Turning Toward Home
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Matt Hammitt had assumed loving Jesus would overcome his neglect of his marriage. But a moment at the dining table changed everything when his wife, Sarah, made the desperate plea, “I need you to lead me.”
Turning Toward Home
Bob: As the lead singer for the group Sanctus Real for many years, Matt Hammitt’s job had him travelling more days than he was home. When Matt and Sarah’s son, Bowen, was born with heart problems/health issues, the couple had to take a sober look at the reality of their relationship and whether their marriage could survive all they were experiencing.
Sarah: You know, we possess these attributes that lead to divorce: my husband travels; we have a sick child. I mean, we have all of these odds stacked against us. Yes, there have been moments where it’s like toxic. And, yes, sure—“Have we threatened it to each other once in a while?”—yes, we have.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Matt and Sarah Hammitt join us today to talk about things they’ve learned in almost two decades of marriage: things to do and things not to do; things to say and not to say in order to make your marriage the priority it needs to be. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have a friend, who is in a high-profile job, somebody who is well-known and has a lot of fans. We were at dinner; and he said, “Here is the thing;”—he said—“my wife is just not impressed by what I do. [Laughter] All these other people are like, ‘Oh, this is amazing!’ My wife is like, ‘Yes, it’s good; it’s alright. I mean, what you do; yes.’” He goes, “I don’t get why other people are wowed.”
Ann: “She’s not impressed with me.”
Bob: Yes; I mean, your husband is a high-profile guy.
Bob: And a lot of people admire him and what he does.
Bob: Have you had some of that same—
Ann: I sure have had some of that. [Laughter] It’s interesting.
Dave: I don’t think she’s ever been impressed.
Ann: I’ve been so impressed, but what impresses—
Dave: You were before we got married.
Ann: Oh, I am so impressed.
Dave: I’m kidding.
Ann: But the thing that impresses me the most is the way he loves our kids; the way he spends time with them, and plays with them, or reads the Bible with them; and when he talks to me. Those are the things!
Dave: She skipped right over the unimpressive part. [Laughter] I mean, we’ve got to introduce our guests.
I’ll tell you something real quick. One night, after I preached all morning, was on the Lions’ sidelines all day—came home exhausted; I crawl in bed—she says to me at 11:30 at night,—
Ann: I’ll say it.
Dave: —as I’m closing my eyes,—go ahead; tell them what you said.
Ann: I said, “You know, I watched you this morning at church, leading this entire congregation, and when you pray—oh! You move us. We want to be with you in this. You’re just so inspiring!” And then I said—
Dave: And then, she adds this—
Ann: “I wish that guy would live here.” [Laughter]
Dave: Actually, word for word, she said, “I wish the guy who led our church would live in this house.”
Dave: You know what I said to her? Bob, this is what made me think of it; I said, “I’ve got”—you know, I didn’t respond like a great leader. I just responded like—“Are you kidding me?! People think I’m good! You think I’m nothing. There are so many women that would love to be married to me.” That’s what I said.
Bob: Wow. [Laughter]
Dave: You know, I was just so hurt by that. Yet, the next day, God said, “I was speaking to you through your wife.”
Bob: —through your wife, yes.
Dave: So, I had to step up and lead at home.
But we’ve got a high-profile rock star in the studio. And it’s not Bob Lepine from Ambrosia, that we talked about before. [Laughter]
Matt: That’s so good.
Dave: It’s Matt Hammitt from Sanctus Real, and your wife Sarah is with us. You’ve got four kids now, and you’re in Nashville. You have this legendary career: 20 years with Sanctus Real; Dove Awards; Grammy nominations; albums; thousands in stadiums, listening to you sing.
Bob: —including an anthem about—
Bob: —what a husband is supposed to be to his wife: a song called Lead Me, that is now the book that you’ve written.
Bob: Matt and Sarah speak at Weekend to Remember® getaways with us.
Ann: I’ll add this: I remember where I was the first time I heard this song.
Bob: —heard Lead Me; really?
Ann: Yes; I was driving on I-59 in Michigan. I was going to our church at Kensington; and I mean, I was totally captivated by the song. I went home; I told Dave, “You have to listen to this song,” because this is kind of our story, which is so interesting; because we didn’t even know you guys at the time. But I think that has resonated with so many people: “This is what we want. This is what we long for in our families.”
