49: Wynonna Judd

49: Wynonna Judd

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 49 •

Grammy Award-winning country music singer, bestselling author, actress and philanthropist

I was raised in a matriarchal household and never knew my father. He died before I had a chance to meet him. I struggled for years with my identity as somebody’s daughter and ever since I could remember, I’ve been curious about the identity of my heavenly Father. All my life I’ve been searching for meaning: “Why do I have the voice that I have? Why am I the way that I am?”

One of the first times I saw Billy Graham he was like an action figure and seemed bigger than life. I thought, “Who is this character on TV?” He spoke with such passion and conviction. I wondered what it would be like to be his daughter and what it would be like to have a dad like that. Early on, he became a very important person in my life.

Because of my success, on and off the road, I have met many leaders including military generals and presidents. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to meet this man. He is one of those people who have made such a difference in so many lives. He is one of the few people I trust and respect. My ability to believe what he says is absolute. There is no veil of secrecy. He has lived honestly and freely. It’s the way I want to live. He is my fatherly example.

Billy Graham got the job that very few could handle. I know I would fall under the weight of it. I don’t think I could do it. He does it with such reverence. He is a living, breathing example of Moses. I know he’s not God, I know he’s just a man, I know he’s mortal, I know he’s fallible, yet what I see is a servant of the Lord unlike anyone else.

Billy has touched every part of my life as a woman and as a mother. He has affected my parenting and my life as a believer. Because I didn’t have a father, he’s been a voice, sort of a whisper. They say the world yells and God whispers. He’s been a whisper in my life that has caused me to think deeper. There were times when I certainly doubted, and when I challenged or questioned God. He’s come to me in the strangest of times, when I was in a torment of the soul. He reached out to me from the television, or I’d see a book. I have the Billy Graham 365-day calendar here in my home. Because of Billy, I have wanted to spend more time and study in the Word. He’s like Moses to me. He just exudes authenticity.

Recently, I sang in a small church. The church was off the beaten path and the people were very simple, salt of the earth types: go to work, go to church, have a family; you know, regular folk. Before I sang, one of my staff surprised me and said, “We want to get a video of you for a Billy Graham birthday tribute.” They caught me at a vulnerable moment. I went up on stage and sang “How Great Thou Art” a capella and tried not to cry. I felt I was in a moment that was very holy. I had a vision of Billy closing his eyes and sang with a little extra passion that day. It was meant to be precisely this way, in this moment, in this time, in this heartbeat, and in this breath. This is how it was meant to go down. My hope is he was blessed by it.

I’ve always had people around me to remind me of what the truth is, what the Word is. It’s bugged me, and at times I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. There have been so many chances I’ve had to do other stuff, but I was counseled not to. I was told it’s probably not in my best interest. I’m sure Billy Graham has had to walk a very thin and narrow path. I can identify with him, because I’m definitely a servant. That’s my job. My sermon comes through my music. I go out and teach people my story. I’m a spiritual singer with a wonderful comedy story about growing up with Ashley and Naomi Judd. Before I go on stage I pray, “Let me be an instrument of Thy peace.”

I see Billy Graham as a peacemaker. I’ve been in churches where I’ve felt the sting of not measuring up, but never felt that way with Billy. I see him as being very open, very loving and very forgiving. I think we need that. I think we need somebody who shows us the grace and the mercy of the Lord.

He is a person who studies, pays attention, contemplates and waits on God. He is at peace. I see him constantly going to the Word, because that’s what he knows. There’s such a reverence when someone sits still and is quiet. There’s a wonderful plaque that hangs over the door of a meeting I went to one time that says, “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.” That’s what I think of Billy Graham, someone who knows how to be still and who knows God and who is also willing to be still.

Billy Graham has had a major impact on my life. I have made him my elder and guide. I look up to him and say, “I feel your heart and feel what it is you’re trying to say.”

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