I awoke today to the news that, at 99 years old, Billy Graham has died.
Billy Graham loomed large in the world of my childhood and youth. My father (a minister all his life and who is now 86) emulated Rev. Graham. If you ever watched or attended a Billy Graham "Crusade," you know the event built to the moment when he would extend the "invitation" for anyone and everyone who wanted "to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior" to get up out of their seats and come forward ("the busses will wait"). And countless thousands did. The song that would be sung at that moment and for ten maybe twenty minutes, was the old Gospel hymn, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me...." Every Sunday morning throughout my father's ministry, "Just as I Am" was the final hymn of every worship service.
In that world, transformation was awaiting everyone who would pray a simple prayer of salvation. Don't know the prayer? No worries, It was printed out. Don't know how to pray it? No problem, a counselor will be on hand to read it and you can repeat it after him or her. The most important thing of all was to say the words and then you would be transformed.
It was a view of human/Divine transformation that remained forever illusive for me. Even as I knew and know stories of people whose lives were transformed in an instant, I cannot point to any single moment when everything changed for me. It's hard to grow up with that understanding of transformation looming so large and remaining so illusive.
Sister Joan talks about transformation in much more extended, enduring terms--something that only comes with time and receptivity and wakefulness. She writes of how she is being transformed with age so that, "the number of absolutes in my life is precipitously reduced. I'm a lot less dogmatic now about the nature of God. I'm not as sure as I once was about what is gravely damning and what is not. Most important of all, I am happy to put that decision in the hands of God whose nature seems far more compassionate now--as I have gotten more compassionate myself."
I'm guessing Billy would have said "Amen," to that. Actually, I remember reading an interview of him in Time magazine a some time ago when he said something just like that.
Transformation takes time. Prayer is part of it all...but not a prayer in a moment..it's prayer through many moments that add up one day to a lifetime and an inexplicable realization, that only comes with time, that we have not walked alone.
The Apostle Paul writes, "So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day." (II Corinthians 4:26) Presenting myself to God each day, just as I am, is always a good place to start.