Fourth of July Features
Fatherhood: Men on a Mission
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the father within the family and the lives of children. In 2011, it’s very often assumed that mom makes the household run. She keeps the schedules, teaches lessons, make sure everyone is fed, clean and delivered to the appropriate places on time and, whether she works an additional job outside the home or not, it’s pretty evident that mom is key to the survival of the household.
So ... what about dad?
Breadwinner? Ok. That role is sometimes assumed.
Emotionally critical to the health of the kids and wife? Without question, although that role is more often than not ignored, forgotten or written off because there’s just no time.
Dads are crucial. Sons need to learn how to become men. Daughters need a man to help them understand who they are as women and to foster a sense of confidence that can only come from a male figure.
And mom ... words can’t begin to describe how much she needs (whether she appears to or not) a support, a confidante, a shelter and a love she can experience.
Dad, you’re important. And since Father’s Day is right around this time of year, we thought we’d chat with some dads who are doing their best to get it right. Mark Hall of Casting Crowns and Russ Lee and Matt Butler from Newsong all have multiple kids, multiple roles to juggle and a singular focus on being the dads they have been called to be.
“We take the role of daddies and husbands seriously,” says Matt. “And we respect how much our wives take care of things when we’re gone. And when we’re home we try to pay it back.”
Mark Hall echoes the thought.
Mark Hall & Family
“I don’t have hobbies,” he says. “I don’t spend time on a golf course or in front of the TV. I’m with my kids. That’s what my dad did right and that’s what I wanna do right.”
Much like Mark, Russ and Matt and the other members of Newsong have had good examples in the camp of manning up to the call of husband and father.
“Eddie and the other founding members of the group made sure their families were always their priority,” says Russ. ”There was never any question about that so that sets a good precedent. Our wives know that the heart of Newsong’s ministry is not to keep us away from home. These are things that we have to do and we’re gonna work hard, but we’re gonna play hard and include our families.”
It’s not just happenstance, coincidence or the luck of good examples that have instilled such a drive in these men to get the father thing right. After years of ministry and working with kids and families, they’ve seen patterns, decisions and consequences that have come about when God’s original intent for men hasn’t been heeded.
“We were made to be courageous,” says Mark. “But the truth is that men are passionate about the things that don’t matter and passive about the things that do. They’ll paint their faces blue and shot at a ball but watch their kids do whatever they want.
“Adam was passive,” he continues. “She turned to the man who was right there with her. He was right there! He was passive.
“We [men] gravitate towards what’s more natural. When kids get to be about 12, it’s more of a challenge to be the leader,” says Mark. “We can’t control our kids, so we kind of drift over to our career. Things make sense there. We come home and it’s madness and we retreat. I’ve seen this over the years of ministry and that pattern doesn’t let you speak truth into your kids’ lives. Relationships earn the right to speak truth.
“At church I’m Dad to so many teenagers. They want the hugs, they want approval and acceptance and when they don’t get it, they find it.”
With Mark’s son just hitting the teen years, Russ’s off at college and Matt’s far wiser than his six years, all three men are taking daily, practical steps to not only demonstrate to their sons what real men, real dads and real husbands look like, but to also build real relationships to open the door for conversation and, ultimately, respect.
Newsong's Russ Lee & family
“You can begin praying now,” Mark says with a laugh, thinking about how after years of watching other peoples’ teenagers, he’s got one of his own. “I’ve got to define manhood for him. What is it? When does it begin? There’s no right of passage in our culture. You don’t climb a mountain and do smoke signals.”
In lieu of ritualistic dances or chanting, Mark, Matt and Russ have all consulted resources to help them navigate the elusive waters of fatherhood. Raising a Modern Day Knight is one that both Mark and Matt have turned to and although Matt’s son is only six, the evidence of maturity growing inside his heart is everywhere.
“The other day I was taking him to school and we get there and he’s in the backseat just sobbing. I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘When you’re gone, when you die, I won’t have my best buddy anymore.,’” Matt shares, getting choked up himself. “So I pulled over and with my six-year-old son, I’m having this conversation about eternity.”
Russ and his son also have a deep bond. Why else would a 19-year-old ask his dad to fly out to his university and drive the nine-hour-drive home so they could talk?
“We talk about the Lord and music and what God’s doing in our lives,” says Russ. “It’s so valuable and encouraging and inspiring to be able to have that time with him. There’s no price you can put on it.”
Of course these daddies also have little girls in their lives that they’re parenting...
“I love having daughters. They pet me,” Russ says with a laugh. “My son punches me and wants to wrestle. My daughters just pet me.”
Matt, whose baby girl spent the first 40 days fighting for her life in the NICU is also learning the joys and the differences of girls and boys. “She fights for everything,” says Matt. “She is one tough cookie.”
Mark can relate. The latest addition to their family, Hope, whom they adopted from China, has been fighting for her health since day one as well.
“A lot of her digestive system didn’t exist when she was born,” Mark explains. “She’s still suffering and having to work through the challenges, but what overshadows all of it is knowing that she would have never made it to beyond three days old. God picked her up out of hopelessness and put her into our family.”
BLUEPRINTS BY GOD
Much like Hope was placed into the Hall family, God mapped out the blueprints of each of these families with the specific parents, specific children and specific circumstances to make it all not just work, but thrive and glorify him.
“We both married women who were built to be married to people like us,” says Matt.
“I met my wife before I started this,” says Russ, ”so we’ve grown in this ministry. A lot of times, she’s done the harder thing. She keeps the kids in love with daddy, she prays for me. It’s those little things that make it all worthwhile.”
You might say these men are humbly grateful for the women in their lives, the men who have poured into their lives and the men and women their children are becoming. And when it comes to parenting and family, they’re all well aware that none of it would matter if not for our Heavenly Father.
Much like the adopted child placed inside a family of love, girls and boys born to parents learning to raise and love and respect them, and husbands and wives brought together to do life hand in hand, so too did Jesus create us, adopt us, love us and choose to do life with us.
“God brought us to Hope,” says Mark. “And that’s the picture of what Jesus did for us. We were broken and helpless and even fighting it and he still became Daddy to us.”
Used with permission - www.todayschristianmusic.com