How to Keep Showing Up (When You’d Rather Not): Brant Hansen
About the Guest
On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host author and radio host Brant Hansen, who knows the taste of dirt in your teeth when you’ve tried to do what’s right as a man. He also knows how to keep showing up.
How to Keep Showing Up (When You’d Rather Not): Brant Hansen
Dave: So you probably remember this moment on our honeymoon.
Ann: Oh, we’re going back to our honeymoon, 42 years—
Dave: —42 years ago. There are a lot of great moments on our honeymoon, right honey?
Ann: There were.
Dave: Please say there were.
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: This was in the hotel room in Boston, where this happened. It didn’t—
Dave: —feel like a great moment for me. But as I look back, it was a defining moment—
Dave: —you just went, “Ahh.”
Dave: I know you know what I’m talking about.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: Yes you are; and I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
We were in Boston, and we’re both pretty adventurous. I love to travel; I love to be on a new adventure. And we got on the subway in Boston. We both come from a little farm town in Ohio—Finley, Ohio—and so this was new for us. We get on—and here we are—we’re 19 and 22 years old. We’re on the subway, and we’re trying to figure out how to get back. You started getting really frustrated, because we were lost/so lost. I’m laughing, like, “This is funny; we’re so lost.” But you kept getting more and more quiet. We finally made it back to the hotel room.
When we get back there, I remember you just sitting on this chair; and you start to cry. And I don’t even know what’s going on, like, “What happened? What’s wrong?” You said—like you’re crying, and I don’t think I’d ever seen you cry before like this—and you said, “I don’t even know what I’m doing! I can’t even get us back from the subway! How am I going to lead you, as a man? How am I going to be a dad? I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Dave: There was like this—
Dave: —breakdown that I didn’t see coming, obviously. I felt this overwhelming weight of: “I have responsibilities, now, as a husband; hopefully, someday as a dad. I don’t think I can do this.” I was overwhelmed with: “I’m not a good enough man; you deserve a better man.” That day just highlighted all my deficiencies. I remember being scared to death of marriage and leading you.
In some ways, it was a defining moment; because it was humbling to go, “You know what? I don’t have what it takes; but God can give me what it takes to be the husband and the dad my kids need.”
Ann: I was so attracted and drawn to you in that moment, because of your vulnerability. I remember sitting on your lap, saying, “But we can do it together,”—like—"Jesus will help us.”
Dave: It was a cool moment. But I think a lot of men—maybe either get to that moment or are afraid of that moment—and today, we get to talk about manhood and the vision of manhood with Brant Hansen. He’s back with us; Brant, welcome back.
Brant: Thank you.
Dave: I mean, when you hear that story, again, what are you thinking?
Brant: I’m thinking the fact that: if you don’t have a good dad that you grew up with, it is really daunting to take on—it’s a little more daunting—it’s always daunting, because you realize the scope of it. I think if you took a poll of guys—and we were all being totally honest—that’s the vast majority:—
Ann: You think so?—like most men feel like that’s a daunting task?
Brant: —"It’s daunting,” and “Also, we don’t really know what we’re doing.”
I have some core principles now that I think are really good; they’re very energizing. I’m saying this idea of being a keeper of the garden—Adam’s job—and I see that as being my role in different ways; it’s very energizing.
But I still don’t/relationships are very difficult; it’s easier to do some other stuff.
Dave: Yes; and obviously, you talk on the radio every day.
Dave: So you’re good at that—you’re really good at that—people listen to you, and want to follow you, and get your autograph I’m sure; all that kind of stuff.
You write a book called The Men We Need,and it’s all about manhood. Yet, you come from a family, where you said there was a lot of fear. As you became a husband, and eventually a dad, did you feel some of the same—
Dave: —struggles that I was dealing with?
Brant: Absolutely; I still feel like I don’t necessarily—I mean, it’s called imposter syndrome, you know, for a lot of people—I do think it’s really intense for a lot of guys. Most, deep down, are going: “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” and “I don’t want other people to find out.”
I will say it’s gotten better for me over time—not because I’ve realized that: “Wow, I’m really competent,”—but instead, it’s like: “You know, God’s got me. I actually can trust Him.” It’s such a religious throw-away statement, to go: “Trust God,” “Trust Jesus,” “Trust…”; like: “Yes; okay.” Well, it matters now, when you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing. I really do think this trust-thing matters in the daily faithfulness—in learning— in Psalm 23:
- Where it says, “The Lord is my shepherd”; so He’s leading.
- And then, the next thing it says is: “I lack nothing”; I have what I need to do this today. I’ll let tomorrow take care of itself.
