The first time I heard about Jesus was at a Billy Graham Convention in Anchorage, Alaska. I was little… maybe 6, maybe younger. I’m not certain but what I am certain about is that I remember thinking Jesus must be horrible and this man on stage was too.
My Uncle had good intentions when he lovingly coerced my mom to go. He believed it would encourage her to become sober and live more responsibly. That Billy Graham would change her life. I didn’t live with her, I was only visiting that weekend and I’m still not sure where she went the night before but begrudged and hung-over, she went to this convention and I tagged along too. I could smell lingering remnants of her cheap perfume on her rabbit fur coat and thinking back, she was still in her clothes from the night before. It’s quite possible she never went to sleep prior to going.
I felt nervous and scared as we entered a huge arena filled with so many people and chaos. My mom held my hand tightly as we rushed through the crowd to find our seats. Not tightly as in she was concerned for my safety but tight as in,
-I am SO scared to be here, I DON’T belong here, please HELP me little one even though I know you can’t-
The main events of that day are wrapped up in three words: shouting, crying, and leaving. I was too young to understand he was preaching not yelling at my mom specifically and it seemed she cried tears of shame which broke my young, so very tender heart. The next thing I remember is leaving. That’s it…. That’s the story!
It sounds unfinished doesn’t it? Well it was.
But… many years later, God finished the story. He finished it by: 1) reminding me of that sad time and 2) Clarifying what had happened. Once I got to know the very nature of Jesus and identified whom Billy Graham was I suddenly understood. My sweet mom was overtaken by the enemy who came in many forms such as alcohol, depression, drugs, regret, and abandonment. She felt condemned rather than convicted. Billy Graham was a phenomenal evangelist and was capable of influencing people to change, but my sweet mom just wasn’t ready.
Even in Mom’s later years, she probably would’ve never attended another event like that but she didn’t need to go to church to have a good heart. That already existed. And, shortly before she died we talked about faith and she convinced me it was well within her soul.