Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 Songs That Challenge Me As A Husband & Father

Born in the early 70's, raised in the 80's, married in the 90's and a father in the 00's, I have lived through four decades that have produced some pretty amazing music!  From the Bee Gees to Billy Joel to Bruno Mars, I've developed an eclectic taste in music from a diverse range of artists. While my very favourite songs cross many genres of music I do tend to gravitate toward songs that are more easy listening in style.  Music not only soothes my soul, it also informs my worldview as I engage with the lyrics and the message conveyed by the artist.  At certain points in my life some songs have even transcended musical enjoyment by influencing me in a profound way, especially while navigating the space of marriage and fatherhood.

As a husband and a father there are a few trusted voices I've allowed to speak into my marriage and parenting; first and foremost, God's wisdom through the pages of Scripture. However, certain popular songs have joined this chorus of voices by challenging me through the power of their lyrics.  More than just emotional sentiment they have spoken words of truth that have stuck in my head and penetrated my heart in a way that only music can. While these songs have been personal to my own journey, I get a sense through my pastoral interaction with many men in my leadership and ministry context that the issues these lyrics confront seem to be common to other husbands and fathers navigating the same space.

So, as unconventional as this may be, I offer the five songs that have influenced my marriage and parenting to all the blokes out there wrestling with similar issues to me. Maybe through the unexpected ministry of music they may influence you also...

Tell Her About It (Billy Joel)

Tell her about it
Tell her everything you feel
Give her every reason
To accept that you're for real

Tell her about it
Tell her all your crazy dreams
Let her know you need her
Let her know how much she means

One of the many mysteries of understanding women for me has been tuning in to and responding appropriately to the need to be told, "I love you" or the like more than once in a day. Too often I have grossly underestimated the importance of expressing out loud, and often, how I feel and what I intuitively know to be true.  Whether or not I need to hear it is irrelevant!  If these three words or similar words of affection are important to my wife, and children for that matter, then why would I withhold this phrase of affirmation?  The uncomfortable paradox is that the more emotionally detached I appear to be, the more these words are needed!  And here is a free tip if you really want to build up the emotional bank account with your wife and children.  Don't just wait to echo back what they want to hear, throw in a few unsuspected and spontaneous "I love you's" every now and then.  As Billy Joel strongly asserts in his song, "give her every reason to accept that you're for real."

Cat's In The Cradle (Harry Chapin)
I've long since retired and my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I'd like to see you if you don't mind
He said, I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad
It's been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me, my boy was just like me

To be honest, this song has always scared the hell out of me as a dad!  I don't know how many times I have been so consumed by what I do that I have been inattentive to what my kids need me to be.  And that is simply to be fully present in their lives.  To be frank, this is as much about the quality of time than the quantity of time I spend with them.  No matter how much I justify to myself my busyness or tiredness, neglecting this space comes with an enormous price tag.  Turning off the TV, closing your laptop or silencing your phone is a much smaller price to pay to give your kids the time with you they crave.  As our kids grow up the dominant infuences in their lives shift from their parents to their peers.  We have a limited window to not only enjoy them but to engage with them. The pattern we set today will translate into how they interact with us and their kids tomorrow.  The scary truth is they will "grow up just like me."

She Believes In Me (Kenny Rogers)

While she lays waiting,
I stumble to the kitchen for a bite
Then I see my old guitar in the night
Just waiting for me like a secret friend,
And there's no end
While she lays crying, I fumble with a melody or two
And I'm torn between the things that I should do
And she says to wake her up when I am through
God, her love is true

When Kenny Rogers sings, "I'm torn between the things that I should do" I find myself in a place of conflict every time I see the gap between what I should be doing and what I want to do widened by the competing expectations in my life.  This is a challenging space to manage.  Every married couple needs personal time and space to pursue their own interests, which is as necessary as spending time together.  The problem arises when one is overshadowed by the other.  However, my own experience and observations would suggest to me that more often than not us blokes tend to lean a little too far towards fulfilling our own needs.  It has also been my experience that when I am more intentional in investing in "us" time my wife is more supportive of "me" time.  Try shifting your focus, you might be surprised the positive impact this will have in your marriage!

Better Man (Robbie Williams)

As my soul heals through the shame
I will grow through this pain
Lord I'm doing all I can
To be a better man

Interestingly enough, this song appeals to me at a spiritual level. One of my life verses from the Bible is Philippians 3:12, which says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."  The writer of this verse was on a relentless mission to rise above his inadequacies and failures by pursuing a righteousness that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I connect deeply with Robbie Williams' cry, "Lord I'm, doing all I can to be a better man"  because I too desire to be more than I am.  As husbands and fathers we must resist falling into a place of complacency or resignation that settles for our 'lot in life', which will cripple us from becoming the men that God intended for us to be.  Your spiritual headship in your family is not about power and control but about modelling a godly influence that comes from your own growth and contributes to the growth of your wife and children. 

In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley)


People, don't you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day?
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see
Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?


This song challenges me at a social level. In my role as a Salvation Army Officer I am seeing the devastating effect that fatherlessness is having on children. Notwithstanding the extraordinary job so many single mums are doing on their own (often not by choice), children need their fathers! Even though the family unit takes on many different forms today, the dominant view still held by sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists  asserts that the role of a father in a healthy, nurturing environment is critical to the wellbeing of children and the family unit. Far from intending to criticise families where there has been a family breakdown, it drives my determination to be a good husband and father in my own family and my desire to invest in other men to the same ends in whatever family structure they find themselves.  We cannot afford to "simply turn our heads, and look the other way" any longer!

Given the diversity of our society, the complexity of family relationships and alternative tastes in music, it is inevitable that if you have read this far your response to my thoughts on being a husband and father will be equally as varied.  That's okay!  I don't even mind if you disagree.  I do hope, however, that what has challenged me in this space challenges you also to some degree.  I hope you sit awhile with being challenged and reflect upon why it challenges you.  I hope you have the humility and courage to explore what being a better husband and father needs to look like for you and your family; because there is too much at stake not to!

1 comment:

  1. Love your piece, too many fathers get mislead from the true path, and along the way damage can be done, some permanent, some repairable with a willing heart. Been there, done that.... have not forgotten either God's way is the best way, if your listening. God bless you & all the fathers who wish to become better dads. DJ