Ransom Notes
Graham's granddaughter manages online community of redemption stories

by Lori Arnold

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. — It was a high-profile kidnapping never reported to police, but thanks to a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, Cissie Graham Lynch was ransomed nonetheless.

For nearly three years beginning in high school Lynch—granddaughter of Billy Graham and daughter of Franklin Graham—was held captive to an eating disorder grounded in an obsession over her appearance, diet pills and laxatives.

The disorder emerged in her junior year when a friend returned from summer break with a stunning new body after a significant weight loss. Lynch said she was mesmerized not only by how good her friend looked, but also by the responses to her friend’s weight loss.

“It turned into something I could control,” Lynch said. “It wasn’t just about what I looked like. It was about I couldn’t control other things in my life, but I could control this. It became such a deep bondage that Satan had, bondage over my heart, and that I wasn’t in control anymore—he was. He was telling me lies. I wasn’t seeing myself through my eyes or the Lord’s eyes. I was seeing myself through Satan’s eyes.”

The road to addiction started simply with a diet here and a diet there. She started weighing herself several times a day. That’s when she turned to diet aids.

“It might start off so little, but the bondage just grows and grows,” she said. “It was a burden that I carried because it was bondage over my heart, which became a sinful nature. It became very destructive to my body.”

The control quickly turned to despair as Lynch said she often went to bed at night in tears feeling “like I failed everyday that I couldn’t conquer it.”

“I had pills hidden in my car, in my locker, in my purse, in my closet, in my backpack and anywhere else I thought necessary,” she wrote of her addiction in an online testimony. “Many days I took up to eight pills.”

She said she was only several months into the destructive pattern when she realized what she was struggling with was much deeper than just a diet.

“I don’t know if, at the time when you are in it, you label yourself with a disorder,” she said. “It’s when you look back and you’ve been healed that you can examine what you’ve been through.

“It was brokenness. I would break my own heart. I was allowing Satan to defeat me because as a believer we believe that Jesus Christ can conquer all. I was wondering why am I allowing Satan to deceive me? Every night I was getting on my knees and saying Lord, please allow me to see myself through your eyes and not his.”

After several years of prayers and desperation, Lynch took some time off of college after her freshman year and went to work in Thailand for her father’s ministry.

“It was really then when I woke up every morning thinking, ‘How can I serve the Lord where I am working today,’” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about myself first thing in the morning. I wasn’t thinking about myself when I was going to bed. The Lord really healed my heart because I wasn’t being selfish anymore of thinking me, me, me. He healed me, and now I see so many young girls struggling with the same thing.

“It’s so deep, and it’s so hard to get out of. It’s a vicious cycle. I would just encourage others to get on their knees daily and give it before the Lord so that you might see yourself through His eyes and not Satan’s.”

Skittish of the name
In many ways, Lynch followed the footsteps of her famous father, who spent his teen-age years rebelling against his father’s ministry by drinking beer and riding motorcycles. During those years, joining his father in ministry was the furthest thing from his mind.

For Lynch, the family name didn’t begin to register with her personally until middle school.

“I started noticing kind of the difference in my life of being a Graham and what came with it and the responsibilities and what people expected of me,” she said.

By high school, like her father, ministry was not on her radar.

“I didn’t want to be a part of the Graham name because of the pressures or what people expected of me, but it was later as a freshman in college I realized what a gift it was to be able to have a grandfather who has taught me so much and a father who has shown me the world and what the gospel really means,” she said.

“Finally, I had to grow up in this world and say this is who I am, and I’m proud to be a Graham and look at all the good that comes with it. What an honor it is that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of my family and what my father has taught me.”

Living her own story
In addition to helping her father with Samaritan’s Purse, Lynch also serves as a special projects producer for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. Her current project is manager of Ransom, an online community targeting young adults who are hurting. The site, launched a year ago, features testimonies called Ransom notes.

Featured on the site is Lynch’s testimony, which she wrote down for the first time last fall.

“I believe it was an instant freedom even though I had been healed for years,” Lynch said. “You know the Scripture says if we confess our sins among others that we might find healing.”

Lynch said she believes the site is cathartic and becomes more valuable as new people contribute. She said, for instance, her story many only speak to a small segment of those visiting. Others who have overcome self-mutilation and other addictions will be a blessing to young adults dealing with those issues.

“I don’t want people to be ashamed of their stories of where Jesus Christ has brought them from,” she said. “Many young adults … have never even shared their story because they might be ashamed of it. I look at it like Jesus Christ hung on a cross for me and for the whole world to see, with my shame upon Him on that cross, that I’m not going to be ashamed to tell my story and how he has ransomed me.”

Offering solace
Stories, she said, are a bonding agent that can transcend significant barriers for those seeking solace.

“I want others to know not be ashamed to use their stories for his glory; use it to help others to share because there is such power in our stories,” she said.

“Many people think that to share their testimony they have to have had some dramatic story to share, and that’s not true at all. Every story, I believe, is beautiful in its own way and definitely beautiful in the eyes of our loving Savior Jesus Christ.”

In addition to the personal stories, the site features music videos, articles on social and cultural topics, devotionals, spiritual help articles, music, movie and fashion reviews, short films, interviews and user-submitted content.

Since people can contribute wherever they live, Lynch said she hopes Ransom can become a transformative network beyond the computer by giving back to their local communities. It begins, she said, by conquering the lies of Satan who relishes the peddling of self.

“I think in any disorder, any addiction, comes selfishness,” she said. “You are being selfish because it’s about you, you, you all the time.

I felt disappointed because I was disappointing my Lord and Savior and that’s not true at all. That’s what so many believers think today with our own stories that’s not true and once again Satan is telling us lies.

For more information, visit www.ransom.tv.

Published, October 2012

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