In this special interview, Ruth Bell Graham discusses the joys and trials of motherhood.

how has motherhood surprised you this

was not something that you planned no I

thought I thought I was going to be an

old maid missionary into bed that was

before I met my husband and so when we

became acquainted and after we were in

love and engaged I was trying my best to

call him to the bed that he should be a

missionary to Tibet and mind you if I

had gone I would have been there not

more than two years before it closed and

I would have had that had missed the joy

of Mary the finest man I know so one day

he said to me do you think the Lord

brought us together or not and I said

yes I do and he said in that case he’ll

leave me and you’ll do the following and

I’ve been following ever since if you

you have so many wonderful perspectives

I want to quote you here a true mother

is not merely a provider housekeeper

comforter or companion a true mother is

primarily and essentially a trainer now

I would expect you to point us to the

Bible for wisdom in this but but you

highly recommend a dog training manual

and training a dog you keep your

commands very simple and you patiently

work with them till they obey you and

then you reward them not with food but

with a pet let them know that you

pleased with them I also learned a

lesson from waterskiing

this was the old days and we had some

resort and I said to the waiter when he

brought breakfast and I said we’re going

to take water ski lessons today

he said report at your aid and she made

me so angry I thought I was water skier

bust and the water ski instructor kept

his his instructions very simple his

hand beneath your knees and he you saw a

squat in the water had to squat in the

water then as boat takes off he had her

eyes with him as his help how to balance

and then as he felt you getting your

balance he would move his hand from one

knee to the

and then that you go in your skiing but

he kept his instruction very simple and

encouraged all the time every of it work

you do it agreat you’re doing just great

I think we need to best parents to keep

our instructions simple and increase the

children Ruth’s many parents cling to

that promise train up a child in the way

that he should go and when he is old he

will not depart from it what does that

mean to you it means a great deal but it

also means that it doesn’t say that

there will be years in between before he

is grown old that he might wander off

and when he is old he shall not depart

from it we’ve got all the promise of God

on our side if you have five children

mm-hmm and two of them were a particular

challenge the two boys mm-hmm how to

respond when you first realized that

those boys were wandering from the

narrow way well first let me say I’m I’m

grateful that God gave us three year

olds to practice on first gave you three

girls practice on first when the boys

came along and I realized that they were

trying to seek their own identity see

the girls eventually could marry and

change their names but the boys were

stuck with the name Graham and I really

think part of it was rebellion and part

of it was trying to seek their own

identity I tried to make a difference

between moral issues and non moral

issues and so many things that we make

issues out of are not moral issues now

to me moral issue would be lying

stealing cheating even disrespect but

tracking dirt in the house

an occasional fight with your brother

things like that are non moral issues

and you just got to make a difference

between the two Franklin and


I brought some things into this house

that I cannot picture you coping with

you you must have had a tremendous

flexibility and and and grace to to ride

with all of that well whoever we built

the house he was about three and a half

years old and he was under the Workmen’s

feet all day long and the bigger the

tougher the better he liked them and

most of them were smokers and I went in

the Attic one day and the place was blue

a smoke and Franklin was choking up a

storm and the men were dying laughing

well I knew what was up and I just

walked out and slammed the door behind

me but we had a mountain man helping us

at the time and he was so intrigued by

by Franklin’s and learning how to smoke

at that tender age that he came up after

supper to see how Franklin felt how he’s

getting along and notice he had a pack

of cigarettes this pocket and I said

Floyd would you let me have that package

of cigarettes and I gave Franklin one I

said I want you to smoke it

I want you inhale and smoke it to fit to

the hole he finished the whole thing

well he smoked it he and hailed he

turned white he laid on the floor he got

up made a dash across the hall to the

bathroom threw up came back start over

again anything is that whole pack of

cigarettes he smoked the whole whole

pack and when I put him to bed that

night I was praying for him and I must

have sounded a little concerned he

looked at me grin he said mom you know

when I’m grown I’m not smoke but he

smoked all in all I think he lays around

21 and I was worried about his lungs my

jets I mean I know some wonderful

Christian statistic but I just don’t

think you know for his lungs sake of his

lungs I did not want to smoke roof how

long was it for this prodigal for

Franklin how many years did you wait

well he was I think he was 21 when he

