The Spiritually Awake Dad
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Jerrad LopesJerrad Lopes is a Christian pastor and the founder of DadTired.com, a non-profit ministry focused on equipping men to lead their family well. He hosts the weekly Dad Tired Podcast, listened to by hundreds of thousands of men from around the world. He and his wife Leila live in Portland, Oregon with their three children.
Jerrad Lopesrallies dads to be “all in” when it comes to spiritually engaging with their children. Lopes strives to be the spiritual leader in his home and wants his kids to see just how much he needs Jesus.
The Spiritually Awake Dad
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 8th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Part of spiritual leadership is modeling what confession and repentance look like. We have plenty of opportunities, as dads, to do that. We’re going to talk more about that today with Jerrad Lopes. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You had a number of football coaches. Your first football coach—were you in junior high when you played football for the first time?
Dave: I was ten years old, Bob; and I played for the Detroit Lions. It was called the Lions, and we had little Detroit Lions on our helmet. I was a little quarterback. They called me “Mouse”; because my voice was so high. [High voice]: “Dave! Do 44!”
Bob: I bring up the coaches, though—because for you to be the caliber quarterback that you wound up being—you played college ball; you’re in the Hall of Fame at Ball State University; right?
Dave: Yes, and those coaches, at every level, were my dads. I don’t know if that’s where you were going, but they were the mentors and the men in my life—because I didn’t have a dad in the home—that were the first men I looked at, like, “That’s what a man is.”
Bob: Part of what I was thinking was—for you to be a quality quarterback, you had to have somebody, who was correcting, who was shaping, who was pointing you. If you’d just tried to do that on your own, with no coaching—
Bob: —you’re a natural athlete, so you’d have been okay; but you’d have never been able to play college ball.
Dave: Yes; my high school coach for all four years was a college quarterback, and he was intricate and trained me.
Bob: The reason I mention it is because I think there are a lot of guys today, who are trying to be all-pro dads, and they had no coaching—
Bob: —just the little things that a dad knows, where he can correct what’s going on with his son.
Ann: Here’s what happens with us, as women and wives—we think, “Oh, I can help you!” [Laughter] But instead of coming alongside and encouraging, we’re pointing out the flaws and saying, “This is what you should do,” and that doesn’t feel like life to a man. That’s not motivating to a man or helpful.
Dave: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a community of men, who could get together and talk about how to be a dad? Wouldn’t that be something?
Bob: Well, as a matter of fact, as you know, there is one. Jerrad Lopes is joining us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Jerrad, welcome back.
Jerrad: Thank you so much.
Bob: Jerrad is the author of a book called Dad Tired and Loving It. He hosts a podcast called Dad Tired, and you do have an online community of—it’s about 8,000 guys in the Facebook® community?
Jerrad: Yes, a little over 8,000 guys in that Facebook community; yes.
Bob: This is guys getting together and saying: “Okay; I need help,” or “I learned this the other day…” or “You guys should try this…” or “Read this…” They’re just iron sharpening iron with one another. They’re doing some peer-to-peer coaching; right?
Jerrad: Yes; that’s exactly right.
Bob: We talked about Dave, as a football player, and his need for a coach. Do you feel like you’ve had a dad coach in your life?
Jerrad: There was actually a guy—another pastor at a church that I worked at before—I met him at the church before I had started to have kids. He was one of those guys, where I would watch and I saw his kids, who were in their teenage years. I’m like, “Oh, man, this guy—he has done something right,” because I’m really impressed with his marriage and really impressed with his kids.
He took me under his wing and discipled me. He would have me in his home—I would watch the way that they would interact; I would watch the way he was talking to his kids; we’d go on family vacations. That was the first time, really, that I feel like I’d actually been discipled—like life on life—tons of hours of just watching him do.
Bob: Can you think of the big takeaway from what you watched?— how he interacted with his kids; or things you saw, where you said, “I have to do that when I have kids.”
Jerrad: The biggest takeaway that I can think of—is there were two actual kind of pivotal moments that I remember. One is—I had been stressing about work stuff. I was young and trying to figure out, “What am I going to do with my life/my career?”—just trying to sort all this stuff out. I was really stressed; and I asked him, “Can we go to coffee and just process this together?”