Dave: So Sarah, take us back to that moment because, obviously, that song became an anthem.
Dave: But it’s your story.
Dave: It’s more than lyrics. It is you were feeling left alone because the rock star is on the road, and you speak these words. Tell us a little bit of that story, because that’s really where we are today.
Sarah: Yes; I remember he was at the dining room table. We were having our—I don’t know—ten thousandth conversation about the subject. I just was like, “Hey, like you come home; and you’re grumpy. You act like you don’t have anything to give, but you’ve literally left me home alone to do it all myself. I feel really alone. I literally feel like we’re living our [Sarah and kids] life, and you’re living your life. That doesn’t feel like a family.”
Matt: You said, “You’re here, but you’re not here.”
Sarah: Yes; I don’t necessarily feel like it was proximity; I feel like it was the heart. Does that make sense? Like, I do feel, even though I would say most Christian musicians’ families—I’m going to stretch far here—and I’m going to say, “Most of us families feel lonely, and we sacrifice that for the ministry.”
I think it was more the condition of our hearts in that. To me, it was: “If you came home, and you were excited to be here, and you weren’t complaining, and you were helpful, and you were happy, then, maybe, this could work”; you know? But it felt very much like it was the opposite every time he came home.
Bob: As you guys described these long tours—Matt’s gone; you’re there, fending for yourself. I was thinking about people in the military—
Bob: —guys, who are deployed, who try re-entry—they come in; now, they don’t know what their place in the home is.
Bob: This is an occupational hazard that is true for—not just for musicians or pro-athletes, as you mentioned, Dave—but it’s true for a number of professionals, who have got this: “I’m traveling a lot, and then I try to come back home and make life work.”
I was curious—because you alluded to this—both of you entertained thoughts that, maybe, this marriage was not going to make it?
Sarah: Yes; outside of conflict, we have a great time: we laugh; we have fun; we love each other. But when it comes to anything that strikes up conflict, it becomes quickly toxic. Someone once mentioned—what is it?—the 4-C’s? I forget exactly what they are—but they are like contempt…—and we possess all of them, with a 98 percent divorce rate or something like that. We have that on top of—
Matt: I remember Sarah reading that to me: “See, this guy here says that if you have the 4-C’s, you’re 98 percent likely to get a divorce.” I thought, “Well, that’s encouraging”; you know? [Laughter]
Sarah: “We possess, you know, these attributes that lead to divorce: my husband travels; we have a sick child.” Eighty-five percent will divorce when you have a sick child. I mean, we have all of these odds stacked against us. So yes, there have been moments where it’s like—
Matt: —those moments, really, too—you know, it’s like, when there have been those moments, where it’s, “I’m done!” [sounding serious] “Well, what do you mean by that?”; you know? It’s those words that speak; then, you go back and say, “Well, I was just saying, ‘I’m done with this’”; right? But it is those little kinds of threats that sneak in, and it’s the “look”; right? It’s that exchange, where you are like dancing that line of admitting out loud, “Do I want to walk away?”
Sarah: Yes, sure—have we threatened it to each other once in a while?—yes, we have.
Ann: But for you guys—here you are Matt, writing songs about Jesus and drawing closer to Him. You guys both love Jesus. What was going on with your relationship with God in the midst of all that?
Matt: Yes; I think for me—it’s interesting—because I’ve always had a prayerful relationship with the Lord on a daily basis; I’ve always been in the Word on my own time. I’ve always leaned into the Lord.
How do you even describe that person that I could be?—where I’m leaning into the Lord, and I’m almost leaning on that relationship, too, like, “Take care of everything. I didn’t want to deal with all of the little stuff.” I just kind of wanted to lean on the big-picture fact: “We’re a Christian couple; everything’s fine,” “I love the Lord; you love the Lord. We’re just going to stay married, because that’s what people in our family do.” We just kind of/I just could lean there and try to ignore the rest.
Dave: I mean, it sounds like you’re living in fairytale land denial.
Ann: Honey! Dave, this is you! [Laughter]
Dave: I wasn’t going to say—[Laughter]
Ann: You guys are twins!
Matt: Yes! [Laughter]
Dave: —I mean, I didn’t want to say it out loud; so my wife does! [Laughter] But I thought there were moments where, when we were really struggling, and the church was starting, and things were happening in my ministry, that I would be—you talk about contempt, and criticism, and defensiveness—these are all from John Gottman’s Four Horsemen—they’re all from that.