If somebody is like: “Hey, you really don’t know what you’re doing,” I’m like: “Yes, you’re probably right,” and “The Lord is my shepherd, and He’s been faithful.”
I tell guys that, too; it’s like: “I know how you feel; but let’s just be faithful, and keep showing up, and keep putting the effort into the right things. We have to talk about relationships, in particular, in your family.”
Ann: Well Dave, go back—we just shared that story when we first got married—what have you learned in 42 years?
Dave: It’s really what Brant’s been saying the last couple of days is—you just said it: “Show up every single morning, every single day, and figure this out,”—which means what Brant wrote about: “I’ve got to find out what a man is; I’ve got to find out what a Christian husband is; and a Christian godly dad is—I’ve got to know what that is.”
I think part of it is: two weeks before that moment on our honeymoon, we went to the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage conference, as an engaged couple. And we, now, speak for that—we’ve been speaking for that for 30 years—but we’d never been there. On Sunday morning, we split the husbands and the wives up; and we talk to the men/we talk to the wives.
I remember sitting there, as an engaged guy, getting married in two weeks, hearing what a husband, from the Scriptures should be, and what a dad, from the Scriptures should be. And walking out, absolutely overwhelmed, like: “I’ve never seen that. I’ve never heard that. I’ll never be able to do that.” Then, two weeks later, I was faced with my own deficiencies in that moment, like, “I won’t; I can’t.”
I think, now, it’s exact where God wanted me, like, “Yes, you can’t; but I can. You can trust Me—
Ann: It’s what you [Brant] said: “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Dave: —"and you allow Me to empower you—I will make you the man you can’t make yourself,” “I’ll make you the husband you could never be apart from Me.”
It was sort of a surrender. I’ve got to fall on my face, every moment, and say, “Jesus, I don’t have what it takes, but You do. Fill me and make me the husband she deserves,” and “…the dad my kids long for.”
I walk the dog every morning; I have this golden retriever named Cozy. We walk/I walk her every morning. That’s my time—like: “Okay, I’m going to pray,”—I’ve found I need to pray out loud.
Ann: Me too.
Brant: My neighbors probably wonder what’s going on. [Laughter] I’m not loud about it, but they see my mouth moving.
Dave: They think you’re talking to your dog.
Brant: —talking to the dog, yes.
But honestly, I don’t feel up to my job every day; I have to come up with so much content for my job.
Brant: And I talk to God about that: “I need Your help”; and He has provided. Prayer, to me, is like talking to God about what we’re doing together today. I don’t need to be fearful for that reason: “…for You are with me.” Even if I’m in “the valley of the shadow of death,” I don’t have anything to fear.
That’s been really helpful—admitting I’m not necessarily up to the task—I’ll talk to God about that. It’s been wild to see how He has been up to the task for me.
Dave: Oh, yes—it’s Ephesians 3:20—He does beyond what we can imagine or even dream. I mean our president here, David Robbins, always says—this is one of his quotes I’ll never forget—“If dependency is the goal, then weakness is an advantage.”
Brant: It totally is.
Dave: We always are like: “I don’t want to be weak; I want to be strong.” No, no; weakness isn’t bad; it’s an advantage. If depending on Christ is the goal, that’s going to get you there.
Brant: Well, then, His strength comes out in your life because you made space for it. And spoiler: His strength is better than ours. [Laughter]
Brant: He can do stuff you—I would not have planned the stuff that’s happened in my life at all—and I still don’t have a big blueprint; I have no idea. I’m trying to do the next thing.
But this said, one of the things I point out in the book is about: “Guys, like one of the decisions you have to make to become the man that we need, is take responsibility for your own spiritual life.” A lot of times, that can be a guilt thing for guys—it can be a—“Come on; step up. Do this…”
I’m trying to tell them: in American culture, feelings are everything. I mean, we see that in the mainstream culture: “Your feelings can outdo reality”; like it matters more than anything. I think the same thing happens with our concept of what it means to be a spiritual person. It can leave a lot of guys feeling guilty or like they’ve blown it; because we think it/many times, we conflate it with an emotional response:
- “If I don’t get goosebumps during that worship chorus,”
- “If I didn’t feel God’s presence in this place when everybody else did,”
—like: “I just don’t quite get it.” There’s tons of guys like that.
Brant: They’re in a worship service—they’re kind of there—but it’s other people who are having this emotional experience; they’re not. They might be okay with it; but deep down, they might think, “Maybe it’s my sinfulness; God’s left me.”
Ann: “I’m not as spiritual.”
