Getting Your Dad Game On
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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 Lopes shares practical advice to dads for leading their families spiritually. Lopes reminds dads that they can’t just tell their sons what to do, but they need to show them what to do.
Getting Your Dad Game On
Bob: What does it look like for a dad to be a spiritual leader in his home? Jerrad Lopes says it looks like more than leading a 15-minute devotional every day.
Jerrad: For sure, do the 15-minute devotional time; but they also need a daddy, who’s going to, in every situation, be trying to figure out, “What is the lesson that I can point my kids back to Christ in this moment?” That’s what Jesus did. It wasn’t just, “Let’s sit down and study the Scriptures for 15 minutes”; it’s: “Let’s walk and talk; and as we’re walking and talking, let Me show you about the kingdom.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. To be the kind of dad, who can engage with his kids on spiritual matters throughout the day/throughout their lives, means you have to be a dad, who is feeding on God’s Word yourself. We’re going to talk more about that today with Jerrad Lopes. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, I’m just curious: “When did you feel like Dave kicked in as a dad? How many years into being a dad did he go, ‘Oh! I have a job to do here; I should get engaged’?”
Ann: Probably after our—I mean, he was engaged; he would help me. But when he really kicked in was probably after our third [child]—like: “I cannot do this. I have to have your help.” Yes; I feel like Dave just kept getting better and better, but he didn’t have a dad or a role model. I think I was judging him; and I had expectations of what he should do or be like,—
Dave: Oh yes.
Ann: —without realizing he had no idea how to go about doing this.
Dave: Yes; it’s been awhile, Bob; but I do remember going to guys in our church that were, in my opinion, great dads. I sort of evaluated that by looking at their teenage kids and thinking, “Man, if my son or daughter look like that at 15, 16, 18 years old…” I would buy them lunch—this was back before digital days—I’d have a little piece of paper and I’d say, “Okay; talk to me about being a dad.”
I started to see common denominators, and one of them was they prayed. I remember thinking: “Man, these are men of prayer for their kids. This isn’t something they say; they actually do.”
Bob: You made the decision, at that point, that you were going to set aside a day a week?
Dave: Yes; I mean, that was when my first son was born—he’s 33 now—I decided, “One day a week, I’m going to fast and pray.” Not that I didn’t pray the other days; but: “I’m not going to eat on Fridays until sundown; and all day long, I’m going to pray for those boys—and their wives, someday; and my grandkids, that I now have names for. As you can imagine—standing there, as their dad and the pastor of their wedding ceremony, looking at a girl I had been praying for before she was born, was pretty powerful.
Bob: Yes; when you say, “…set aside Friday—don’t eat anything until sundown”—so no breakfast, no lunch, no snacks in between, and spend the day praying—were you taking the whole day and praying, or were you just praying—like, when you’d feel hungry for a snack, you’d say, “That’s a prompt to prayer”?
Dave: Yes; my hunger pangs were prayer pangs, and I would pray all day.
Ann: And you were working that day, too.
Dave: I worked; I worked out; it was a normal day, but it was sort of a sacred moment for me. If I couldn’t do it on a Friday, for whatever reason, I’d do it on a Wednesday. It was a weekly—I still do. It’s a powerful ritual in my life that I feel changed the way I did being a dad.
Bob: Well, we have another dad, who’s here, who is talking to a tribe of dads regularly through his weekly podcast, which is called Dad Tired, and his Facebook® community of dads, who want to do it right, and now a new book called Dad Tired and Loving It. Jerrad Lopes’ joining us on FamilyLife Today. Jerrad, welcome.
Jerrad: Thank you so much.
Bob: You hear Dave talk about this; and don’t you go, “I should just quit even trying to be a dad, because…”?
Jerrad: Yes; I was taking notes. [Laughter] We are in the digital age, so I’m looking at my phone: “How do I add these notes down? This is really good stuff.” I’m a young dad, so trying to figure it out; so I’m on the other end.
Bob: You started your Dad Tired blog how many years ago?
Jerrad: It’s about four years now; yes.
Bob: What’s been the biggest piece of advice or the biggest feedback—what is it that you’ve learned that’s kind of your biggest takeaway?—because you’ve written a lot and shared a lot with guys, but you’ve been a learner along the way as well.
Jerrad: Yes; one thing that has surprised me, as I’ve traveled the country and spent a lot of time with a lot of dads my age, is—I think the pendulum swung really hard, and most guys my age are really engaged dads. If you go to any park across America right now, and you just spend some time there, you’re actually going to see a ton of dads playing with their kids. It’s really remarkable, and I think that’s just all of us kind of saying, “This is what we wish we would have had as kids.”