I’d be, literally, getting in our car. Ann would be walking out into the driveway with a child or two in her arms. I’d be yelling at her. Fifteen minutes later, I’m walking into an edlers’ meeting, leading spiritually.
Dave: And I’m like, “The dichotomy of what I’m doing.” Matt, I felt the same thing: it was like, “My walk with God is solid; I’m leaning on that foundation.”
Ann: “Ann’s just getting in the way.”
Bob: But I have to wonder, in the midst of that—
Bob: I’m thinking of the end of a Sanctus Real concert—you had a conversation with Sarah earlier in the day, where she’s just mad at you; because you’re not there—
Bob: —it’s the end of a Sanctus Real concert; and there are these cute girls who are coming up and going, “Your music is so inspiring; it’s changed my life.
Dave: And they’re throwing their Bibles up on stage! [Laughter]
Bob: “You’re amazing!” [Laughter]
Matt: You know, it’s interesting. For whatever reason, it was like, I didn’t really feel that temptation much; but the temptation I definitely did feel was on an emotional level—whoever it was after a concert—just [to hear]: “Oh, wow!” It’s the reward; I get rewarded for my work, because everybody says, “Wow! What a great job!”
Part of it, too, is that we have a job to do—
Matt: —“If I let myself get down in the mud, and caught up in all of this stuff, can I continue to lead and do my job?:—it’s almost like a protection element. But at the end of the day—and Sarah reminds me of this, and it’s good that she does—“Who are you protecting?
Matt: “Are you protecting what’s important? Or are you just protecting yourself?”
Dave: So at some point, Matt, it gets through.
Dave: It’s like, “My family and my home is actually more important than the tens of thousands/hundreds of thousands.”
Dave: What was it that hit you?
Matt: For me, it was that moment of realizing that my good intentions could no longer define me. It was a wakeup call the day that I wrote Lead Me, actually. I had that conversation at the dinner table that Sarah poured her heart out to me. She actually said those words to me, “I need you to lead me.”
Her face is puffy and red, and she’s been crying. You know that feeling, when you can see somebody’s heart just weighing on their face? I looked from her face at that table over to her face in our wedding photo; and I saw like this joyful woman, whose countenance was literally glowing with hope and excitement for our future.
Then I turn back, and I see her again. I’m like, “That is somehow my fault. And I might not understand, even right now, everything I’ve done. I know I’m oblivious to some of the reasons why. I know I’m too selfish to see some of the reasons why, but am I going to be a man, am I going to step up, and am I going to figure it out? Am I going to find out what my role is, in this exchange that’s happened over the last seven years, to get my wife to a place where she’s that far away from that wedding photo? Am I going to take responsibility?”
I think, that day, I really chose to be a man and take responsibility for, at least, one step at a time. I knew I wouldn’t get it perfect, but I knew that I had to make whatever hard decisions I had to make to put into action the intentions that I’d had my whole life.
Dave: That was the visual I think so many of us men—I can’t speak for what a wife or a mom feels—but I feel like I’ve done the same thing to my wife. Hearing you say that, you want to say, “God, I need to correct this. I need to be a man and step up.”
Dave: So thank you for doing that. I think we’ve got to hear the song.
Bob: We do have a guitar! [Laughter] We just happen to have one here in the studio. Do you mind pulling it up?
Matt: Bob even let me borrow a pic. [Laughter]
Matt: It’s funny. I would go into an interview, before the book, expecting to play; because we’re talking about music. I’m so unprepared now; I show up for a book interview, and I’m like, “Oh, yes, I didn’t bring a guitar. It’s about the song! What am I thinking?” [Laughter] Alright, this is Lead Me.
[Matt sings Lead Me] [Applause]
Bob: A great song. I’m wondering: is there one story you’ve heard from somebody, who has heard that song, and God has used it in a remarkable, powerful way in that guy’s life or in that couple’s life?
Matt: Every time somebody asks me that, honestly, the same story comes to mind. I had a woman come up to me. She said, “I’ve been having an emotional affair with a man who isn’t my husband for several months, and we had a text exchange. We said, ‘Hey, we’re going to meet up, and we’re going to be physical for the first time.’”