Brant: “I’m not as spiritual.” If you equate feeling emotional with God’s presence, your own emotional state may change over time; and then, you think:
- “God’s—what happened? Where’s God? What have I done? What has He done? Maybe He doesn’t even exist. Why don’t…”
- “Maybe, that was bunk,” “Maybe, I faked it.”
Like it was all because you equated spirituality with emotion.
What I’m trying to tell guys is: “It doesn’t make you less spiritual; that’s not what emotion is.” Emotion, as we know, can be influenced by: “Did I get a nap today?” “ Did the Lions win yesterday?”—no, they didn’t. [Laughter] So like: “What?”
Dave: Hey! [Laughter]
Brant: It’s like there’s all sorts of factors that go into that [lack of emotion]; that’s not God’s presence or non-presence. And if you’re somebody, like me, who’s more analytical—and you don’t feel stuff like that—it doesn’t mean God has left the building.
Dave: So how does a man take control of his spiritual life?
Ann: What do you mean?
Brant: That’s what God is looking for. He’s looking for loyalty from us/believing loyalty. There’s like a Hebrew word, hesed, in the Bible that describes it. Most of the time, it’s describing His loyalty to us; but it’s often, the other way around too—it’s this believing loyalty—I can keep showing up.
I know I’m a sinner—I get caught up in things—I think things; I have the wrong tracks of thought, just like anybody else. But I do keep showing up, and I’m honest with God about it. What I see from the biblical stories is that’s what God’s looking for. You don’t ignore Him; you keep going back. You keep talking; you keep/it’s not a matter whether I feel it that morning or not.
Loyalty—most guys can get; we get it—I mean the Boy Scouts, or the military, or anything you train for. If you’re on a basketball team, you’ve got 6:00 a.m. practice; like you keep showing up. You don’t feel like it; but “I can do that.” Once I realized that, I didn’t have to beat myself up anymore for not being emotional at the same time everybody else is.
I know there’s so many guys that, if they’re not told—like: “Look, emotions come and go. If they come, awesome; that’s wonderful. But if they go, maybe that’s a season of life too,”—I know that, for a lot of men and women, you go through seasons, where you’re not as emotional about your relationship with God—but just keep being loyal.
That’s how relationships work, too; right? Even in marriage, it’s not every day at the peak emotional in love-ness. When I was writing this book, my wife and I had not gotten along that day—there were just some underlying tension—I can’t remember what it was about. She’s like, “Hey, you want some tea?” I’m like, “Yes.” I’m writing the book on the computer; she brings me over some hot tea. I’m like, “That’s love.” [Laughter] She’s/I know she’s not feeling it for me today at all, and she still shows up. Now, we’re talking love: it’s not the emotional thing that she gets out of it, because there is none right now.
So if you can serve God, out of loyalty, I think He’s really honored by that; because the only reason you’d do that is out of love.
Ann: So by “loyalty”—when you say: “Just show up,”—are you saying: “Just talk to Him every day,” “Tell him what’s on your heart,”—is that what you mean?
Brant: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s out of that relationship that the fruit will be born in your life:
- You can’t manufacture the peace and gentleness that you’re going to need to have;
- And the patience and the joy, which is a sense of well-being, no matter what’s happening around you—that’s what joy is.
You’re not going to be able to manufacture that. It’s going to come out from this ongoing, conversational partnership/relationship with God.
So I’m not going to give upon that—because of my own sin; I don’t have to slink away in shame—I’m going to show up again.
Ann: That’s good.
Brant: And my understanding of the stories in the Bible is God’s actually honored by that.
Dave: Maybe, even/especially, when you don’t feel it.
Dave: That’s: “I need to. I don’t want to, and everything in me says, ‘Don’t do it,’—I’m going to get there—it’s the same thing—'I’m going to open the Word of God.’”
How about this: “Do you think it’s important for men to be with other men?”
Brant: Oh, absolutely; I know it is.
Brant: Well, just community in general. Even if you’re listening to this now, and you’re a guy, you’re probably like, “Yes, I get this.” I want to surround myself with a few people, who have some wisdom though. I do want some guys who are making me think differently: stretching me; challenging.
Dave: Yes; I remember, when I first moved to Detroit, to be the amazing Detroit Lions chaplain [Laughter] 30-some years ago—everybody laughs because who knew, then, what it would end up being—
Brant: “It's going to be a year of this”; yes.
Dave: —a lot of losses.
