lives together.” 

Because of her faithfulness to God, Ruth not only had a part in making Billy’s ministry possible, she was a spiritual encourager to her husband. Rev. Graham explained, “I have been asked the question, ‘Who do you go to for counsel, for spiritual guidance?’ My answer: my wife, Ruth. She is a great student of the Bible.” God used Ruth to minister to America’s minister.

She also greatly invested in their children as she stayed home during much of Billy’s travels. Investing in her children would prove to make an impact that still lives on today as many of them have ended up working at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, starting their own ministries, speaking, writing, and serving the Lord in various ways. Her impact lives on in her children and grandchildren. What a legacy!

A different interpretation

While reflecting on this incredible woman and the faith legacy that she has left behind, I couldn’t help but wonder how our culture might view this fiercely loyal woman. I fear those who hold up the banner of “feminism” would be forced to deny any claim that Ruth Graham’s life is an example for other women.

Ruth, after all, largely set aside her dream of being a missionary in Tibet in order to get married and support her husband’s calling. She also stayed home and raised their many children while her husband’s career in ministry skyrocketed. These life choices are likely to be criticized by those who speak on behalf of women in the feminist movement.

A simple Google search of the word “feminism” shows the dictionary definition as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” This sounds like something nearly everyone should agree upon, right? Yet, when we see feminism played out in American culture, it often translates into a very narrowly defined set of life choices. In order to be “pro-woman”, the loudest culture voices would say a person must be pro-choice, pro-career outside of the home, and downplay the value of having and raising children. 

With that understanding of what it means to be feminist, those who claim it’s view would have to look at Ruth Graham’s life as a failure.

Eternal Perspective

Thankfully, we can recognize Ruth’s life for what it was: A life that created a lasting legacy; a life that truly outlived itself.

As people of faith, our perspective should be shaped by what the Bible teaches, not what our culture claims. And while we must give complete ownership to God for the success of Billy and Ruth Graham’s influence, we can recognize that He chose to work through Ruth and her partnership with Billy to accomplish great Kingdom impact.   

As we rightly reflect on Billy Graham’s incredible impact in our world, I am deeply grateful for the faithful witness of Ruth Bell Graham who loyally served alongside Billy to accomplish God’s calling for their family. She may not be recognized by feminists today, but in God’s kingdom – she was a faithful servant. 

In my forthcoming book Only One Life, I’ve written about Ruth Bell Graham and many other women like her who choose to daily surrender their lives to God. Through seemingly small offerings of faithfulness, God has used women to bring about great change in the world. 

How will you shape your choices today to shape an eternal legacy?

 

-LM

Culture, Life, Millennials, Theology, Uncategorized

Why I Appreciate Wonder Woman’s “Weaknesses”

July 31, 2017

For the first time, I watched a live-action superhero movie, and the main character was a woman.

Wonder Woman, which was released June 2, has seen major box office success. The film has surpassed Deadpool in its earnings, making it the second highest grossing comic book superhero movie ever without Batman, Iron Man or Spider Man. Wonder Woman has also become the highest grossing film to be directed by a woman, surpassing Mama Mia. And last week it surpassed the final Harry Potter installment to become Warner Bro.’s third biggest release of all time. Impressive.

This film comes at a time in our culture when we were ready for it. The voices of feminism have been adding to the cacophony of talking points and noise for decades. Having made even more “progress” in more modern times, I am surprised it took this long to see a great film with a female superhero.

In my reflections about this movie, I incorporated some of what I’ve been reading lately from Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem. There is a lot of debate around the topic of women and feminism in our culture, but there is still a lot of room for Christian women to speak into the topic, providing a positive perspective on the value of women through the lens of what scripture teaches.

The Bible teaches that men and women are created equal and yet different. Through these differences, men and women compliment each other and lead through these differences. Yet in those differences I’ve often felt that culture pins stereotype qualities on women, and those qualities are seen as weaknesses.

Male superhero characters like Superman are depicted as strong and willing to make the difficult sacrifice. They are calculated, not allowing emotion to get in the way, like we see from Tony Stark. Batman is focused on the journey ahead and willing to charge through a brick wall alone to make changes to Gotham.

Diana is different. First, despite the name of the movie being “Wonder Woman” she is not called that once in the film. She is Diana.

As a super hero, she brought with her some of the characteristics that are typically unique to women, but in a positive light. She was nurturing, and yet she was incredibly strong. She was not afraid to realize her emotions – feeling the pain and anguish of the ravages of war. And she was not afraid to bring others along with her in her journey, valuing the relationships.

“We’ll do this together!” -Diana

These characteristics, which can sometimes be viewed as “weaknesses” by our culture, were used in a way that brought great strength to Diana. These characteristics were a part of what motivated her toward making a difference. Diana was willing to be a team player, giving recognition to the others that were in the battle with her, because she was not concerned about her own recognition but was confident in her convictions.


“I am willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Who will, if I don’t?” –Diana

Diana recognized with ability comes responsibility. This is a valuable lesson that we can all use. Even if we aren’t a “super hero”, we have all been given different roles, opportunities, and responsibilities. The way we function in those roles will affect the lives of others. How are we going to steward our opportunities to lead? We each have the opportunity to impact eternity when we keep our focus on things that last: people’s souls and God’s Word.

Women have a unique ability to make an impact that will last for generations. I am talking about leaving a legacy with our families, friends, and the relationships we build. Women are often relational, ready to step in and connect – ready to care. This allows great power to connect on a heart level, and live out the gospel in word and deed.  Whether in motherhood, the boardroom, or any other role, shape the legacy that you want to leave behind.

Wonder Woman’s character realized her power, and used it for good. Let’s do the same with our abilities today – even the ones that might be seen as “weaknesses” by our culture.

Wonder Woman’s character realized her power, and used it for good. Let’s do the same. -@laurenamcafee… Click To Tweet