“End of construction…thank you for your patience.”
That was Ruth Graham’s proposed epitaph. At least it was at the end of her memoirs. Perhaps it has changed now. We will soon find out because her earthly end has been reached.
Now that the end has come she would, I think, ask people to skip the platitudes. This woman who once wrote, “It is a fine kettle of fish when our dogs are better trained than our children,” was not one who enjoys platitudes about herself or about Jesus.
She made it clear over and over that Jesus was the wellspring of her life. She would want people to talk about Him now. It is, after all, the way the Grahams always answer the question about how people can pray for them; they say, “That God’s will be done and God be glorified.”
What is so striking about the Grahams is how singularly different they are from most public Christian figures. There have never been any financial scandals. Nor have there been allegations of womanizing on his part or affairs on her part. Yes, there have been dark periods in their lives – particularly when Billy got too deeply involved in politics…involved in a way that compromised his ministry. But even those sins seemed acceptable, human, and haven’t ever stuck to the Grahams. Alone among Christian leaders the Grahams are liked by the majority of Americans. .
That is both remarkable and sad. It is remarkable because they have managed to live the kind of life that Jesus commands. Theirs is a life marked by the kindness and unconditional love Paul writes about. It is sad because they are so unique. They really aren’t extraordinary Christians, they are ordinary ones. It is just that the rest of us are so far from ordinary. We are still very much under construction.
Increasingly when I think of Ruth Graham I think of that day when we will all stand before God and our true lives will be on display for the rest of the world to see. What is secret, Jesus promises, will be secret no more. The last will be first and the first will be last.
Ruth Graham has already experienced some of that. For years she tried to stay married to a pastor named Billy. It was, by her own admission, a tough task at times. He was always gone. She was alone with five kids. It must have been what led her to say, “The secret to a good marriage is two good forgivers — and separate bathrooms.” Over time, however, her anonymous goodness became known. She wrote. Others wrote about her. She was acclaimed in her own right. The last will be first.
Now, in God’s timing, humor, and love Ruth Graham is first. She is now where her husband has never been. She now lives in the place he devoted his life to helping others reach. Her patience has been rewarded. Construction is over.