But most dads, and most Christian dads, still say: “Yes, I’m engaged. I feel like I’m doing pretty decent—I like playing with my kids and being there for my kids, but I don’t totally know what it means to be a spiritual leader.” Actually, most guys would say: “I have no clue what it means to be a spiritual leader. I know how to do really well at work; I have some good hobbies; but leading my family towards Jesus?—totally clueless.”
Bob: Did you have a clue when you started on the journey?
Jerrad: Not at all.
Bob: Because your dad left when you were three, so no modeling. I remember having a conversation with an author and speaker, Voddie Baucham, who—Voddie’s story: his dad was out of the picture; actually, his mom shipped him off to an uncle for a summer, who kind of helped him grow up and man up a little bit; but he said, “I didn’t have anything to fall back on.” He said, “Here’s what I had—I had the Bible.”
You know what? He said that’s more powerful than having had a dad. If guys will just get into the Word, the Scriptures will train you on what you’re supposed to do. You read it and you say, “I should be doing that”; you do it, and it makes a difference.
Jerrad: Yes, that’s exactly right. So, even this last week, my son and I—there were some behavioral stuff that I was trying to work out with him. I was getting a little bit frustrated with him, because I had high expectations on his behavior and just felt like he wasn’t being disciplined. I just felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me, “Well, are you the man you want your son to be?” I’m not; I haven’t been disciplined.
So I thought, “I don’t need to just tell him what to do; I need to show him what to do,” which makes sense in the Scriptures. Jesus was always a show-and-tell kind of guy, not just tell—not just tell and tell—but show and tell. I’m like, “Alright; I need to tell my kids, but I also need to show them.”
So I just told my son: “Let’s read the Bible together every morning. Let’s wake up before the rest of the family, and let’s study the Word of God. I want you to be disciplined, but I also want to be disciplined. Let’s do this together.” We just started going through
James 1, which—you know, you go through any book of the Bible—but especially James, it’s like real practical stuff!—you know?
Jerrad: So we just read it.
I always tell guys: “You don’t need to know how to say things in Greek and Hebrew and be the best theologian; literally, just read the Bible. Just read it, and then try to practice doing what it says.” We just read James 1:19, which says to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” We memorized that together; and I said, “If we can memorize it all week, we’ll celebrate by having some ice cream at the end of the week.” My son memorized that, and then we just tried to practice all week: “Okay; I want to be quick to listen here; I want to be slow to become angry; I want to be slow to speak.”
There’s no deep theological stuff happening, as far as, you need to go real deep; you just literally read the Bible and practice doing what it says to do.
Dave: Jerrad, as a young dad, what is your goal? I know you say, early in the book, that so many of us want to raise moral children. You’re like: “That’s not good enough. There’s a bar higher.” What is the bullseye you’re shooting for?
Jerrad: For me, a conversation that we often have in our home is—I tell my kids, “This is what I want your kids to be like, and what I want their kids to be like…” My children—especially my son, who’s eight/my daughter, who’s six—they will often already be thinking about their future kids—by God’s grace, if He gives them kids one day—what they'll be like. In fact, we just had this conversation a couple days ago, telling my son: “What will it be like when you tell your kids about Jesus one day?” and “What will it be like when your kids tell their kids about Jesus one day?”
My end goal is to be sitting on a really comfortable chair in the living room and to see a bunch of kids and grandkids loving each other, and talking and playing, and that they would love the Lord. That’s my goal. And that, when I die, there’s just a huge legacy of people, who are following Jesus—that’s what I’m trying to do.
Dave: It’s amazing that you didn’t come from that.
Dave: So this is a whole new legacy that you’re the one to get to start it.
Jerrad: Yes; I had always heard about—like, “You can be the one that breaks the rhythms of sin in your life and legacy of sin, and kind of these patterns that have been passed down.” That’s a heavy weight, man; but it is the only thing I’m striving for. By God’s grace, if I’m an old man and I’m lying on my death bed, the only thing that I’ll be excited about is to hear my kids say, “Man, my dad stumbled his way through it; he didn’t always get it right; but man, did that guy love Jesus,” and “I’m so thankful he told me about Him.”
Bob: I always think of 3 John, the little book of 3 John, verse 4. John there is talking about his spiritual children—but certainly, it applies to our physical children—John says, “I have no greater joy than this”—stop and think: “no greater joy”; “Nothing makes me happier/brings me deeper joy than this”—“to know that my children are walking in the truth.”
I’ll tell you—as a dad, with grown kids and now grandkids, if one of my kids calls and says: “I got a raise. I mean, it’s a huge raise and a promotion, and we’re going to be able to pay off our college debt,” “We got a new car,” or “We’re going to have a baby!”—all of those, you go, “I’m rejoicing with you.” But if they’re calling, and they’re not walking in the truth—the new car, and the baby, and all of that—there’s still a burden. But if they call and say, “I got fired today, and the car broke down,” but they’re walking in the truth; I have no greater joy than that.
I just think, as moms and dads, we have to recognize just exactly what you’re saying. Whether you’re sitting in the chair or not, when you look around and you see: “You know what? My kids love Jesus, and they’re walking it, and they’re trying to live it out,” there’s nothing that brings contentment and peace to your soul like that. If that’s the end product: “Now, how do you get from here to there?”—that’s what you’re stumbling your way toward as you work through this; right?
Jerrad: If you think: “My main goal here is just to go to work so I can pay our bills,”—I mean, of course, guys are going to get bored with that; that’s not a big story—but when you describe what you just said—like, “No, my main goal is that my kids know and love Jesus,” that’s worth getting up, and that’s worth putting in the hard work.
Ann: One of the things you say in the book is: “The greatest gift you can give your children is Jesus,” and “The best way to point them toward Jesus is by loving your wife like Jesus loves the church.” I love that you said that; because you don’t necessarily think of that, as a dad: “What can I do for my kids? Oh, it’s loving my wife.” You talk in that chapter—it’s called “Satan’s Cesspool,”—[Laughter]—which was a great chapter—talk about that. Why is that important for our kids?
Jerrad: Well, it’s the greatest picture of the gospel that they’ll ever see. To be able to say, “I know you fully and I love you fully,” where else will they get that? Where else will they actually see that; right? They’ll be in tons of relationships, but my goal is—and I think the way that God designed marriage is—that they’ll look at Mommy and Daddy and say, “Well, they’re both really sinful and messy, but they love each other fully,” which is a glimpse of the God that loves them—knows you fully, and loves you fully.
That’s why I’m always trying to figure that out myself and push guys to: “That’s the greatest gift you can give your kids. More than any devotional you read to them, taking them to Sunday school, and all that, the greatest glimpse of the gospel is them to see two people, who know each other fully and love each other fully, is the glimpse of the gospel that they’ll have—real life. Which is why, when we’re together and things are hard, if I were to bail—if I were to say, ‘Oh, this is really hard; I’m going to leave,’—it’s an inaccurate view of the gospel for them.”
Of course, God’s grace is good; there are no boundaries of God’s grace—praise God—but that’s what we’re trying to do. I think that’s what God designed marriage for—is to give our kids a glimpse of the good news.
Ann: Were you good at that when you got married? Were you like, “I am good at being a husband!”? How did that go for you?
Jerrad: No; I’ve never said that. [Laughter]
Ann: But you did share a story of going down a river, and you compared your marriage or being married to that experience.
Jerrad: Yes; I had some friends say, “Hey, Jerrad; do you want to float down the river together?” I love being on the water; so I’m like, “Absolutely, this sounds like a blast.” I show up; I’m in board shorts and flip-flops—in California, you know, we’re going to get on inner tubes; we’re going to float down the river, and we’ll have a blast. We’re a bunch of young guys, and we’re floating down the river.
One of my buddies says: “Hey, do you want to go in my inflatable kayak, and I’ll jump in your inner tube? We’ll swap before we head home.” I said, “That sounds great; I’d love to jump in the kayak.” So I get in the kayak. What I didn’t know was they were about ready to head home, so they had actually exited the river. I’m on my inflatable kayak; and I’m just kind of up a ways by myself, floating down the river. I’m laying there, and I’m looking up at the trees and the water. I can hear the birds, and I’m so relaxed. This is exactly why I came—I came to have a relaxing float down the river today.
All of a sudden, behind me, I hear these guys say, “Hey man, have you ever done this river before?” I’m like: “Done this river? What does that even mean?” I turn around and I look; and there are two guys in wetsuits. They have life jackets and helmets on, in their white-water kayaks. I’m like: “This is overkill,”—you know?—like, “Man, calm down.” They pull up to my little inflatable kayak and say, “Yes, man; just wanted to tell you to be careful, because Satan’s Cesspool’s right up ahead.”