She said, on the way out of her house—she said they had their living room, with a sliding door on the back of the house—and as she was sliding open the door to leave, Lead Me came on the radio. She just stopped and listened. As the song played, she said, by the end of this song, she was on her knees, crying, weeping, asking God to forgive her. When her husband came home, she told him everything. She confessed; she repented and told him that she wanted to make things right and for them to grow in their marriage again together.
I think, “Man! What a crazy thing that God would bring a song on the radio in a moment like that just to speak to her heart.” And then, all the stories I’ve heard of men, who’ve pulled over on the side of the road, hearing that song on the radio, just breaking down, realizing that they want to and need to be that for their wives.
It’s amazing—music—you take a real moment of your life, and you put into a bottle, and you send it out; and somebody takes it, and they open it, and they feel the exact same thing.
Sarah: What I hear in that is the redemption of my pain. To me, like when I hear those stories—my heart’s cry in the midst of the toxic conflict, where I’m like, “Use this! This is pointless, and it’s destructive,”—as a person, I’m obsessed with redemption. So to me, that is like, “Okay, that was the redemption that came from those fights”; you know?
Ann: We have three of you guys around the table. Help us, as women—who are feeling lonely, who have felt like we’ve been trying to get you to hear us, and we feel like nags or we feel like we’ve just shut down—like we’re longing for our men to lead; we’re longing for our men to be with our kids or to lead spiritually, but we don’t always know how to communicate it; I know I’ve done it really poorly in the past—what should we be doing, as women? How can we motivate, and love, and encourage our men?
Bob: I’m just going to say what I heard Sarah say earlier, which is, “There’s no magic way for you to say anything.”
Bob: It’s going to take the Spirit of God to penetrate a husband’s heart. It’s not whether you are soft or angry, or say it this way or say it that way, or put it in a card or put it in a letter. If the Spirit of God is not the One who penetrates, it’s not going to make any difference.
So maybe, spending as much time praying as you are inclined to do—telling your husband what is wrong—maybe, taking that to the Lord and saying, “Lord, You know all of the things I’m frustrated by; You know. You’ve got to do this work in my husband’s heart. I can’t.”
I wish I had a formula. I wish I could say, “Here. Let me give you the 12 magic words; you say this, and you’ll have a new husband tomorrow.”
Bob: It doesn’t work like that in our lives or in our marriages; right?
Matt: Yes; it takes courage to speak up and say what we feel—for any of us to say, “Hey, I have a wound; I have a feeling,”—because you don’t know how it’s going to go. You really don’t.
But it also takes an equal amount of courage to approach the throne of God in prayer and trust that He’ll take care of it. I mean, I think we do want to know that our wives are praying for us; you know?—for sure. I think that’s a good word, Bob.
Dave: Yes; I think—you know, I thought of two visuals—I thought, “Knees; mouth.”
Dave: I thought, “The most important thing you can do, as a wife/as a husband, if you really long for change in your spouse, is ask God.” Because, like Bob said/like Matt said, “It’s not going to happen by me pushing Ann or Ann pushing me. God has to do a supernatural work.” But I also think, and Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, “Speak the truth in love.” You can’t be quiet; you’ve got to speak it in love.
Dave: But here is the other side of it: at some point, the spouse receiving that truth has to repent; you know?
Dave: You did; I did; Bob has. It’s a daily thing, and God will meet you right there. You may never write a song or a book, but you will have a story that your kids—grandkids and kids—will tell forever, so repent today.
Ann: I want to remind us, too, that the living God of the universe lives within us through His Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead. And that is power. Our prayers have power! God hears us, so don’t give up getting on your knees.
Bob: Thank you, guys. Thanks for being here with us. Thanks for sharing your story, and for the song, and for the book. We’ve got copies of Matt’s book, Lead Me, available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy or several copies to pass out to friends. Again, the title of the book is Lead Me. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship, one way or another, with your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about intentional, creative ways we can purposefully communicate our love to one another as husband and wife. Matt and Lisa Jacobson will be here with suggestions, ideas, and strategies for how we can let each other know that we care for one another. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; we got some extra help this week from Bruce Goff; and, of course, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend! We’ll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
©Song: Lead Me
Artist: Sanctus Real (Performed in FamilyLife Studio by Matt Hammitt)
Album: Pieces of a Real Heart, 2010 Sparrow Records
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