He listened to me very politely for however long I rambled. He just kind of sat back in his chair, and he smiled and he said: “Jerrad, knowing you, you’re going to have a bunch of job titles before you die. You’ll just do a bunch of stuff. Your business card will say a lot of different things. But the titles that will go with you to the grave are ‘Husband,’ ‘Father,’ and ‘Disciple.’ You will die a husband; you will die a father; and you will die a disciple of Jesus.” He said, “Go home and crush it at those things.”
I was like, “Oh; okay.” I respect this guy so much, and this is what he says is most valuable. I was like—that just relieved me of a ton of stuff. All the other stuff comes and go—jobs come and go—but I just really want to do really well at those three things.
Bob: I think a lot of guys step into life with that pressure, that: “If I’m going to be the man I’m supposed to be, I have to win in the marketplace,” and “I’ll be able to take care of marriage and family on the backstroke, but I have to really invest in the marketplace.”
You talk with guys about this a lot. Even guys, who are taking their kids to the park and showing up for their Little League—they’re still showing up for the Little League games, but they’re doing emails in the bleachers; right?
Jerrad: Right; yes. That story made me think of the word picture I’ve heard somewhere—I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s really popular—that you spend your whole life climbing up the ladder and then you realize you’re on the wrong building. That’s where I don’t want to be—is climbing up something and, by the end of my life, realize, “Oh, I’m on the wrong building here!”
Dave: You talk about that with the jersey, in your book, about running to the wrong end zone. Tell that story, because it’s pretty funny; but it makes this point.
Jerrad: Yes; I had been a soccer player in high school—that was kind of my sport of choice. There was one day in high school—I was a freshman boy in high school—and I remember it was a Friday. All the football players wore their jersey on game day to get the whole school pumped up for the game that night.
I remember I was at my locker; and this guy walked in/football player—senior in high school walked in—he looked like a celebrity, in my mind, and apparently to everyone else; because all these girls turned and looked at him, just like—again, like a celebrity had walked in the room. I remember, as a 15-year-old boy, thinking: “How do I get that?! How can I be like that guy?”
My first thought was, “I need a football jersey.” I was at soccer practice that day, and I just ran over to the football team. I just asked the coach, “Hey, do you need a kicker?” He said, “Sure.” The football team did great. I had my football jersey; I wore that thing four out of the five days of the week; you know? But there was one day, towards the end of the season, where we were just crushing another team. I think the coach—what he was trying to do was just get players, who didn’t get a lot of playing time, some playing time—so he says, “Lopes, you’re in!”
I’m like: “What? We didn’t score! Why am I in?” He says, “Lopes!” He gets real mad, like football coaches do: “Lopes, you’re in! Get in there!” I run in there; we get in the huddle. The quarterback says a mixture of words I’ve never heard before—[Laughter]—you know, colors, and numbers, and states. I’m like, “I have no idea what we’re talking about here.”
Then, all the players, at the same time, clap their hands together and run away, which I didn’t know was part of the plan. I’m left standing there, like, “What in the world is going on?” I turned to the quarterback and I said, “Man, what’s happening?” He says, “Ball’s coming to you, Lopes.” I stand at the line of scrimmage, and he hikes the ball. We make eye contact; and I’m shaking my head, like, “Do not throw that ball to me, man.” [Laughter]
He throws me the ball, and I catch it. I turn around, and there’s two seven-foot defenders ready to kill me. I’m in my little kicker pads and my little gear. I’m like, “Absolutely not; we’re not doing this.” My first thought—again, as a little freshman—was, “I’m just going to run back and give him the ball back, and we’ll start this whole thing over again. Obviously, he didn’t understand what I was saying—that I don’t know what’s going on.” [Laughter] Short story long, I ended up losing about 65 yards on the play, before my own team tackled me before I got in the wrong end zone. [Laughter]
My point there is: “Really, what end zone are we actually trying to run towards?” The other point is: “Do you just want to be on the Jesus team, because it comes with a jersey; or are you willing to actually put in the work and figure out what it means to be on the team?” I just wanted a jersey.
Bob: Jerrad, talk to the guy, who is saying: “Look, if I am going to be successful—I mean, keep paying the bills and doing the stuff—I mean, we wanted to put the kids in private school, so I’m working hard to try to make that happen,” or just “We’re trying to pay off this…”—or whatever it is—and he goes: “This is what it takes. If I don’t dig in like this and work this hard, our family’s not going to make it. I hear what you’re saying about being there—Little League and all that—but we have to do this to survive.”
