Lessons Learned

As I started to think, ³Who should I feature as the first guest author on our brand new Great Dads web site, I realized the answer was simple. It should be Billy Graham, the one person I¹ve had as a hero since childhood. I was highly privileged to get to know this remarkable man of God in the late 1980s, and through that friendship, he agreed to write the Foreword to my fathering book. In addition, I thought each dad visiting this site would most likely be quite interested to learn Billy Graham’s thoughts on being a father.

In the following excerpts from his book Just As I Am, Dr. Graham shares some key reflections about his fathering journey, the mistakes as well as the joys, and the main lessons he learned along the way and is still learning. May all of us share this spirit of life-long learning.

This [fathering] is a difficult subject for me to write about, but over the years, the BGEA and the Team became my second family without me realizing it. Ruth says those of us who were off traveling missed the best part of our lives – enjoying the children as they grew. She is probably right. I was too busy preaching all over the world. For myself, as I look back, I now know that I came through those years much the poorer both psychologically and emotionally. I missed so much by not being home to see the children grow and develop.

In a radio interview not many years ago, Franklin told about his rebel years of drinking, drugs, smoking, girls, and fast driving…. And he said he never forgot a conversation I had with him in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. I assured him of our love, no matter what he did, where he went, or how he ended up. He knew that he could always phone us, collect, from anywhere in the world, and that whenever he wanted to come home, the door would always be open. He also knew we would never stop praying for him. Through it all, God did not let us lose hope.

Ruth and I found that for us, worrying and praying were not mutually exclusive. We trusted the Lord to bring the children through somehow in His own way in due time. On a day-to-day basis, however, we muddled through. But God was faithful. Today, each of them is filled with faith and fervor for the Lord¹s service.

Except in emergencies, we never let a day go by but we had Bible reading and prayer. As the children got older, we asked them to participate. When I was home, I went to tuck them in and to pray with them. Some of the greatest conversations I¹ve had with my children have been late at night. At other times, I remember taking a child out into the woods for some time alone. We would sit on a log or a rock and just talk.

Ruth and I thought that when the children were grown, we would be at the end of our parental responsibilities. But we¹ve discovered that their concerns and burdens are also ours. Like their parents before them, they look to the older generation for advice, counsel, and help. The same principles and promises we applied to our children are still true for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. We pray for each one each day and spend hours each week on the telephone with them. Watching our children¹s children (and their children) growing up awakens in Ruth and me both delightful memories of our own early years and concerns about how we raised the little ones God gave to us. Without question, the regrets are greatly outnumbered by the delights. The mistakes we did make were not fatal, and we both thank the Lord for that.

From JUST AS I AM: The Autobiography of Billy Graham. Copyright © 1997 by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Reprinted by arrangement with HarperSanFrancisco and Zondervan, divisions of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.