The other day as I was running from recording my daily radio show to preparing for the weekly Bible Study I teach to hundreds of women, a very strange and random thought passed through the brilliant gray matter in my brain.
I miss Ruth Bell Graham, I randomly thought.
What? I have never met Ruth Graham although she remains one of my lifelong heroines of the faith. What was it that caused me to long for the presence of someone with whom I had never crossed paths personally?
I have read every book she has written as well as every biography that has been written about her. Her words, her wit and her wisdom over the years have become a staple in the foundation of my life as a pastor’s wife.
As I quickly fixed myself a cup of coffee between radio and Bible study, I thought about other women whose lives I have come to regard as significant.
- Corrie ten Boom
- Barbara Johnson
- Susannah Wesley
- Betty Stam
- Darlene Rose
Do you recognize any of those names that have become so very dear and so familiar to me?
Over the course of the next few weeks, I intend to introduce some of my heroines of the faith in this, my weekly column. My prayer is that each woman will inspire you to live for Christ at your moment in history and to challenge you to serve the Lord in easy times and in horrific times. My prayer is, also, that someday the story of your life will be some unknown woman’s heroine of the faith.
Ruth Bell Graham
Ruth Bell was born on June 10, 1920, the daughter of medical missionaries in China. Ruth and her siblings were raised in the midst of the disease, agony and disorder that a civil war painfully brings to a country. This young woman saw Christians murdered for the cause of Christ; she also experienced the horror of knowing that brutal savages in China had killed some of her dearest missionary friends.
Her parents, in spite of the fear and instability of war, exercised a profound effect upon the development of Ruth’s character and laid the foundation for the woman she would become. What this extraordinary girl witnessed in her family home, she willingly and diligently practiced for herself: dependence upon God in every circumstance, a delightful love for His Word, a deep concern for others above self, and an indomitable spirit always displayed with a smile.
When Ruth was but a mere 13 years old, her parents believed it best to send her to a Christian boarding school in Korea. She was ferociously homesick, and often days went by when Ruth was unable to either eat or drink, so great was her emotional despair. It was during these dark, solitary days she learned to overcome her loneliness and to take care of the needs of others. Ruth did not realize it at the time, but learning to live far away from those she loved the most would prepare her for the life that she and her husband, Billy, would someday be called upon to live.
When Ruth turned 17, her parents sent her to the States in order to attend Wheaton College during the years preceding and during World War II. It was there Ruth met her future husband and gave up her long-held dream of becoming a missionary because that was not his dream or call. She raised her five children, most days alone, on a mountaintop in North Carolina while her husband traveled the world for Christ.
Ruth’s happiness and fulfillment did not depend upon her circumstances. She was a lovely, beautiful and wise woman simply because early in life she had determined to make Christ her home, her purpose, her center, her confidante and her vision. Ruth gave up her childhood dreams in order to serve her husband, her children and her aging parents.
Ruth Bell Graham went to be with the Lord just after turning 87 years old in June 2007. Growing up in war-torn China had toughened her to life’s hard edges, but it did not make her callous or hard. Ruth somehow developed a zest for life and a love for God that few of us have chosen to embrace this side of eternity. Her dedication to the Word of God and to the diligence of obedience is her legacy. Ruth discovered a secret of abundant living that you and I sometimes ignore: Ruth had an undying faith in Jesus and diligently pursued a life of highest obedience. On Ruth’s tombstone are written these words:
“End of Construction … Thank you for your patience!”