You may have noticed that I am a big fan of Francesca Battistelli’s song, Free to Be Me. After all, I do have some of her lyrics posted over there in my sidebar. I love how, in that song, she learns to accept that she doesn’t have to be perfect; she’s free to be the person that God created.
What I hadn’t thought much about was the first words of the song:
At twenty years of age I’m still looking for a dream
A war’s already waged for my destiny
But You’ve already won the battle
And You’ve got great plans for me
Though I can’t always see
Well, I thought about it in the sense that when I sing along, I replace “twenty years of age” with “thirty years of age.” But I hadn’t thought about the war that’s waged for each of our destinies. Not really.
Until I read William Paul McKay and Ken Abraham’s biography of Billy Graham, Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith that Almost Changed Everything.
I don’t read a lot of biographies. And I’ll be honest: this one took me a while to get through. The book tells the story of how Billy Graham became Billy Graham, and it’s told through the eyes of his friend and former evangelist turned agnostic, Charles Templeton. McKay and Abraham frame the telling of Graham’s – and Templeton’s – story as an interview with a reporter looking for dirt on the beloved Graham. (In case you’re actually wondering, I’ll skip to the ending for you: no, she did not get any dirt.)
I felt that the writing was a bit plodding in some parts and a bit preachy in others. Some areas really called for suspense of my disbelief, as I wondered how Templeton, who was telling the story, could possibly know so many details of Graham’s life. That’s the tricky part of a biography, I suppose: writing a true story that reads like fiction, maintaining truth while keeping it interesting.
But in the back half of the book, the authors finally get to the point they advertised on the back cover: A remarkable friendship. An agonizing betrayal. The true story of a crisis of faith.
When Charles Templeton, Graham’s best friend and partner in a budding evangelism career, gave in to the doubts and questions he held about Christianity, eventually denouncing everything he’d believed and everything Graham continued to preach, it understandably rocked Graham’s world.
The climax of the book and the turning point in Graham’s life was a night at a retreat center in California. McKay and Abraham describe in detail the supernatural battle between God and Satan for Graham’s soul, his future and his ministry.
Of course we know how this story ends. But reading about the war that was waged – and considering the consequences from that one night, that one decision – pretty much blew me away.
If you’re a fan of biographies or of Billy Graham, I say read this book. Or if you are interested in learning more about how God could use one simple farm boy to literally change this world, I say read this book. Because it’s more than a story. It’s a miracle and a lesson and an inspiration.
Like I said before, it took me a long time to get around to reading this book. But I am glad I did. And I hope you will, too.