“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”
As part of our anniversary celebration this weekend, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. The name is a bit deceiving, since aside from a small bookstore area, the site bears little resemblance to a library. In actuality, the Library is a Christ-honoring memorial of the life of Billy Graham which includes both his carefully restored childhood home and an impressive multimedia tour chronicling the amazing history of his life. Although I was inspired by many aspects of Graham’s life and ministry, I was especially impressed by the vital role that Graham’s wife, Ruth, played as she faithfully supported her husband in his world-changing work as an evangelist.
At her memorial service in June 2007, Billy Graham paid tribute to his wife’s invaluable contributions to his ministry, “Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team. No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.” One room of the Library was dedicated to Mrs. Graham and featured a video interview in which she voiced her feelings concerning her somewhat behind-the-scenes role in Graham’s ministry, “I think that being a wife and mother is the greatest and happiest calling in the world.” She also pointed out a large sign hanging over their fireplace which said, “Divine service conducted here daily.” Although some may view her years spent at home while her husband traveled the globe as a bit lackluster, Mrs. Graham made it clear that she understood the eternal import of her daily tasks as a wife and mother. In another video clip, Billy Graham offered a powerful commendation of his wife’s spiritual character, “Whenever someone asks me who is the greatest Christian that I know, my answer’s always the same—Ruth.”
As I considered these incredible testimonies by Graham concerning his wife, Proverbs 31:10-12 kept coming to my mind, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Billy Graham is quite apparently one of those rare men who found an excellent wife, and just as the Proverbs 31 passage later states, he did not hesitate to praise her openly. I don’t know about you, but in my life experience, I’ve not had the privilege of knowing many women who I could describe as being excellent wives. I’ve seen my share of crummy wives, some decent wives, and a few women I could describe as pretty good wives, but I’ve not observed too many wives who I could nominate for the excellent wife award. If you saw the way that I sometimes behave in my own home, you’d know that I wasn’t getting a nomination either! Based on what Billy Graham stated about his work being impossible without Ruth, I can’t help but wonder…if we had more women like Ruth Graham in the world, would we also have more men like Billy Graham? As women striving for true Biblical beauty, I think that’s a question worth considering. Scripture makes it clear in many passages that wives play a crucial role in their husbands’ lives. Far too often through selfish and unchristlike behavior, I think that we as wives may function as liabilities in our husbands’ lives rather than as the invaluable assets that God calls us to be.
Now, I realize that some of you single ladies out there may feel that this topic is irrelevant to you, but I can assure you it is not. Take my word (or any other married woman’s word) on this—being an excellent wife does not come naturally! If you pay much attention to the world around you, you may have noticed that today’s popular culture seems bent on turning women into creatures that could be more accurately described as villainous rather than virtuous. If you truly desire to be a Godly wife someday, you need to make a conscious decision to defy our culture and start working toward that goal today.
So, how can ordinary little women like us become the strong, God-exalting women that the Bible calls us to be? First, I think we should always keep in mind that we can’t do this or any other good thing on our own; we must rely on God’s grace. Once we recognize our need for grace and prayerfully ask God to supply it, we need to saturate our minds with Scripture through consistent and thorough studies of God’s Word. Focusing at times on key passages like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 will help to reshape our impression of what truly beautiful women look like according to our Creator. It is only through the knowledge of the Word of God that the Spirit of God will transform us into the holy and discerning women that our husbands, our children, and the entire world so desperately need to see.
Since striving for Biblical beauty is a lifelong process, we need to be patient and trust that God’s grace will empower us and sustain us as we earnestly seek His face. As I visited Ruth Graham’s burial site near the Billy Graham Library, I realized that she, too, felt the inner struggle of becoming the woman that God had called her to be. Inscribed on her headstone is an unusual message which Mrs. Graham requested for her grave after seeing the following on a traffic sign, “End of construction—Thank you for your patience.” In these humorous final words, I see a comforting truth for us ordinary women—even though our construction site may seem messy at times, we can have full confidence that one day God will complete the good work that He has begun in us.