Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

My Life With Billy Graham

  • Ruth Bell Graham
  • Published Feb 11, 2005
My Life With Billy Graham

Follow the way of love – 1 Corinthians 14:1


By 1937, I had my future securely planned.  I would never marry.  I would spend the rest of my life as a missionary in Tibet.  But on July 7 of that year, the Japanese attacked Chinese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing, beginning the occupation of northern China. 

And while my father prepared for war, my mother prepared me for college in the United States.  I argued that all I needed was a utilitarian knowledge of Tibetan and the Bible.  I certainly didn’t have to sail halfway around the world for that.


My parents simply smiled and put me on a boat to the United States.


I was not happy.


It was early fall in 1940 when William Franklin Graham arrived on campus via the Wheaton College Student Trucking Service, run by Johnny Streater.


Billy Frank was a 21-year-old North Carolinian, already an ordained Baptist minister, with clear blue eyes, standing six-foot-two….


On our first date we attended the school’s presentation of the Messiah.  “Hallelujah.”  I agonized over which of my two homemade dresses to wear.


After that first date, I knelt beside my bed and prayed, “God, if You let me serve You with that man, I’d consider it the greatest privilege of my life.”


Billy Frank became the most popular subject in my journals, my poetry, and my letters.  But our relationship went nowhere.


I began 1941 by flunking Greek and ancient history.  Finally…February 7, he invited me to go to church to hear him preach.


I was surprised.  He spoke with such authority…and, at the same time, humility.  The star, seen and admired from afar, became a human, personal thing – within reach.


We drove back to campus in his 1937 green Plymouth.  I watched his profile as he guided us through the Chicago traffic and marked the glint in his eyes where the streetlights flashed past.  I had felt the firmness of his hand beneath my arm as he guided me through the crowd at church.  I was impressed by his unaffected thoughtfulness….


As he walked me to the door, he said, “There’s something I’d like you to make a matter of prayer.  I have been taking you out because I am more than interested in you and have been since the day Johnny Streater introduced us last fall.  But I know you have been called to the mission field, and I’m not definite.”


When Bill was young, he wanted to play professional baseball, and I wanted to go to Tibet.  In truth, neither of us had any business doing either….


In September – “The Ring.”  It was purchased with every penny of the 65-dollar love offering Billy had received from Sharon Presbyterian Church.


God, let me be all he ever dreamed of loveliness and laughter.  Veil his eyes a bit because there are so many little flaws; somehow, God, please let him see only the bride I long to be, remembering ever after – I was all he ever dreamed of loveliness and laughter.


Those sentiments were rather youthful…and short-lived.


“I will not become a Baptist.  I have always been and will always remain in the Presbyterian Church!”


“I’d like you to raise a family.”


“I still think I should be a missionary.”


“Listen, do you or do you not think the Lord brought us together?”




“Then I’ll do the leading and you’ll do the following.”


I almost slapped the ring back into his hand –


Train our love…discipline it too…deepen it through the years, age and mellow it until, time that finds us old without, within, will find us lovers still.


I’ve been following ever since.


Father, You are the author of marriages made in Heaven.  But it’s not always easy to experience heaven on earth with the pressures of daily life.  Help us to be of one heart and mind, to work together, to submit to one another, to quickly resolve conflicts, and to practice forgiveness.  Fill our home with Your love and Your presence.  Amen.


Reprinted by permission. "Footprints of a Pilgrim, Ruth Belle Graham, 2001, W. Publishing, A Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Taken from Seasons of Love: Celebrating the Tender Moments in Life by Karen Hardin (White Stone Books, 2005)