'No Life Is a Mistake'

Ruth Graham on her daughter's unplanned pregnancy, adoption, and why there's room for improvement in the church.

Ruth GrahamThe third daughter of the famous televangelist Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, Ruth is the head of the Ruth Graham Ministries. She has three children of her own and is a published author of numerous books. Her most recent book is "A Legacy of Love: Things I Learned From My Mother."

You mention throughout the book that Windsor's father left the marriage and that you got a divorce when she was a girl. You wrote that you felt that contributed to her need for love.

Yes, my husband was involved in extra-marital affairs for a number of years when she was a little girl.

How old was she when you divorced him?

She was 13. We had been separated for three or four years before that. And he was involved in the extra-marital affairs when she was a baby, so he was not very present to us at that time. He died in 1997.

What impact did those losses have on her?

I do not think we can underestimate the role of a father in his children's lives, especially little girls. I think the father is really the one who gives the little girl her sense of self and her sense of confidence and self-assurance and love and beauty. And when that's not there, she's going to find it somewhere--a little girl wants affection. And she's going to go find that affection somewhere. And if a father doesn't do that, then more than likely some boyfriend is going to show her.


She did go live with him for about six months after she'd had the second baby, and I think that brought some healing, which was a real blessing.

What was your experience with the church during this period?

I think the church is learning. I think when this happened to us, this was--and to some extent still is--something that the church doesn't know how to deal with, doesn't want to deal with, doesn't want to even admit happens. And when it did happen to us and we sought out counsel, some were very helpful and some were not. And I think very often we want our theology to be tidy and neat. An unplanned pregnancy doesn't allow for tidiness.

Do you think that's specifically true of evangelicals or do you think of all Christians?

I don't know that I can speak for all evangelicals or all Christians. I know that it happened in our experience, and at the time I was going to an evangelical church. They labeled her as rebellious, and I did not think she was rebellious. I thought she was just desperately hurt and looking for love in the all the wrong places.

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