Billy Graham Reflects on Life With Franklin

by | Jun 17, 2011 | Charisma Archive

billy_graham_youngfranklinAs we approach Father’s Day, read an excerpt from
Billy Graham’s autobiography that shows the tender heart he has for the
son who shares his name. This is an excerpt from Just As I Am:

I had to leave [Montreat], we gathered to say good-bye. We held hands
and prayed. As I boarded the train, or later the plane, my heart would
be heavy, and more than once I drove down the mountain with tears in my

Maybe it was a little easier for the girls; they experienced
their mother’s constancy and shared so many of her interests. And of
course, Dr. and Mrs. Bell, Ruth’s parents, were just across the street
(and later down the hill). But the boys, with four women in the house,
needed their father at home. Coming as the fourth child and my namesake,
Franklin especially may have craved my companionship.

During the
lengthy Madison Square Garden Crusade in 1957, Franklin was five. Back
home, Ruth listened to his daily bedtime prayer before tucking him in.
One night, after he thanked God for me and others of the Team in New
York, he closed with, “And thank you for Mommy staying home.”

The Agony & the Ecstasy
I did get home for a short stay between engagements, I would get a
crash course in the agony and ecstasy of parenting. If Ruth had not been
convinced that God had called her to fulfill that side of our
partnership, and had not resorted constantly to God’s Word for
instruction and to His grace for strength, I don’t see how she could
have survived.

Franklin was almost 6 by the time Ned came along.
With two boys in the household, my fathering was more urgently needed
than ever. Still, sometimes I was away for months at a time. What I did
when I was away apparently didn’t impress the children much. One time,
when the mountain house was being built, I was out in the yard shoveling
some dirt from one spot to another. Franklin, watching intently,
suddenly piped up and said, “Daddy, you can work!”

The traveling
ministry was a costly investment of my time as far as my sons were
concerned. Both of them, like many of their generation in the ’60s and ’70s, went through severe tests of their faith and standards.

God’s Perfect Plan
tried to let all five of the children know that I loved them, no matter
what they did; that I missed them when I was away; that I supported
their mother’s discipline of them; and that I wanted them to discover
God’s perfect plan for each of them.

Ruth and I were not perfect
parents; and when I had to travel, Ruth sometimes felt like a single
parent, with all the problems that that entailed. We tried to discipline
the children fairly, but at the same time we tried not to lay down a
lot of rules and regulations.

When I objected to Franklin’s long
hair, Ruth reminded me that it wasn’t a moral issue—and I kept my mouth
shut on that subject thereafter. Actually, as Ruth pointed out with a
twinkle in her eye, Franklin was in the tradition of the prophets and

Only once, I think, did I directly interfere with
Franklin’s plans. That was when Ruth called me from France, where she
was visiting Gigi and her family. I was in Tokyo to address the Baptist
World Alliance. Franklin was working in Nome, Alaska, and after she
talked to him on the phone, Ruth begged me to call him and lay down the

I was to tell him how strenuously we opposed his engagement;
we were convinced they were too young and unsuited to each other. Ruth
cut short her visit with Gigi and returned to Montreat, arriving when
Franklin did. In two weeks’ time their friendship was over, and we
breathed more easily.

Rebel Years
In a
radio interview not many years ago, Franklin told about his rebel years
of drinking, drugs, smoking, girls and fast driving. These were things
he said his mother and I knew nothing about—or so he thought. 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. It was actually during a trip to the
Middle East, while in Jerusalem, that he made his firm decision to
follow Christ.

Would you like to follow Christ? Learn how »

memorable occasion symbolizes for me the fulfillment of our prayers and
the Lord’s persistent pursuit. On January 10, 1982, in a church in
Tempe, Ariz., … after preaching the sermon, I joined several other
ministers in laying my hands on the head of William Franklin Graham III
to ordain him for the gospel ministry.

History was repeating itself some 40 years after godly men had done the same for me in a Florida country church.

Used with permission from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.


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