SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING: Like father, like son?

One of my favourite times of year is Father’s Day. I am so grateful that my father is still here on earth. When a person deeply admires their father, it is easy to feel that one can never fill their shoes.

When I lost my voice for 18 months in December 1980, I remember feeling that I must be disappointing my father. What I have discovered over the years is that my father has been one of my greatest supporters and has never stopped cheering for me.

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Recently I read the book Rebel with A Cause, which described the fascinating relationship between Billy Graham and his son Franklin. Growing up is rarely easy, especially for those with highly successful, famous parents. During his time of rebellion, Franklin learned that he could truly be himself rather than have to be another Billy Graham. Franklin commented: “Almost every child who has a famous parent struggles with finding his own way and wondering if he is being viewed as an individual, not just an extension of his father or mother.”  

Finding out whom we really are takes time, self-reflection, and willingness to grow.

Franklin’s deep love for his now 97-year-old father shines through every page of this book. You can also see how the family sacrificed because Billy Graham, being in such demand, was away for long stretches of time. Successful parents are often forced to travel a lot, often at great cost to their families. Franklin’s mom Ruth was a rock of stability and caring in the midst of the whirlwind of Billy Graham’s global travels.

A major part of Franklin working through his rebellious phase was through his participation in the early days of Samaritan’s Purse, a relief agency perhaps best known nowadays for Operation Christmas Child. Franklin commented: “ . . . I didn’t like seeing people getting hurt when they couldn’t do much to help themselves.”  

The Graham family has a deep spirit of adventure, which causes them to sometimes hang over the edge. Out of compassion for workers at a Jordanian medical clinic, Franklin and a companion drove a much-needed Land Rover from England to Jordan, travelling thousands of often precarious miles through nine countries, including Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. When international or North American tragedy strikes, Franklin (through Samaritan’s Purse) is often one of the first to be there helping.

The book tells gripping stories of risking life and limb as lives are helped in the tumultuous Middle East and in war-torn countries like Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Samaritan’s Purse reminds us that the love of God and love of neighbour go together. Jesus not only shared good news with people, he also practically fed the poor and healed the sick. May we too on this Father’s Day be people who love both God and neighbour.

Rev. Dr. Ed Hird is the rector at St. Simon’s Church in North Vancouver, Anglican Mission in Canada.

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