17: John Carter Cash

17: John Carter Cash

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 17 •
JOHN CARTER CASH

Grammy Award winner, country music singer and songwriter, music producer, author

I have known Billy Graham since I was a young boy. He has been a steady, constant source of inspiration for me throughout my life. I’m still amazed when I hear him speak or see clips of the crusades. I’m drawn to him. I still visit him to show him respect and express appreciation for all that he has done for me.

My father met Billy in the 1960s. Billy used to say that he had gotten in touch with my father because his son Franklin was a big Johnny Cash fan! They formed an immediate connection through their faith and quickly became very good friends. I think they also saw the possibility of working together, forwarding their own personal missions, based on their Christian faith. Also, they just liked to hang out with each other.

As a young boy, although I knew Billy was a preacher, to me he was just a friend of my parents, and I loved him to death. I thought he was the greatest guy in the world because he was so comfortable to be around, so tender.

He and Ruth sometimes came to stay at our house in Montego Bay in Jamaica. They went to the beach and swimming pool and just relaxed with my parents. They all had a lot of fun together.

I was very comfortable with Billy. He was at our house not long after I learned to swim, so he would watch me in the pool and sometimes we would swim together. He was a dear man.

My parents and Billy and Ruth were together in the Caribbean quite a few times in the 1970s and 1980s. Billy and my dad also corresponded regularly. There were some tough times in my father’s life; when he was a bit lost and searching he knew he could always reach out to Billy, because Billy would never condemn him. That’s the kind of person that Billy Graham is. He is not a condemning person; he is a Christian in the real sense of the word. He has a very simple, kind nature.

My father and mother also participated in many of Billy’s crusades, and I went along too. I remember being overwhelmed by Billy’s strength as a speaker, but at the same time it didn’t seem unusual to me that this was the same man that I was swimming with and hanging out with. There was something about the way he related his message. It wasn’t like he was forcing it on anyone. His power as a preacher was actually just another expression of his kindness, his desire to be of service.

Whenever I’ve had a chance over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve gone to see Billy at his home. I remember one visit just a few years ago that had particular significance for me.

I wanted to find out more about my father’s relationship with Billy. I had often felt that there must have been something amazing about it, some secret that these two great men shared that enabled them to do God’s work so powerfully together. After all, they both had a kind of charisma and you felt it even when they walked into a room or in Billy’s case preached to fifty thousand people. What was it that bound them together in this magical kind of way?

I sat around with Billy and we talked for a couple of hours. I asked him, “What was the basis of your relationship with my dad? What made it so strong?” And he replied, very simply, “We were Christian brothers.”

The simplicity of his answer was a revelation to me. I discovered that there was, after all, no great secret to the strength of their relationship; there was just that one great, simple truth, that they were Christian brothers. They were joyful in their spirit; they had joy for Christ. And that was what bound them together as good friends. And it’s what had a resounding influence on so many people throughout the world as shown through Billy’s crusades.

This realization was an eye-opener for me. Before, I think I may have been putting their relationship on a pedestal, thinking there must have been some complex secret to it because it had the power to influence so many people. But now I saw there was no need for any complicated explanation. Sometimes the most beautiful thing about the truth is its simplicity, and that’s what I discovered on that visit to Billy.

I discovered something else on that visit, too, because I also asked Billy about his own greatness since I have never been in doubt that he is a great man. He shook his head and replied, “I’m just a servant.”

That too was an eye-opener for me in my own faith. It put me back in contact with my own personal salvation; it reminded me of what Christianity is. I’ve heard a thousand times that the least shall be the greatest, and that the greatest is the humble servant. But hearing it from his mouth was a special thing for me.

And that’s Billy. He can’t help but be a powerful, compelling person, but he is truly a servant and has been since he began his ministry. His mission is, first of all, to serve. In spirit he is washing people’s feet. Whether they know it or not, that’s what he’s doing and has been doing for so long. It’s what Christ did. There are so many people that have other agendas. Billy has no agenda other than to serve and bring people closer to God.

I also realized that God had used the simple Christian brotherhood of Billy and my dad for His own purposes. They just happened to be amazingly charismatic men, but they hadn’t used their own power for anything; on the contrary, it was God who had used them.

So I looked at things differently after I talked to Billy that day. Simplicity, Christian brotherhood, and service. That was what clicked with me. It grounded me, and there was nothing mysterious about it. Just the simple truth, and you never need anything more than that.

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