came back to the Lord he didn’t really

show signs of being a prodigal till he

was about 12 or 13 hmm but it seems like

an eternity to a mother whether it’s

five years or 25 years

you’re in such a unique position but I’m

sure there are many particularly people

in Christian ministry who can identify

with the unique pressures that you have

had you’ve written a poem entitled they

felt good eyes upon them I’m just gonna

read part it here the good folk never

meant to act smug or condemned but

having prodigal ‘he’s just wasn’t done

with them hmm

some are gonna be shocked to hear what

you’ve already told us about Franklin

how did you experience this pressure of

others who probably assumed that the

Grahams would have raised angels at

least saintly children I really didn’t

pay that much attention I spent my time

praying for them and I remember a

tremendous load was lifted off my

shoulders when I realized God had has

problems with his children too which

includes all of us all of us yes

and the reaping of prodigal is a teenage

boys a no prodigal said middle aged


prodigal pastors a no man of 75 is a

prodigal they’re not living teenage boys

and just rely on the faithfulness of God

I remember the low that was lifted from

my heart when I first realized we

mothers ought to take care of the

possible and trust God for the


now the possible takes care of feeding

them at the encouraging them also taking

care of their needs being a good mother

the impossible is conviction of sin

create creating a hunger and thirst

after righteousness and conversion and

here I was trying to do all three of

those when it dawned on me

hey these are miracles and miracles are

not in my department god that’s up to

God and that trust God for the

impossible and take care of the possible

I read a comment in an interview you


I think it was today’s Christian woman

and you were asked if you had it to do

over again the parenting what would you

do differently and I think your response

was I would leave more to the Holy


yes I just pray claim the promises of

God and realize that he’s going to

answer the trouble was I want him to

answer my prayers yesterday it’s hard to

be patient sometimes you had some some

really difficult years particularly your

boys and we have women watching today

not just women families watching who

have loved ones in the far country out

there and I think guilt and self-doubt

is a terrible burden for many did you

wonder if there was something you should

have done and didn’t or something you’d

done that had how did how did you deal

with that I’m sure all of us mother all

of us mothers feel the same way I have

would have to ask God please to overcome

our mistakes and supplement my

shortcomings and then trust tich trust

that he would do it just that was their

questioning of him no and ever question

out now I’ve never questioned him I

would ask for for grace to follow and

grace to obey I remember when Franklin

was taking our Land Rover from London to

to ma frock Jordan and his roommate from

college was going with him but these two

teenage boys making up a Land Rover

driving it from London down to the coast

on their own style original and then

across France Switzerland Austria

Yugoslavia Greece Turkey Syria and down

into Jordan and the night they left I

took John 17 and read is my prayer that

was our Lord’s last prayer before his

crucifixion when I got to the verse 19

it stopped me cold said for their sakes

I sanctify myself now that was our Lord


and suddenly dawned on me if for our


our Lord felt the need to sanctify

himself to set apart himself how much

more did as a mother need to do that and

so I put the boys on hold and said Lord

you take care of then we’ve got business

to do and settle some things with him

that night and I think we mothers need

to do that do you know that’s one of the

most refreshing points in your book is

that while God was working on the

prodigal you felt he very much was

working on woman you bet I think perhaps

more than on the prodigal sandpapering I

mean I needed a lot of Correction lots I

still do sandpapering and correcting but

the interesting thing about the Lord is

he can tell you off he can tell it to

you just like it is and you’re never

discouraged never my best friend did I’d

feel discouraged if my husband did I

feel discouraged but the Lord Jesus has

a way of telling you your faults your

mistakes your shortcomings without ever

discouraging you goes you up and keeps

you going right that’s another

perspective you bring in your attitude

to the child who has wandered hmm when a

person seems that is worst you say we

should demonstrate Jesus love the most

mm-hmm that’s the way the Lord does us

so often I’ve had to stop and say well I

didn’t know how to deal with our child

how did God deal with me and it’s what

was with mercy and with judgment but the

mercy and and it endures forever

and we need to be more accepting of our

children our love needs to be

unconditional love and a love that never

fails never love never ends and they’ve

got to know that we love them that way

is there anything that you would say

beyond praying

– the heartsick parent watching whose

prodigal is still out there

all the promises of God are on your side

I would say and God may not answer your

prayers as quickly as you want or just

the way you want but you’ve got all of

his promises on your side