Earthly mansion or heavenly home?

By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
In 1956, Ruth Graham built a rustic home high on Black Mountain above Montreat, N.C. Meanwhile, her famous husband, Billy, conducted large evangelistic campaigns in distant parts of the world. Her pièce de résistance was an old diving board she found at the county dump. She placed it as the mantle over the cavernous stone living room fireplace with these words carved into the wood: “Eine Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”).
Ruth designed and constructed for her husband and their family a unique log home that would provide six decades of retreat away from the adoring eyes of a public hard to escape. Long before recycling became chic, she had the house built entirely of re-used logs and other “found” materials. The only new lumber pieces were used for framing and they were carefully covered and hidden.
The Appalachian craftsmen she employed were shocked and scandalized. A carpenter quit when she gave him weather-beaten log cabin doors and asked him to install them in the front hall closets. He picked up his satchel and walked out, saying, “A man can’t take no pride in this kind of work.”
The other men stayed on the job when Ruth promised to replace all broken drill bits and pay for the extra time it took to sharpen saw teeth dulled by nails embedded in the old wood. The men muttered that they feared their reputation would suffer damage if people found out they were the builders. In time, they reconsidered their early negative attitudes.
“Before you know it, you catch yourself a-likin’ it,” said one worker.
Billy acquiesced, even though his taste ran to the modern. Ruth joked, “When Bill gets to Heaven and finds it’s not like a Holiday Inn or a Marriott, he’ll be back.” Nevertheless, asking only that there be plenty of light for reading and comfortable furniture for the family, Billy liked what his wife accomplished.
Home — one of the most evocative words in our language.
After Ruth died, in 2007, Billy sat often in a rustic chair on the front porch, surrounded by the cast-off items Ruth had gathered a half-century earlier. It was home, but not for much longer. He said, “My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
The rich and famous of our day have a contrasting attitude about their homes. Mega-mansions display the fabulous wealth of the 1 percent. Most have extravagant houses covering thousands of square feet and worth tens of millions of dollars. They fill the living spaces with elegant furniture, toys and electronics costing additional millions. We can go online and roam through these homes that are beyond our reach.
Is our earthly home our final destination? Is there more to hope for than paying off the mortgage and retiring in a nice house with enough money to live on? After all we achieve here, is Heaven in our future?
Billy said, “I am not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times. I’m going to Heaven just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment: ‘Lord, remember me.’”
He also said, “Heaven gives us hope — hope for today and hope for the future. No matter what we’re facing, we know it is only temporary and ahead of us is Heaven.”
Home, hope, Heaven — our heritage in Christ.

This story was posted on April 12, 2018.