Jerrad: There are a couple things that I think are happening there. The first one is—I just can’t imagine—and I may be wrong; I’m a young dad—but I can’t imagine I’m going to be an old man and my kids will say, “Man, Dad, I wish you would have just gotten us a little bit more money.” I could imagine them saying, “I wish you would have been around a little bit more, and you would have been a little bit more engaged.” That’s kind of what I’m banking on; that’s why I’m investing so much time with my kids, and helping them become followers of Jesus.
The other thing is—I think what’s actually happening, on a deeper level: if those guys, who would say that, are honest—I think what they’re actually feeling is: “I don’t really know what I’m doing as the spiritual leader of my house, but I do know what I’m doing at work,” so I can kind of use the excuse as, “I’m the provider, and I’ll just work super hard; and I’ll send emails late at night, and I’ll just work, work, work; and I’ll put in 50, 60, 70 hours a week.”
But I think, if those guys were honest, they would just be like: “I just want to do what I’m good at,” and “I feel good at work, and I don’t really feel that good as the spiritual leader of my home; so being the ‘provider’ is a good excuse for me to work harder and too much.”
Dave: And yet, we’re seeing a generation/your generation—at least, I think I’m seeing—they are engaged. Somehow, they’re doing a pretty good job of what they need to do at work, and they are providing—and again, not 100 percent, obviously; but I’m watching my three sons/I’m watching other young men—it’s like, “Wow!” My own wife has even said, “You were never that involved, as a dad, as they are.” What do you think is going on with these guys?
Jerrad: I don’t think there needs to be a push for dads to be engaged with their kids. Of course, there are exceptions to that; we always need dads to be engaged with kids. But I think you’re right—that my generation is really, really engaged. They’re at the parks; they’re at the games; they’re even coaching games. I look around at my peers; and there are some really, really engaged dads.
The missing link is: “How do you turn that into being the spiritual leader of your home and pointing your family towards Jesus?” That’s where guys are like: “I actually have no idea. I have no idea how to do that. I can show up to their games; I can coach their games; and I can wrestle around; I can give them baths; change diapers; get up at night and give bottles—or whatever—but when it comes to pointing them towards Jesus, no clue what I’m doing.”
Bob: You would say part of what leads to the shift, where a guy goes, “Okay; I can do this,”—part of it is an understanding of the gospel beyond—“This is the message about Jesus that we believe that brings us to salvation.” It’s an understanding of the gospel that: “This is the message that fuels our life, day in and day out, even as followers of Christ.”
Explain so a listener, who’s going, “I think about the gospel as that evangelistic appeal that we give to people; and they hear it and they believe it; and then they move on to the other things of life.”
Jerrad: Right; “Say a prayer, and then I kind of wait to die and go to heaven one day.”
Listen, a lot of the stuff that you hear, even sometimes in the church community/in the Christian community, could be said at an atheist conference, because it’s just “morally good” stuff. One example of that would be, you know: “You should apologize often to your kids, because it teaches humility. It’s good for you to be humble; you want your kids to learn to be humble.” Well, of course; everyone agrees with that—Christian/non-Christian—everyone agrees it’s good to apologize to your kids.
The way that you take something like that and you make it a gospel-centered thing—instead of just a good, moral principle is—what I want to do is: I want to apologize to my kids, and I want to apologize to them often; because I want my kids to see that Daddy desperately needs Jesus to change parts of his broken heart. That’s why I apologize—not because I’m just trying to be a humble, good, moral dad—but I want them to see, “Daddy’s not the hero of our family. He’s not the hero of the story.”
When I sit down with my little girl, and I hold her hands and I say: “Daddy has sinned, and I should not have yelled at you like that. I’m sorry, and I need Jesus to fix this broken area of my heart. I’ve asked God for forgiveness, and now I’m asking you for forgiveness. Will you forgive me?” What I’m doing is—I’m modeling for her: “Oh, even Daddy needs salvation. Even Daddy needs for somebody to rescue him.” Eventually, one day, I’ll say, “Hey, baby girl, you also have sin in your heart; and Jesus needs to rescue you, too.” And that will make sense for her, because she’s seen Daddy apologize over and over and over again.
