Former President George W Bush says famed evangelist Billy Graham ended up saving his life by getting him to stop drinking.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99, was a fixture of the presidency to every man who has held the office back to the early years of the Cold War.
George W. Bush, recalled in an interview with Focus on the Family that he’d been drunk the first time he met Graham at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
But the two then went for a walk that launched Bush’s rejection of alcohol and embrace of Christianity.
‘We started talking about religion,’ the former president said in the interview.
‘And Billy sent me a Bible and I started reading the Bible.’
In a personal piece written for the Wall Street Journal, Bush writes how he believes that Graham was, with C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s most influential figures in evangelicalism.
He recalls how after meeting him on his grandmother’s porch in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1985, the pair went for a walk.
‘I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind… He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace,’ he said.
Bush explains how after he returned to Texas there was a package waiting for him – it was a copy of The Living Bible – a paraphrase of the Old and New Testaments.
He said it was a transformative moment.
‘God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach,” he said.
‘His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk—and the start of the end of my drinking.
‘I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit.
‘That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.’
The former President tells of how he and the pastor had a long relationship and was in awe of his ‘remarkable capacity to minister to everyone he met.’
‘When I was governor of Texas, I sat behind Billy at one of his crusades in San Antonio,’ he said.
‘His powerful message of God’s Love moved people to tears and motivated hundreds to come forward to commit themselves to Christ.’
Bush tells how Graham’s most meaningful service came just days after the 9/11 attacks after he asked him to lead the service at Washington National Cathedral.
‘It was no easy task. America was on bended knee,—frightened, angry and uncertain.’ Bush writes.
‘As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.
”We come together today,’ he began, ‘to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is ‘the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.’ God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.’
‘In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me—and us all—where we can find strength,’ Bush said.
‘Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart.
‘We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, Whom he loved so much and served so well,’ the 43rd President concludes in a heartfelt tribute.
Though most presidents have sought guidance from spiritual leaders, Graham’s role at the top echelons of American politics was unique, and there’s no obvious successor likely to fill his shoes as an adviser to leaders from both parties.
The evangelical movement he helped turn into a political force is now most closely aligned with the Republican Party, including Trump, who has been publicly backed by numerous evangelical leaders.
Graham kept a lower profile later in life, but still kept in touch with presidents.
He accepted tributes from a trio of them – Carter, Clinton and the elder Bush – at the dedication of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 2010, President Barack Obama visited Graham at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.
He met all 12 of them, plus Donald Trump before he ran for office, and counseled most as they grappled with governing, politics and peace of mind.
SOURCE: Daily Mail