I knew then, as a new man in a new city, I needed to find guys. Find a church, obviously; and we hadn’t started one yet. I’ll never forget: I went to this men’s group that some guys recommended. I was there three or four weeks. I remember—I’ll never forget this moment—I walk in one day, and I go, “Hey,”—and I didn’t know these guys real well, but I knew them well enough to be vulnerable—I said, “Hey, I need to share a struggle I had this week. I went through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and I shouldn’t have done it. I’m just confessing it to you guys.”
I’ll never forget: they look at me, and they go: “Dude, you are like sick; what is wrong with you?” “You are despicable.” I’m like, “Yes, I know; that’s why I said that.” I just/basically—they went around the room, and I was like/I said: “None of you have ever…”—they’re like: “No, never; not one time.” “Do you ever struggle, ever?”—“Never.”
Brant: Are they joking? They’re joking.
Dave: Well, I mean, that’s what they were [saying]. It was like I was the worst guy they’d ever met in their life. I remember getting in the car, driving home, and going, “Okay, those aren’t my guys.”
Brant: What in the world?!
Dave: I mean, that was what their response was;—
Ann: —that was like 35 years ago.
Dave: —that was a long time ago.
Brant: I feel like it’s a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel or something. [Laughter] “Who are these people?”—
Ann: “Are they real?”
Brant: —1636 Massachusetts—like, “What are we talking about?”
Dave: —I mean, all I know is: I got in the car, and I’m like, “I’ve got to find different guys,”—not that they were bad guys—it was just like: “I can’t be honest with these guys, because—
Ann: —and they can’t be honest with you.
Dave: —I got in the car, thinking, “They’re lying to me.” Not every guy there probably did, but some guys struggle with—so you know—anyway, all I knew was: “I’ve got to find guys, who will bring wisdom to my life; but I can be honest, and they will not let me stay where my sin has taken me. They will challenge me, and we’ll challenge one another.”
Guess what?—I found those guys.
Brant: That’s cool.
Dave: We’ve been with those guys for over 30 years.
But the moral of the story was: “If one group doesn’t work, keep trying. Because there’s men you need in your life.” You’ve already said it: “You need men, who are wise; men that will spur you on; men who will walk with you; men who will be vulnerable.”
Brant: So if you can’t find them, I have some advice:—
Dave: What’s that?
Brant: —"Just ask God about it.”
Brant: This is prayer: “What do you want?” I mean, Jesus actually asked Bartimaeus in Scripture—the blind guy—and He actually says to him, “What would you like Me to do for you today?”
Well, if you want/if like I don’t have any wise friends:
- “I need some guys around, who are honest, so that they can go, ‘Yes; me too; let’s work through this together,’”—like: “I need honest [guys].”
- “I need some guys, who are continuing to read things, and think things, and trying to grow as believers.”
If you don’t have any of those, ask God for them; I think He’ll say, “Yes.” It may take a little time; but I honestly think—if your heart cry is that gut-level honest, while you’re driving or something: “This is what I need,”—I think it’s something He wants too. I know He’s got the power to do it.
I think it’s discouraging when you think you can’t find it, because our culture’s so isolated and lonely. But if you ask God for it, I’ve seen Him be faithful in my own life in that exact way.
Dave: Yes; then be intentional to say, “Let’s get together.”
Brant: You have to be; that’s tough to do. If you’re like me, I’m not good at scheduling things or whatever I want; but you have to.
I did a thing recently, where I was like—okay, this was new for me—but: “We’re going to get together on Monday night, from 7:00-8:00, on my back patio for a month.” It was closed-ended, and it was only for one hour. We’re not going on all night; we’re not letting anybody filibuster, and you’re stuck there. It’s not going on for years.
Ann: —just a month.
Brant: It was a huge hit in my neighborhood.
Brant: It was just guys, and we were talking about discipleship stuff. But like, “We’re done at 8:00”; I’m like: “It’s 8:00; we’re done.” And then, everybody wanted to stick around anyway, because it was fun; we’re having a lot of laughs. But we did our thing, and it was for one month; and then, we quit.
And then, I started it up, again, for a month—very cool—because I think guys like the closed-ended-ness of it.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Brant: So that’s an idea, too, if you’re interested in starting something like that. Don’t ask them to commit the rest of their lives. You don’t have to foresee awkward backing out if you have an end date that’s pretty soon.
Dave: We’ve talked about several decisions you say a man needs to make to set him apart. One of them is: “Protect your women.” I mean, you say, “Make women and children feel safe, not threatened.”
