Billy Graham was, with C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in evangelicalism. I never had the honor of meeting Lewis, but I did know Billy, who died last week at 99. He changed my life.
I first met him on my grandmother’s porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985. In her 80s, she was frail but sharp. They sat together and Billy held her hand while talking about the Bible. Later she described it as one of the most peaceful days of her life.
Soon after, I had my own personal encounter with Billy. As I wrote in “Decision Points,” he asked me to go for a walk with him around Walker’s Point. I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind. He asked about my life in Texas. I talked to him about Laura and our little girls.
Then I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for a while—that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace.