Lead Me: An Interview with Sanctus Real’s Matt Hammitt
About the Guest
After seven years, their marriage had hit a wall. Christian recording artist Matt Hammitt, the lead singer of Sanctus Real, talks to Dennis Rainey about the moment his wife told him what she honestly needed from him. For once, instead of making excuses, Matt finally "got it," and wrote a song that reflected the changes he planned to make for his marriage. Hear more from Matt, and the song he wrote.
Matt HammittMatt Hammitt is an American singer, songwriter, speaker and author. For almost twenty years, Matt was the lead singer for the band Sanctus Real. During that time, the band released eight studio albums with Sparrow Records, toured internationally and released 14 top five and number one singles to Christian radio, earning them a household name amongst Christian music fans worldwide. Matt has been the recipient of three Dove Awards, has been nominated for two Grammys for his work with Sanctus Real,...more
Christian recording artist Matt Hammitt, the lead singer of Sanctus Real, talksabout the moment his wife told him what she honestly needed from him.
Lead Me: An Interview with Sanctus Real’s Matt Hammitt
Bob: As the lead singer for the group, Sanctus Real, Matt Hammitt spends a lot of nights on a stage—telling people about God's power to transform a life. But there was a period in Matt's marriage where he would come home from those concerts to a marriage that was full of tension.
Matt: All this conflict we were having wasn’t so much about the way that she is or the way that I am or all these petty disagreements that had kind of mounted up—but at the heart of all that was our contempt for one another. There's all this kindling that we had sitting around in our marriage, but at the root of it—the thing that was really starting the fire—was this deep root of contempt. We needed to forgive one another on a deeper level and just begin to break down the wall that was between us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, Sept 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
Matt Hammitt joins us today to talk about the breakthrough that took place in his marriage relationship and about the song that he wrote as a result.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, do you know what famous musician has a wiener dog named Wilson—that's his favorite pet?—[Laughter]—a wiener dog named Wilson. Let me give you some more hints.
Bob: I would not be able to identify anyone by the name of their wiener dog—I don't think.
Dennis: His favorite fast food restaurant is In-N-Out®.
Bob: Oh, well, that's Matt Hammitt; yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh, yes—right! [Laughter]
Bob: You know why? Here's the reason that we're having him on FamilyLife Today, and I told him this. It's because I've been getting all these emails from people, saying, “Have you heard Sanctus Real's new song, Lead Me? I'm going, “Yes, I've heard it. It's a great song.
It's all about God getting a hold of a young man's heart; and his wife pleading, ‘I need you to lead me.’"
And it may be that there are folks, listening to FamilyLife Today, who are going, "Sanctus Real—I've never heard of them”; but you guys will play how many concerts this year?—a 100-plus / more than that?
Matt: One hundred-plus; you know, for years, it would be 150 to 200—it was a lot. Now, that we're married and have families, we're not into that anymore. [Laughter]
Dennis: Feeling a few anchors come out, along the way.
Matt: Oh yes; yes. [Laughter]
Matt: We strive to get home as much as possible. So, it's a 100-plus—but a lot less than what we used to do.
Dennis: Tell us what you are seeing among the young people who are coming to your concerts—I mean—the homes they are coming from and the needs they're having in their relationships.
Matt: Yes, I feel like we've kind of been in an interesting place in our career—
—to have started in high school, and then to be growing through our career as guys and as friends, and watching all these years pass as we still continue to work with youth. We've seen our culture, as you have, change tremendously and dramatically over the last decade.
Dennis: In what way?
Matt: The amount of students that are coming from broken homes, particularly, and the kind of media that they absorb every single day and the way it affects their moral decisions—the way they are so desensitized to culture around them and have actually adapted so much of what the world is putting in front of them in their own lives. So many young people are just giving themselves over to just their desires, and there's no restraint—just whatever goes.
Dennis: You view your music as hopefully a ministry in the lives of these young people—to really speak the truth to them about who God is, about relationships, and about life.
Matt: Absolutely. I mean, we see music as a means for us just to get the Word of God in front of them in a creative way to hopefully be a tool—the lyrics of our music to be a tool for them to strengthen their relationship with Christ and relationship with their friends— as a community of believers who lift one another up and work together, hopefully, to try to reach this generation that—to be quite honest—sometimes feels completely lost. Sometimes, I feel hopeless; but we won't stop fighting.
Bob: Now, this song I mentioned earlier—the song, Lead Me—that wasn't written to young people as much as it was written to you; right?
Matt: Yes. This was a song that came out of my own life. I wasn't even really sure if we were going to put it on the album or not because it was a song that I had written out of a very personal moment—a personal season of my life between my wife and I. I had written it for her and for my kids.
Sometimes, you cling to something as your own—maybe you're afraid to let the world see something very personal. A few people heard it; and even my wife said, "Man, you've got to share this song with the world because I believe it's going to touch people's hearts when they hear it.”
Bob: And the season you were going through—this was a couple of years ago?
Matt: Yes; yes, my wife and I—my wife's name is Sarah. Around seven years—this seems to be one of those moments that so many people, as we read books, the seven-year mark can be a real struggle for people. That was so true for us—that at seven years, it just felt like there was so much contempt that was built between us that kind of rose up. We didn't even really, at the time, know how to identify it as such. Every little thing felt like it turned into a fight. We were fighting all the time.
Dennis: Did being a performer set up this contempt in your marriage?
I mean, I look at your life—starting to perform at the age of 16 / a lot of people applauding you at a pretty young age—you go on the road / a lot of people following you. Then you meet Sarah, and you get married. It would seem to me that—you're a hero on the road / you come home and your feet are back on the ground.
Matt: Absolutely. I think, for those of us who do ministry, it is very common for us to just feel as though the work we do or feel as though we're doing for the Lord, in essence, is our relationship with God or is the sum of what we are doing with our Christian lives, as ministers.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t, at that point in my life, really disciplined in my relationship with the Lord, and really seeking Him, and reading the Word. I wasn't in prayer like I should have been. That carried over into my marriage—just trying to keep that equilibrium all the time—kind of living life, day to day, as most men—completely clueless that my wife is really hurting much more than I think.
We'd have an argument, and it would take us a long time to resolve it. The next morning, as a man, I’d wake up and I’d just feel like: "It's done”; but not with her. You know, women—as I've learned are deeply scarred and deeply wounded in ways that men can't relate to sometimes. Over the course of this season of marriage—it was probably about a year when we were experiencing so much conflict—it just felt we were floating so far apart from each other.
Dennis: Did you ever think about divorce?
Matt: Well, I tell you, that temptation is always there. In the darkest moments of conflict, the temptation is always there, "Well, I'll just leave"; but I think—for both of us, from the very beginning of our relationship—I think we both knew that divorce was not an option for us. That's kind of where it always would stop.
These are the times that I really remember the most—is when we'd be in the middle of a conflict. It would get to a place where we would just be looking at each other—
—just standing in the room together—just speechless because we'd said everything we could say—I knew I had hurt her / she had hurt me. We'd pulled out the "big guns" and you don't even know how to get help / where to get help. You just feel like you don't even know what to do. It's the most helpless feeling in the world—to look across the room at the person that you love and feel like, “This woman hates me right now,”—to feel that inside and to see the tears in her eyes. The hardest thing about being a man is to, not only see the tears in your wife's eyes, but still feel rage / to still feel contempt—to still want to fix this problem.
But, at that point in my life, I was still making excuses for why I was right / why she was wrong. It was all this “he said / she said” garbage that didn't even matter because we were just caught in what Emerson Eggerich calls “The Crazy Cycle."
Matt: It was my wife feeling unloved / me feeling disrespected—
—round and round and round. It felt like we were at the very bottom.
Dennis: And you're both in a ditch.
Dennis: You can't pull yourselves out. I mean, you're not the ones that have the capability, at that point, to be able to do that.
Bob: Was it in the midst of this that you guys got away for one of the Weekend to Remember® events? Or was that kind of a part of the process of coming out?
Matt: It was kind of on the tail end of coming out of all that. We had gone to see some counselors, and that helped us; but we had gone to an artists’ retreat with Dan Allender.
Matt: Some of the things that he shared with us there were life-changing for us. That's when we really learned that all this conflict we were having wasn’t so much about the way that she is or the way that I am or all of the petty disagreements that had kind of mounted up—but at the heart of all that, was our contempt for one another. He helped us name that deeper issue.
Now, there was all this kindling that we had sitting around in our marriage, but at the root of it—the thing that was really starting the fire—was this deep root of contempt. We needed to forgive one another on a deeper level and begin to break down the wall that was between us.
The day that I wrote Lead Me—that was also a milestone for us in terms of spiritual growth in our relationship—that was when my wife set me down at our dining room table—and this was after we had cleared the air and started taking all these things we couldn't fix and laying them at the feet of Jesus and finding a lot of restoration—I could hear her heart clearly. I had dropped my defenses, at that point. She looked at me in the eye and said: "I need you to be a better leader. I feel alone. I feel like our life is crazy, and I need you to start planting your feet on the Rock." She told me she needed me to be a better spiritual leader.
I was crushed because I knew it was true; and because, my whole life, I had all these aspirations and all these intentions of this kind of man that I was going to be. All of my intentions meant absolutely nothing because I wasn't disciplined as being a spiritual leader in my house. That was the day the Lord really started working on me to stop making excuses—to start making the time and being disciplined to invest in my family, emotionally and spiritually— the way that I should have all along.
That afternoon, during that time with the Lord, I started picking up my guitar and singing out the heart of my wife—that she had shared with me. Then, singing about what my kids might say to me, as they grow older, when they feel lonely—looking at them, in their innocence, and wanting to be the best father that I can be. Then the song really turned into a prayer of the father's heart / the husband's heart—just saying, “Lord, I want to lead my family the way You have called me to, but I can't do it unless You lead me.”
Dennis: Was it at that moment that you asked her to forgive you?—or was the song, in essence, not just an apology, but a desire for reconciliation and asking her to truly forgive you?
Matt: Absolutely; it is both. I was able—when she approached me, by the grace of God, I was able to humbly receive it and to ask for her forgiveness. I knew that wasn't enough, in that moment; and I needed to have action.
But also, in writing that song, it was my first way of appealing to her that I understood her because that's what she really had needed from me for so long—was just to hear her. A lot of times, a woman tries to share her heart about what she needs from her husband. It's like an automatic defense that comes up because you're just in that place, where you are like: "I'm working so hard. I'm doing so much. I'm so stretched thin. I'm under all this stress.” Immediately, we try to defend ourselves. It's so hard to just stop, and shut our mouth, and listen to our wife’s heart, and really just understand.
That was how I started showing her, that day, that I understood her heart—that I heard her clearly and that I was committed to putting it into action. It started the next morning—praying together and showing her, every single day, after that—even now, calling her when I'm on the road. When I'm home—every single day, we pray together and seek the Lord to be the center of our life.
Bob: Instead of us playing the song off the CD, you've got a guitar here—do you mind playing it for us?
Matt: Absolutely; I'd love to. [Matt sings Lead Me]
Dennis: Matt, I think you are singing about a need that most men have—to know how to love, and lead, and serve their wives and families—and how easy it can be to be seduced by our career, and by our dreams, and what we give our hearts and lives to. I'm just grateful to God that you are willing to crack open the door and let people in.
I honestly think, Matt, that the generation that you are ministering to—and you're ministering to all folks but, especially, to the young people who are going to hear that song—desperately, desperately need to hear authentic men—
—who, even in their mistakes—have repented, and turned back to Christ, and asked Him to give them the power to know how to do it right.
I'm grateful for you, Sanctus Real, and your ministry to young people today. I pray God's favor on you and also that you'll continue to grow, as you've sung about in that song, as the leader of your family.
Matt: Well, thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it. If I could say one more thing—I realize, I think, as young men—we talk about chasing dreams—I was chasing my dreams so hard and my wife was feeling lonely. I realized that—out in the world, where we chase those dreams—it will never be the best. There's always that ladder, and somebody else is above us. Somebody else is always going to make more money, or be more successful, and pursue more and do more than we will.
I think I just had a revelation that there's only one place where I can be the most successful man—and that's in my home, with my own wife and kids. They want me to win, and that's where I should be investing the best of my life.
Dennis: That's a profound conclusion that I think every man needs to come to, on his own, as well.
Bob: I think you have actually helped a lot of guys face that issue and, hopefully, come to that same conclusion by being part of the Stepping Up® video series. We feature a conversation with Matt and have him sing the song as a part of the series.
Dennis, you know we have heard back from a lot of guys who have gone through this ten-part video series and have found it to be challenging, encouraging, and transformative in their lives and in their marriage. We have had more than 100,000 guys going through the Stepping Up video series.
Our team thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could kick off the new year”—I know it is still a few months away—“but what if we could get guys, lined up / ready to go”—in fact, they want to rename the month “Manuary”—“and just start the new year with 50,000 guys going through the Stepping Up video series.” I said, “That is a great goal; but if we want to do that, we are going to have to lock arms with some guys who will take this material to their church or who will do a small group study—we’ve got guys who are doing it with fathers and teenage sons going through the material together.
The team said, “Here is what we will do. If guys will agree to take ten people through the material, we will give the guy the DVD series.” So, all you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You order the ten manuals to take guys through it, and we’ll add the DVD series at no additional cost because we really want tens of thousands of guys to go through this content and to be challenged by it.
Find out more. If you haven’t seen any of the Stepping Up series and you’d like to see a preview or see some clips, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find a link there for Stepping Up. If you click on that, you can watch some video from Stepping Up / you can find out more about the series. It features, not only, Matt Hammitt, but it has guys like Joshua Harris, and Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Matt Chandler. We have Dennis Rainey, Robert Lewis, Stu Weber, James MacDonald, Crawford Loritts, and Voddie Baucham. It’s a great lineup of guys that take you through this material over a ten-week period.
So, again, find out more or go ahead and sign up now and take advantage of the special offer to get the DVDs for free. That offer is good through the end of this month. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” Then, click the link for the Stepping Up series.
You can order from us, online, if you would like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, talking about challenging men to be godly men—that’s really part of the overall goal that we have, here at FamilyLife. Our mission is to effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world, one home at a time. That begins with godly men and women—people who take their relationship with Christ seriously and who live it out in the marriage and family relationships. We appreciate those of you who have a shared passion for that goal. We know you do because you help support this ministry. In fact, this year, we are reaching more people than ever because of your faithful financial support.
I’d like to talk to those of you who have never made a donation to help support the ministry. Would you consider, today, calling or going online and joining with others who have helped make today’s program possible? Help make tomorrow’s program possible by giving a donation today. When you do, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a resource that Barbara Rainey has included in her Ever Thine Home® collection of resources. This is a chalkboard that is in the shape of a house. At the top, it says, “In this home we give thanks for” and you can write, on the chalkboard, the things you are thankful for—a great way to teach gratitude to your children and reinforce that theme in your home.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care.” You can make an online donation if you would like, or you can request the chalkboard when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make a donation over the phone. You can also mail a donation to FamilyLife Today. Our address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR.
Our zip code is 72223. Be sure to ask for the chalkboard when you get in touch with us. Again, we want to say, “Thanks for partnering with us in this ministry.”
And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We will introduce you to our friend, Clarence Shuler, who is going to be joining us. He is going to share with us, candidly, about the battle he has fought, and by God’s grace, has won with porn. We will hear his story tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
©Song: Lead Me
Artist: Matt Hammitt
Album: Pieces of a Real Heart, (p) 2010 Sparrow Records
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