I’m like, “Okay; Satan’s Cesspool.” I kid you not, as those words came out of their mouths, I felt like the current of the river just immediately picked up. [Laughter] They took off ahead, and I could see them just drop off the horizon. As I’m getting closer, I see that there are actual photographers/professional photographers taking pictures of these kayakers going down this waterfall.
Bob: —including the idiot in the inflatable! [Laughter]
Jerrad: I’m like: “This is it, man. This is my death.” I hit Satan’s Cesspool/hit the waterfall, and immediately my kayak folds in half. There was just no chance; I get flipped out. The pressure of the waterfall is just pushing me down. It was the one and only time in my life I was praying for my life: “God, please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die.” Kind of a Jonah story—I just spit up on shore somehow.
You know, I showed up that day to have a relaxing float down the river; and I ended up almost losing my life. I always say it feels a little bit like marriage. I officiate a lot of weddings now, and I see a lot of people show up—I always say: “It looks like you showed up in board shorts and flip-flops,” and ”I just want to smack you across the head and say, like: ‘Dude, you’re about to hit Satan’s Cesspool. Wipe that smile off your face; you’re about to get hit hard,’”; because most people are signing up for marriage, because they think it’s going to be just really fun and awesome.
Ann: —and make them happy.
Jerrad: Yes: “I get to marry my best friend; we can travel the world together.” You talk to any married person, longer than six weeks, and you’re like, “This is a lot harder than what I thought it was going to be.”
Bob: My wife and I—anytime we’re doing marriage counseling with couples—I will always say, “You need to know this is going to be harder than you imagine.” She will always say, “And it’s fun, and it’s worth it.” She wants to come along behind and just say, “Don’t try to scare them out of this.”
I’m not trying to scare anybody out of anything. Here’s what we need to make sure—we need to make sure that, when we’re in it and it gets hard, we can remember somebody saying, “Oh, they said this was going to happen,”—not so that they’re thinking, “Something must be wrong with me,” or “…with her,” or “…this marriage,”—but: “Oh, yes; somebody said there are rapids ahead,” and “Don’t be surprised when you hit them,” and “You can come out the other side, surviving it.”
Jerrad: Right; the beauty is, when those rapids hit and the white water hits, some would say—because the white waters hit in our own marriage—some would say to my wife—like: “Why don’t you leave? You can find a better husband. You can find a husband, who’s more engaged and will treat you better than that.”
Ann: “You can float down the river with someone else.”
Jerrad: Yes; “There’s a better kayak,” “There’s a better river,”—however you want to take that analogy—but what my wife would say is, “I’m not going to leave him, because Christ has not left me in my mess.” That is the picture of the gospel we want our kids to see. Even when Mommy and Daddy are messy and sinful, they don’t leave each other. They know each other fully and love each other fully. Again, that’s the good news that I’m trying to point my kids to.
Ann: How do you guys put your marriage first before your kids?—when the kids are so demanding; you’re exhausted—that’s going on—how do you make marriage a priority?
Jerrad: A lot like the fasting day, you have to put things on your calendar. I had a mentor tell me, “If it doesn’t make your calendar, or it’s not reflective in your bank account, you actually don’t value it as much as you say you do. Your time and your money always prove out what you actually value.”
So for us, it’s literally putting scheduled days on the calendar, where it’s just Mommy and Daddy, who are now husband and wife. We schedule things, and we’re pretty strict about it and protecting those things. We even actually schedule date nights with our kids every month on the calendar as well. But it has to hit the calendar, because you don’t just unintentionally find yourself being a better husband or having this great marriage.
Dave: You know, I’m looking at a line in your book—and now we’re going from your marriage back to being a dad; right?—by the way, I just got a new title for our next marriage book, honey [Ann]. We can call it: Welcome to Satan’s Cesspool! You know? [Laughter] Happily Ever After! Anyway, that’s another whole thing.
Bob: I don’t think that’s going to be a New York Times number one.
Ann: I don’t think I would pick that up, as a wife; maybe the men would. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes! But it’s so true; it is exactly the truth.
The same thing is—you know, there’s this similar thing—becoming a parent: “It’s not going to be that hard.” You know, “Raising kids, can’t be…”; you know, you look at others and think, “They’re not doing it that well; mine will be so much easier.”