Brant: And again, it’s not out of an ownership thing; it’s out of me wanting them to thrive and bloom. If guys were keepers of the garden, there would be no need for me to move men or anything of the sort; because we’d/they would feel secure, because we’re there, not threatened. A big problem, even for Christian guys—because they’re not taught out of it—is anger. There’s this anger that we have justified in our own minds or whatever. We think, “Well, I’m a man of action; I’ll do whatever it needs done.” But that anger actually makes your household less secure.
Ann: Yes, because it pulls us away; because we’re afraid of it.
Brant: You’re not sure because: “What’s he going to do?”
Brant: “How’s he going to react?”
That’s not what you want; you don’t want your wife and kids tiptoeing/afraid. You may not even be aware of it. You’ll justify this anger/this frustration that actually makes them feel insecure. So now, your house is insecure.
I also know that, for a lot of men, they think that’s part of masculinity:—
Dave: Right; right.
Brant: —“If I’m going to be a man of action, I have to get angry.”
Ann: —"or loud.”
Brant: Right—like, “No, that's actually not masculine,”—"What’s masculine is being willing to take action when necessary, but not out of anger; you do it, because it’s the right thing.” So your wife and kids know you’re not an angry person; but when needed, you will do the right thing. And you’ll do it the right way. Anger actually clouds your judgement.
So if you want to have a secure home, you’re not angry; but you’ll do the right thing. If somebody’s in trouble: “They behave this way…; this is what’s going to happen…” It’s actually scarier to the kids when you’re that calm—[Laughter] in a good way—
Ann: Yes, that’s true; yes.
Brant: —in a good way. But it’s like that just sets the tone for the home that it’s secure. There are these boundaries—but Dad’s not an angry person—you don’t need anger to do the right thing.
Dave: The anger that’s been constructive in my life has been when I’m—and it’s not really anger—it’s a resolution to say: “I’m not going to be passive anymore.”
Brant: Yes, that’s good.
Dave: It feels like a sense of anger; but it’s like I’m mad at myself, like, “Okay, I’m going to show up.” We’ve said it before: “I’m going to show up in her life,” and “…my son’s lives,” “…in my church’s life,”—whatever—"I’m going to show up.” That’s a motivational sort of—you know, I guess you call it anger—but it’s like, “No more!”
Brant: Yes, I think it’s a motivation that’s good; that’s determination.
But anger is always listed in the negatives in Scriptures; it’s: “Put away anger,” or “Get rid of it before the sun goes down,”/so “If it happens, get rid of it.”
But just imagine a home, where anger is a normal thing: “How can that possibly be secure? How can your kids be growing up in security/your wife feel secure?” And I’m telling guys, too: “Again, your wife is attracted to you when she feels secure.; because that’s when she knows you’re at your best.”
Ann: You’re creating a greenhouse in your home is what you’re saying, where the people in it will grow and blossom—
Brant: —and thrive, and become—including your wife—she can become everything, with her intellectual gifts and everything that she could be. People just bloom around you, because that’s just how you cultivate your—it’s the greenhouse thing—because you’re the keeper of the garden. It’s a great metaphor for our own metaphorical garden, like: “Whatever my sphere of influence is, I’m the keeper of that garden.”
Shelby: Yes, let’s bloom the way God has intended us to do so. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brant Hansen on FamilyLife Today. In just a minute, Dave’s got a scary question you can ask your spouse or your kids; but first, Brant’s book is called The Men We Need: God’s Purpose for the Manly Man, the Avid Indoorsman, or Any Man Willing to Show Up—great title. You can get Brant’s book at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, God continues to use this program, both on the radio and as a podcast. I read through some of the reviews that have been posted about FamilyLife Today, and here’s one that I wanted to share with you. Someone wrote: “I keep coming back to listen because they constantly offer hope through the gospel of Jesus. I need to be pointed to Christ, and they do this all the time. This podcast encourages me to hope in Him. Thanks, FamilyLife crew.” Wow; that’s just so encouraging to hear things like that.
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Okay, here’s Dave with a scary question a husband can ask his wife or his kids.
Dave: Here would be a scary, but really good question, to ask as a husband or a dad. Ask your wife, and even your kids: “Do you thrive under me? Do you feel like you’re thriving under my—
Ann: —"care and love.”
Dave: —“care, and influence, and leadership in this home?” And be ready to hear that answer and make adjustments.
Hopefully, they say, “Yes”; but if they don’t, say, “Okay, why not? How am I not helping you thrive? Because I’m called to be a caretaker to bring life to this home. If I’m not doing that, then I need to make changes to make sure that happens.”
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by Abbey Wedgeworth, where she will take you through her journey of grief after experiencing the tragedy of having a miscarriage; that’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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