Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Fish Out of Water

I recounted my Southern California and the City of Loud Trumpeting Angels saga in my post from August 4, Please Be Quiet.  In that post I mentioned Billy Graham's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  My first thought was "A Fish Out of Water."  I wanted to pick his star up and move it far away from the madness of L.A., thinking he didn't fit. He's too good.

I've been to The Cove in Ashville. I've sat in his prayer room overlooking the quiet, peaceful mountains. This gold star is not him, especially surrounded by people obviously not longing for a message from a man who once said, "My home is in heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."

My next thought was the opposite.  If there is a perfect time and place, and desperate people who need his wisdom, it would be Hollywood.  I wondered if he ever influenced anyone in Hollywood.

My answer came a few weeks later when my pastor shared the story of Steve McQueen. A difficult childhood led to a rough street life then finally, through hard work, to Hollywood stardom and tremendous fame and fortune.  Once asked if he believed in God, he replied, "I believe in me.  God will be number one as long as I'm number one."

With his looks and drive, Steve McQueen experienced great success as an actor,  but his star was not as bright by the late 1970's, and he began turning down offers and preferring to be alone.  Health problems took him away from Los Angeles, where he met Barbara Minty and married for the third time.  His interest in aviation led him to a new friend, Sammy Mason, who McQueen described as different from the people who had surrounded him in Hollywood.  Eventually, Steve McQueen wanted to know his secret.  Mason shared the Who that made him different, Jesus Christ.  After attending church for several months with Sammy Mason, McQueen asked the Holy Spirit into his heart.

Seeing a dramatic change in the once rough and arrogant star, people knew his commitment to Christ was serious. Unfortunately, McQueen didn't have long on this earth after his change.  Diagnosed with cancer in 1979, the actor stated that he knew where he'd spend eternity.  He had one last request, though. He wanted to meet Billy Graham.  Rev. Graham visited a bed-ridden, on oxygen, Steve McQueen, and the actor shared his life, old and new.  Before Steve McQueen flew to a hospital for his final surgery,  Billy Graham inscribed his own Bible and gave it to him. Four days later, McQueen died with Rev. Graham's open bible on his chest.

I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.  This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God-who does not lie-promised them before the world began. Titus 1:1-2

I don't know how Billy Graham felt when his star was placed on the Walk of Fame, but I have a feeling he didn't think, "I'm too good. I don't fit in."  He is an evangelist, sharer of the Good News of Christ. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 9, "Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

Rev. Graham was available to all men.  Even in his younger, healthier years, I'd guess he preferred his retreat in Asheville and his home in Montreat, North Carolina over Los Angeles and the many other cities around the world he visited, but he knew his calling was to go, preach, share, and listen. He was both spiritual advisor and friend to many, even when it was unpopular.  Not only did he invite Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly in New York City in 1957, he bailed him out of jail years later when Dr. King was arrested during demonstrations.
Rev. Graham wasn't afraid to leave his quiet, comfortable surroundings or befriend those unchanged by Christ, understanding that he lived in a dark world that needed God's light, words and love.  I'll willing to bet any star in 1979 would have rushed to McQueen's bedside if asked.  But thanks to the influence of Sammy Mason, who was different, McQueen asked for someone he had wanted to meet for a long time, Rev. Graham.

A fish longs for water, his home.  So do I. I long for my comfort zone and others like me, don't you? But, as believers, we can't hide from darkness. God calls us for a purpose.

Sometimes he calls us to be a fish out of water,