Bob: When we were putting together the Art of Parenting™ video series—I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see it or not—
Jerrad: Yes; it’s great stuff.
Bob: —I remember one of the contributors, Jessica Thompson, who said, “In our house, it’s kind of on repeat around here to say, ‘I’m a sinner, just like you.’”
Honestly, I thought, when we were raising our kids, that what they needed from me was the kind of rock-solid example of righteousness; so that they would see that modeled and they would go, “This is what I’m supposed to be.” So I thought, “I need to keep hidden…”; but what my kids needed to see was the brokenness in my own life, and my own repentance, and my own need for Jesus; because otherwise, here’s what the kids are thinking—they’re thinking: “I can never be as good as Dad. He, apparently, doesn’t stumble; but I do.” They’ll just start to go the other direction and go, “Well, I can’t be that. I’d better be something else”; right?
Dave: Yet, on the other side—tell me if I’m accurate here—it’s like they need to see both—the brokenness, the sinfulness of a parent or a human being; and yet, at the same time, victory and power of the Holy Spirit of God/Jesus’ presence in our life. Both are real. You don’t hide the sin—it’s there, and you confess it, and you apologize—but you also want your children to go: “Yes; but Dad has…” “Mom has—there’s a power that I want that isn’t them, and I know it’s Jesus. I know it’s Him!” That’s what—It’s both; right?
Jerrad: Yes; well, the subtitle of the book is Stumbling Your Way to Spiritual Leadership. So we’re stumbling, and that’s kind of that: “I’m going to admit that I’m broken, and I don’t have it all figured out,” but we’re also moving somewhere.
Jerrad: That’s also saying, “Daddy needs Jesus to change these broken areas of my heart,”—that’s the bad news—but it’s also the good news: “Jesus will change the broken areas of your heart, and He will make us righteous because of His righteousness in us”; you know.
Bob: One of the things people in our church have heard me say, over and over again, is that: “We begin a relationship with Jesus through repenting and believing the gospel; and then we sustain a relationship with Jesus through repenting and re-believing the gospel over and over again.”
It is the perpetual act of recognizing: “Oh, I blew it,” and then recognizing, “And there’s a Savior, who loves me, who provides forgiveness, and grace, and transformation.” I keep coming back to those words: “forgiveness,” “transformation,” and “hope,” as kind of—what the gospel says is: “Your past is forgiven; your present is being changed; there’s hope for your future.”
When you can think about: “This is what I’m living in. I’m living in the reality that, when I blow it today, there’s forgiveness—that God is at work, changing my heart for tomorrow; and then there’s a hope for the future that will not disappoint.” Living with that as the central, motivating factor of your life—the central truth that you’re building everything around—that’s revolutionary; and now that spills into every aspect of your marriage, your parenting, your work, your hobbies, everything; because that’s what life’s built around.
Ann: Jerrad, as I talk to so many women, they’re longing for their husbands to encounter this relationship with Jesus—to mentor their kids/to disciple them. What’s the best way for us, as women, to encourage our men?
Jerrad: About 60 percent of the people who follow along with Dad Tired—whether that be social media or the podcast—are women, which isn’t surprising; because women are often the ones kind of taking the lead in the spiritual way for the families. So yes; I get this question all the time. There are lots of women, who say, “Please, what can I do?”
The thing that I always tell women—and I know this will feel like I’m dodging the question—but I just can’t overemphasize a praying wife; because you, as a wife, do not hold the power to change your husband’s heart. You don’t have that. I don’t care how amazing you are; you’re not a good God. You will fail in that, and you need the One who can change hearts. You need to plead before Him.
I always tell wives: “To not pray is to silently declare that you have more power over that situation than God does.” It starts with praying to say/to humble yourself enough to say: “God, I cannot change my husband’s heart. I need You to do what I cannot do.” I believe God will honor that, but here’s the thing—there are many women, who have been praying that for years and years and years, and their husbands just still aren’t doing it. There’s this verse in 1 Peter 3 that says, if your husband doesn’t believe, that you would continue to live righteously so that he might come to the faith.
For a wife, I think that’s her hope—is that: “I’m going to live in such a way that, even if my husband doesn’t believe, that he might come to faith by seeing me follow and surrender to Jesus.”
