The Spiritual Life
I have been asked the question, “Who do you go to for counsel, for spiritual guidance?” My answer: my wife, Ruth. She is a great student of the Bible. Her life is ruled by the Bible more than any person I’ve ever known. That’s her rule book, her compass. Her disposition is the same all the time—very sweet and very gracious and charming.When it comes to spiritual things, my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry.
Ruth and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have a great one. In a perfect marriage, everything is always the finest and best imaginable; like a Greek statue, the proportions are exact and the finish is unblemished. Who knows any human beings like that? For a married couple to expect perfection in each other is unrealistic. We learned that even before we married.
The unblemished ideal exists only in “happily ever after” fairy tales. I think that there is some merit to a description I once read of a married couple as “happily incompatible.” Ruth likes to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” The sooner we accept that as a fact of life, the better we will be able to adjust to each other and enjoy togetherness.
Daily Walk With the Lord
My mother was always bright and sparkly, even when she worried or would get only an hour or two of sleep at night. She might have been worrying about a student at college or a member of her Sunday school class—or me, like when I was growing up and wouldn’t get home until 4:00 a.m. Mother never went to bed until all of us children were back in for the night. She has that bright, cheerful personality, and I believe it comes from her daily walk with the Lord.
—Franklin Graham, Ruth’s son
Growing Up With Ruth
I was a good bit younger than Ruth, who went off to high school in what is now North Korea. I was seven or eight at the time.
When I think of memories from when I was a child growing up with Ruth, the first thing that comes to mind is her love of animals. She always had animals around, baby ducks and baby chickens, and so forth. She had a tremendous compassion for animals, to the point that she would take a baby chicken to bed with her—that resulted in fatal effects for the chick!
When she was about 13, Ruth wrote a poem about Chinese graves. We lived in a compound surrounded by a brick wall, and on the other side of the brick wall were graves. All of us grew up hearing mothers who would come out to the graves and weep for their children. I think this is partly what inspired Ruth to write about the hopelessness of people who died without Christ. She was always sensitive, even as a young girl.
—Virginia Somerville, Ruth’s younger sister
We were at Wheaton College together for a while. At one point Ruth believed that God wanted her to have her hair grow long and to discontinue wearing makeup. I thought that this “conviction” was just her imagination. I remonstrated her, and I’ll never forget our conversation. I told her, “This is ridiculous that you’re growing your hair and not wearing makeup anymore. You look … ” I’ve forgotten how I put it, but I was very untactful.
When I was through, Ruth drew herself up to her full height and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Rosa, when God has spoken to me and told me to do something, how dare you interfere!” When she finally cut her hair and wore makeup again, people said, “Uh-oh, Ruth’s lost her spirituality. She cut her hair. She’s wearing makeup.”
One of Ruth’s teachers was so distressed about her change that she wrote Ruth, asking about the change.
Ruth wrote back, saying, “If loving Jesus more now than I did before, and if serving Him with all my heart is what I’d rather do than anything, then, yes, I’ve lost some of my spirituality.” The teacher wrote back, “I’m satisfied.”
—Rosa Montgomery, Ruth’s older sister
Reliance on Jesus
Mother stood waiting outside the doorway.
The suitcases were packed and ready to be loaded into the car. We children ran around on the driveway, laughing and playing while we waited for Daddy. Suddenly his tall, handsome figure appeared in the doorway, his overcoat slung over one arm, his hat on his head. We ran to him, dreading what we knew would be another long separation. He took each of us in his strong arms, held us tightly, and then kissed us goodbye.
I couldn’t bear to look into his eyes because I knew that they would be glistening with tears. Though there were many such goodbyes while we were growing up, it never got easier. We would back away and watch as Daddy took Mother in his arms, kissing her warmly and firmly, knowing it would be some time before he would hold her again.
Then Daddy was whisked away in the car, around the curves, and down the steep mountain drive. We listened to the retreating sound of the engine and waited for the final “toot” of the horn as he reached the gate. Another plane to catch, another city, another Crusade, another period of weeks before we would be together as a family once more.
I turned to look at Mother, sensing her feeling of loss and loneliness. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears, but there was a beautiful smile on her face as she said, “OK, let’s clean the attic! Then we’ll have Lao Niang and Lao I up for supper!” (That’s Chinese for maternal grandmother and grandfather.)
Not once did my mother make us feel that by staying behind she was sacrificing her life for us children. By her sweet, positive example, her consistently unselfish spirit, and her total reliance upon the Person of Jesus Christ, we were kept from becoming bitter or resentful. Instead, we learned to look for ways to keep busy and prepare for Daddy’s homecoming.
—Gigi Graham, Ruth’s daughter
A Godly Example
I would go down to my mother’s room early in the morning. Her light would be on, and I would find her at her big, flat-top desk. She would have about 14 different translations of the Bible spread out. She would be reading and studying her Bible.
