Nearing Home

By Billy Graham.

Thomson Nelson, 2011

Reviewed by Dennis Stone, CBWC’s Regional Minister for Alberta/NWT

It is my belief that not every book review needs to be of a work that is deeply theological.  One does not need to go far in their pastoral or collegial visits to find a conversation or a reference to Billy Graham.  This fact makes the reading of this book very relevant.  For sixty years he has had a global impact and has icon status among the Christian world at large.

This book comes from the pen of a ninety-three year old minister reflecting upon his current condition and waning abilities.  The writing displayed more transparency than I was expecting.  In his introduction he states, “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die.  I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it’s not easy.”

One theological reflection that touched me in the book was of Barzillai who assisted King David during Absalom’s rebellion.  David afterward invited Barzillai to be looked after and live with the king in Jerusalem.  Barzillai refused stating that “… I can no longer enjoy anything.  Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing” (2 Samuel 19:34-35 NLT).  The dying of the senses is a part of growing older long before one is ninety-three, a fact that many of us want to ignore.  As ministry workers we need to understand this dimension of the human journey.

There are didactic stretches in the book on planning and living in the realm of retirement, assessing what is really important.  Practical stories from others’ lives, as well as his own, give these aspects some good treatment.  Teaching on how to live in one’s senior years is an ongoing theme within the book.  There are comments on the ministry roles and activities which can be priorities in one’s declining years.  The hope ahead is emphasized strongly, but with realism.

Those in ministry positions naturally connect with the elderly in many varied situations, if even not within our own families.  To me there has not been enough education for on handling aging well within the Christian community.  This is a good book to refer to others

Sure the work is a quick and easy read, but it has added insights into the outgoing thoughts of one respected far and wide by churched and unchurched around the world.  This becomes fodder for many conversations.  The book might be found on the clearance rack already but I’d like to see it on more and more of our pastors’ shelves.  It is a relevant read long before one is ninety-three.  Don’t wait too long, however … you want to be sure your eyes and mind are still working.