Tim called me from the car when he heard the news because he didn’t want me to hear it as a headline or a Twitter comment. I didn’t cry right away, although I felt that heavy kind of sadness. I didn’t cry until I started to see his picture, both as a young man and a granddad. It wasn’t until I started reading articles about his ministry and history.
And then, wow. Such a loss for us, and a glorious victory for him. Right now, he’s talking with Jesus and my granddads and dad and Bill. And the MILLIONS of people who must be standing in line just to look into his eyes and shake his hand – the same hand he raised in prayer while those millions found their way to Jesus.
I took time to read of his experiences with all kinds of people, from the regular to the powerful. And I wondered what it must have been like to live in the spotlight for all of those years – the turbulence of the world at war, the slow, often stalled, continuing movement toward civil rights, the revolutions in sex, music, education, faith. About what it would be like to have every word scrutinized. Every position, both political and religious, questioned or heralded. Every single thing exposed and examined. Family, life, decisions, mistakes.
Minutes ticked by as people from all walks of life, political viewpoints, and spiritual hearts crafted 140- or 280-word snapshots of a life they knew only by what they read or heard or thought they knew. A life of 99 years reduced to a single comment about what high regard was held for him. Or for some, about one single issue the Reverend got all wrong.
Of course, he got some of it wrong. We all do.
Of course, he hurt people. We all do.
Of course, he made mistakes – even a few whoppers. We all do.
And, he looked back with regret about some of these things and asked, in genuine humility, for forgiveness – acknowledging that he was wrong, that he injured, that he made mistakes both big and small. Of course he did.
Because, unlike many who have decided that this is the perfect time to point out his flaws and weaknesses, he was genuinely humble and longed to follow closely in the footsteps of Jesus. He felt the burden of what he was attempting to do for the Kingdom – all the while carrying the mistakes and missteps and constant reminders of failures.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
I continued to follow the coverage of Mr. Graham’s death, wincing as I read harsh and cold “reminders” about what some considered his controversial track record – in politics, with the LGBTQ community, and “The Billy Graham Rule.” How much he damaged people. How rigid he seemed. How much a broken human he was.
Just like everybody else.
Yes, my lovelies, just like everybody else. The everybody including me.
So, about me… I know this sounds like whining. I don’t mean it that way… But it’s hard to admit there are times I am frustrated. I often work on a piece for hours, believing it has value, hoping it can touch the hearts of people who need a cup of cold water or a kick in the pants. And then I check the stats and find I have a readership of, oh, maybe 32, sometimes more, usually less. Not that I don’t appreciate those 32 – I love their comments and I know they believe in me and that is usually enough.
But, then come those darker hours when I wonder where in the world I am going with this. Why I stopped teaching, earning a solid paycheck, and enjoying great benefits, just to try and figure out what I’m supposed to do, making feeble attempts to listen to God’s voice and follow His call to spread light and life.
And then I wonder. Do I really want to put myself under the same microscope being used to dissect one of the most revered men in modern religious history? And do I really want that process to inevitably begin, in living color for any and all to pile on, within hours of death?
I challenge you to find anyone you think hasn’t gotten it wrong or hurt people or made mistakes and I’ll show you someone you don’t know very well. Every person in every era of history, every generation and administration has gotten at least one thing horribly wrong. So wrong it hurt.
I’m not suggesting that anyone ever be elevated or held to a level of perfection we will never achieve this side of Heaven. I don’t care how close to Mother Teresa we are, most of us are just doing the best we can. We live what we believe, hoping others will be gracious. We pray we will be loved for our kindness and what we have to offer, however meager, and forgiven our faults and flaws – even if they bruise a soul or break a heart.
No, not a one of us deserves mercy or a mulligan when it comes to the complete, unabridged biography of our real lives. And when you write about me for the record, just go with your bad self. I do hope it’s after I’m gone.
But just for a day, even just one news cycle, can we just agree with Thumper’s dad.
R.I.P., dear Billy.
See you on the other side…xoxox