Ann: I think for us, as women, we can ask God, “God, show me what my husband has that You’ve put in him, and help me to draw that out.” I didn’t do that for years with Dave; but I know that God said to me, “Look at him and see the greatness that I’ve put in him as a spiritual leader.”
I think men feel inadequate in this area anyway; so when we’re criticizing them, it just heaps on more guilt and shame. I think, for us, as women, we have so much influence/we have so much power in our words, of asking God, “God, show me what You’ve put in him that I can call out and draw out of him.”
Dave: I would just add—I think, at some point, every man has to make a decision for himself to say: “I’m going to be that dad,” “I’m going to be that husband, whether my wife encourages or discourages/whether life is going my way or not.” At some point—I had to do it; I’m sure Bob had to do it; Jerrad, you’ve done it at some point.
I’m speaking to a man right now and saying: “Is today the day? Are you going to keep living the way you’ve been?—and just, maybe, even a victim—like almost like, “Are you going to be too tired to do anything?—dad tired?—or are you going to say, ‘Dad tired is a normal state of life’?”
We are tired; but at some point, we have to say: “Today’s the day. I want to become the husband God wants me to be/the dad God wants me to be. I’m going to surround myself with other men; I’m going to jump in this community; and I’m going to win this thing; I’m going to change my legacy.”
Bob: —and “I’m going to get the help I need.
Bob: “I’m not going to try to gut it out, because a lot of guys are going, ‘I don’t know where to begin.’” Okay; so get some help—get a copy of Jerrad’s book, connect with the Facebook community, read his blog, listen to his podcast. We have information about all of these resources on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Jerrad, thanks for taking time to be with us and being a part of the conversation this week.
Jerrad: So grateful to be here. Thank you.
Bob: Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Jerrad’s book and about his blog. The book is called Dad Tired and Loving It: Stumbling Your Way to Spiritual Leadership. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you, Jerrad, but the first place I ever heard of you, Jerrad, was when David Robbins, who’s with us in the studio—David mentioned you to me and said, “We ought to get Jerrad on FamilyLife Today.” You’ve been a fan for awhile.
David: I have, and I so appreciate our relationship. I mean, he has really stretched me; and I learn from Jerrad. We really enjoy our relationship together. In fact, I remember one of the first times we had a conversation. You gave me a template in talking to our kids and how to relate to them and reflecting Christ to them.
I remember going home that week and applying it; it was so helpful! There was a discipline moment with one of my sons, and I was looking, eye to eye, with him; and I just remember the power of the moment. I started welling up, telling him, “Buddy, I will not stop forgiving you; because God hasn’t stopped forgiving your dad. Son, you can run as far as you want, but I will not stop chasing you; because God has not stopped pursuing and chasing me.” Then I went on to tell him parts of my story—of the way God had forgiven me this week/the way God has pursued my heart this week—and just make it come alive in a present-tense way to my kid.
I love being able to grow in community, and Jerrad has been one of those people for me that has been iron sharpening iron to me. We need relationships with other dads. Parents need relationships with other parents—to learn from one another and, intentionally, grow to be a father that reflects the Father.
Bob: Yes; again, Jerrad, you’re providing that for a lot of guys—like David—on your website. We have a link at FamilyLifeToday.com so guys can get connected with what you’re doing. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Jerrrad’s book, and about his blog, and about this community we’ve been talking about.
We want to ask you to pray this weekend for couples, who are going to be joining us in—let me see—one, two, three, four, five, seven cities: Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Destin, Florida; Estes Park; Monterrey Bay, in California; and in Pittsburgh. These couples are joining us for Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways that we’re hosting this weekend. I just want to ask you to pray for those couples, as they spend a weekend with us, focusing on their marriage and how they can strengthen it.
For those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife®, you make these kinds of weekends possible, along with this radio program, our website, the resources we create. All that we do at FamilyLife happens because listeners, like you, say, “This is important, and we want to see it continue—want to see it expand and grow.” So thank you for your partnership with us in this ministry.
If you can help with a donation to support this ministry, we’d like to send you a copy of a book that I wrote called The Christian Husband. It’s about how men can be spiritual leaders in their marriage relationship. It’s our thank-you gift when you go online and make a donation, today, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call to donate at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend; and I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to talk about your marriage and your money; because sometimes money and marriage can make a volatile mix. Art Rainer will join us to help us figure out how we can get our arms around some of the money challenges we face in marriage. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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