But here’s a line in your book I love—it says, “Raising kids, who are passionately in love with Jesus, seems to involve two things.” I wonder, if you could do a show of hands, you know, what would people say?—“What are those two things?” You say: “A dad, who is himself passionately in love with Jesus, and one who is willing to teach his kids about Him in every situation.” Talk about that.
Jerrad: God can do whatever He’s going to do; so there are many people, who are following Jesus right now, passionately, who didn’t have moms and dads, who were passionately following Him—that’s just the grace of God and the goodness of God. But our kids are much more set up to fall in love with Jesus when we love Jesus. It’s hard to—and kids sniff it out. I mean, you guys know this—that it’s hard to talk to my kids about something that I’m not actually passionate about. “So you want your kids to fall in love with Jesus? Ask yourself, ‘Are you, yourself, in love with the Lord?’ That’s the first thing.”
The second thing there is—using every opportunity. I think, oftentimes, we, as men—there’s a book that talks about men’s brains are waffles, and women’s brains are spaghetti—men have compartments; right? We can kind of: “There’s this compartment,” and “This compartment,” and “This compartment.” For a man, they think: “Okay; I want my kids to love the Lord. What will Jesus time look like? What are those 15 to 30 minutes a day that I need to take out so that my kids will fall in love with Jesus?”
What I am trying to do in the book is say: “Your kids need way more than a 15-minute devotional time. For sure, do the 15-minute devotional time; but they also need a daddy who’s going to, in every situation, be trying to figure out, “What is the lesson that I can point my kids back to Christ in this moment?’” That’s what Jesus did. It wasn’t just, “Let’s sit down and study the Scriptures for 15 minutes”; it’s: “Let’s walk and talk; and as we’re walking and talking, let Me show you about the kingdom.”
Dave: Yes; and I think it’s interesting for me, as a dad, to think, “There’s no way I can do that unless it’s an overflow.”
Jerrad: That’s right.
Dave: I can’t read a book and, “Oh, I’m going to make this part of 10 a.m. and then again at 1.” It’s got to be: “I’m plugged in, and it’s flowing out of me into my kids.” So every mom—and interesting thing: it’s Mom and Dad/or Mom or Dad, if you’re single parents—but it’s like: “The thing I’d take away from this discussion is, ‘What about me?’”
It’s so easy to focus on my kids: “They’re not being the kids…” “They’re not obeying the way…” What about me, looking in the mirror, and saying, “I’m going to start with me and my walk with Jesus,” almost like that’s all I’m going to do; and it will overflow. It’s going to be contagious, because it’s going to be the fruit of my life.
Bob: Well, and we’ve talked about this already this week; but don’t try to tackle that thing on your own, either.
Bob: Don’t say: “Okay, what about me? I’m on my own to try to make this work.” Have community; have other guys in your life. Be a part of a local faith community, and be interacting. Get other men engaged with you. Maybe get involved in the closed Facebook group that Jerrad has going on, where you have a virtual community, online.
Now, I would say, “Don’t try to substitute local community for virtual community”; right? You’d agree with that.
Jerrad: Yes, that’s always my fear—is that guys would think that they’re getting enough through an online community, which is not true.
Bob: Yes; the reality is—your virtual community is helpful, but it’s not the same as face to face; it’s not the same as a guy you can call and say, “Can we have breakfast?—because I need to talk about something.”
Dave: Yes; I always say it this way: “You need both digital and analog.
Bob: That’s right.
Dave: “Analog is real people.”
Bob: Yes; you can find out more about the virtual community that Jerrad has going on when you go to our website, ®Today.com; and find out more about his book; but again, don’t let that keep you from life-on-life connection with guys at your local church—guys in your community—guys who are going to point you in the right direction; you’re going to keep pointing one another in the right direction.
Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to get a copy of Jerrad Lopes’ book, Dad Tired and Loving It: Stumbling Your Way to Spiritual Leadership. Again, you can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329. Again, on our website, there’s information about Jerrad Lopes’ blog and about the community of guys, who are gathering online. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, and get in touch with us if you’d like a copy of the book or if there are other resources we can help you with.
Speaking of resources, I wrote a book called The Christian Husband that’s about spiritual leadership in your marriage. We want to make that book available to listeners, who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife® with a donation today. FamilyLife Today exists to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world, one home at a time.
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And we hope you can join us again tomorrow. Jerrad Lopes will be here again to continue talking about what spiritual leadership in your home looks like. By the way, one of the things it looks like—we’ll talk about this tomorrow—is messing up in front of your kids. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.
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. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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