Several weeks ago I had the once in a lifetime experience of being invited to attend the historic moment of Billy Graham laying in Honor at the US Capital. Only four U.S. civilians have ever had that honor. Officer Jacob J. Chestnut Jr. and Detective John M. Gibson were given the honor in 1998 and Rosa Parks in 2005. I would argue, more men have walked on the moon than have received this distinguished honor.
The day was birthed like every other. Washington D.C. was busy as you would expect any influential city would by mid-week. Traffic, sirens, people making their way to work, meetings taking place, children being dropped off at school, tourists lining up at the world renowned museums, tour guides with groups in tow and the occasional souvenir cart being positioned.
I remember being dropped off by Uber across from the front entrance of the Russell Senate office building. We stood in a long security line as we entered the building and then made our way to a waiting room where we were given additional security clearance and instructions. We had the opportunity to meet up with other guests at that time. We were quickly and quietly ushered underground to the actual ground floor of The Capital. Once there, we were given additional instructions and then escorted out to the Capital steps.
I remember the scene well. Once again, the blue sky, a crisp breeze coupled with a certain somber tone and uncharacteristic stillness in the air made me realize this was not only an honorable moment, but a holy one. The hearse carrying Billy Graham’s casket, constructed by inmates from the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka Angola or the Alcatraz of the South) quietly pulled up. The honor guard with military precision quietly approached the hearse as we watched from the elevated position. The casket was gently pulled out and then manually positioned to be slowly taken up the steps, one step at a time, in unison. The only voice to be heard was from a member of the honor guard, giving gentle instructions to his fellow pallbearers. His simple words were, “Step – Hold – Step – Hold.”
The whole process from the foot of the Capital steps to its inner chamber took a good ten minutes, total silence except for “Step – Hold – Step – Hold.” We stood as if time had frozen us all, lost in memories of the past all the while wanting to desperately capture the now. A sense that time was standing still, time was no longer a measurement because the memories of old blended with the experience of the now.
I recall thinking of these words, “Step – Hold – Step – Hold” and reflecting on the idea that they appropriately reflected and described the life of a faithful Christian. My life as a follower of Jesus is just that. I step as He steps and I hold as He holds. The Bible admonishes us to “keep in step with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus tells his disciples to “follow Me” and, hence, they are called followers of Jesus and eventually given the name of Christians.
Billy Graham is my grandfather and I affectionately called him Daddy Bill. The photo above is of my hand upon his. This was the last time I saw him alive. The U.S. Government gave him this honor for no other reason but that he faithfully and obediently followed Jesus. That’s it! Billy Graham’s legacy is nothing more then a model of what happens when we simply honor God with our lives, He in turn honors us. I will forever be reminded of the words “Step… Hold… Step… Hold” filling the airspace of not only Washington, but for a brief moment the world. I was humbled to see that God gave us a glimpse that His majesty is so compelling, so riveting, so fruitful, so honoring, that even a divisive, hopeless and often pagan world will stop in awe when they get a glimpse of God’s faithful presence in a redeemed soul. Truly, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.