I would go down to her room late at night. I would see the light on underneath the door and I’d go in, and she would be on her knees in prayer.
As I look back on my childhood, I cannot remember any impression whatsoever that my mother was ever lonely. She may have been lonely, but I never saw it.
I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus—He was the love of her life. I saw that in her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.
—Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth’s daughter
Faith was the very heartbeat of life at Little Piney Cove. We began and ended each day as a family on our knees in prayer. One of my earliest memories is of kneeling down beside the fireplace at our first home—called the Old House—and fiddling with a loose brick on the hearth during family devotions.
We constantly received reports about my father’s evangelistic meetings; and when we were young, Mother would set up a globe in the kitchen and show us where Daddy was preaching at any given time. Every Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock we gathered around the radio in the living room to listen to my father’s weekly broadcast, The Hour of Decision. But while my father, due to his demanding schedule, lived out faith for us largely from afar—and he loved us very dearly—Mother lived out her faith in front of us day in and day out. She was more often our primary example.
Mother’s was a practical, everyday faith. Her faith touched all that she did, but not in an ostentatious kind of way. Mother expressed her faith and her love of God through the common activities of life. Her conversation, for example, was suffused with talk of what God was teaching her. We constantly overheard her discussing the Scriptures with adults or sharing stories of people she knew whose lives had been changed by God through Christ. Her countenance softened—and it still does—when she talked about God.
—Ruth Graham, Ruth’s daughter
With Mother, I have seen true righteousness in a human being on a level that I’ve never seen before. There is absolutely no insecurity in the woman. There is total and absolute peace and confidence of who she is in God through Christ. There is a complete dependence and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. She hungers and thirsts after righteousness constantly. I’ve never seen anybody like it.
—Ned Graham, Ruth’s son
Ruth and I were so close as children that each of us called the other “One of Us.” When we got together, we’d call ourselves “Both of Us.” A few years ago, I became very ill while on a missions trip and ended up in the hospital. I was so amused one day when the lady came around with flowers. She motioned to one plant.
“This one is anonymous,” she said. “It just says, ‘From One of Us.'” I just laughed, because it was not anonymous to me at all. I knew immediately that it was from Ruth.
—Sandra Gartrell, Ruth’s lifelong friend who grew up with her in China
Ruth is the classic pack rat. …
She told me she had all the hodgepodge collections of things she had saved from when they were in college.
One of the first things we did was put shelving in one of the attics and then went to an office supply place and found some protective boxes. We started filing material. There was a box titled “College” and “Marriage” and then one for each year after. Then we just started emptying drawers and filing cabinets, suitcases, briefcases, boxes, and put them in chronological order. At some point Mr. G came upstairs to the attic to observe the situation, and he felt it was unnecessary to save everything. [When] The Cove opened, they hired someone with experience in museum displays, [and] everything from the attic was taken over to The Cove. Mr. Graham just didn’t see the need in keeping these things, but when he saw how beautifully they came together shelf by shelf, display by display, he saw there was a wealth of value in the stuff from the attic.
—Maurie Scobie, assistant to Mr. Graham who helped Ruth with household projects throughout the years
This is just an instance of her sense of humor. She was always so kind to think of giving me gifts at Christmas—she did this for many people. But one Christmas she gave me a needlepoint picture with a mule on it, and the words on it were, “If at first you don’t succeed, nag, nag, nag.” She always had such a cute sense of humor.
—Dorothy Thielman, wife of Calvin Thielman, the Grahams’ longtime pastor in Montreat
For some reason, the hood on Billy’s rental car would not stay latched. Every few miles, he’d pull over to the side of the road, and Franklin would get out and slam the hood down. When we got to the Utah line, we stopped at a little ice cream shop. Ruth had never been able to drink chocolate milk; I think she was allergic to chocolate. Anyway, she ordered a chocolate milkshake. Billy said, “Ruth, I have never seen you drink a chocolate milkshake.” She rolled her eyes and crossed them, which was something she sometimes did, and she said, “You’ve never seen me take a trip like this, either.”
Oh, did we have fun! Ruth is one of the most positive people I’ve known in my life. She’s positive about everything. She’s been a real inspiration to those who know her. Even [in her later years], in the wheelchair or her bed, she was always a joy to visit.
—Mary Helen Wilson, wife of BGEA Associate Evangelist T.W. Wilson, telling of a Southern California road trip with the Grahams
When you’re with Ruth, you want to sit up a little straighter and you’ve got your best smile because you’re interested in what she has to say. I think of Scripture when I think of people, and John 1 says,”and of his fullness we have all received.”
Now the Lord Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead, and we learn from Him. Ruth has received His fullness. Fullness means grace and truth, and that’s what you sense in her. You sense that God knew her … and you’re inspired to go there. She’s abounding in energy and excitement in serving the Lord.
—Karlene Shea, wife of George Beverly Shea