By Edward Lee
I am still processing the depth of the remarks that the President of all of the citizens of the United States of America made this week at the National Prayer Breakfast. Whether one likes him politically or agrees with his public confession of “Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” in his speech, there is a tremendous benefit to all when the leader’s position is clear about who they are. Whether one is leading a nation or leading a household, clarity of who they are sets the tone for those intimately connected to them. So I find great significance in this speech on the President’s personal faith walk.
Of course there will continue to be those that will question President Obama’s faith – and that is their right. But, what was laid out in this speech was a clear outlining of faith’s role in the President’s life as a leader, public servant, husband, and father. The contents of the President’s message of the manifestation of his personal faith in his different roles of life brought to mind the recent dialogue here on BMWK by my fellow contributors: from Aja’s post on the lack of church attendance of some husbands, to Delano’s post about What Makes a Man Husband Material as well as the release of the video trailer for Men Ain’t Boys, the recurring theme seems to be of the recognition of strength, faith and leadership as the identity of who African American men are.
I then hear the remarks of the President through the perspective of one that shares his role as father, husband and leader – even if only over just my own household. So here are President Obama’s three recurring themes of faith from a man’s perspective.
Theme # 1: Service to the least of these. In light of the enormity of the role of the President of the United States, with all of the letters, stories and cries for help that are directed his way he spoke of the biblical proclamation to serve “the least of these.” Those that are less fortunate and unable to do for themselves. It is a theme of his prayers that pits the scope of his own imperfections against his responsibility to serve others. He stated that this need to serve those depending on him is what keeps him from being overwhelmed by the enormity of the responsibilities, daily weight of his office and constant attacks by those that oppose him.
As I listened, and thought about the role of men in marriage and raising children I saw the parallel. That for all men we are called to serve our wives and our children. With all of our imperfections and flaws there are those counting on us and it is only an abiding faith in God that keeps us from being overwhelmed and swallowed up by the weight of being an understanding husband or patient father. Trying to raise a family and be a husband apart from faith adds years of stress and bad decisions that simply wears a man out – physically and emotionally. But as we demonstrate faith in God to be a servant to our families while Christ gives us strength to stand. We find the strength to thrive in our role as husbands, fathers and leaders.
Theme #2: Humility. After getting a laugh from the crowd about the humility and sense of balance that his wife helps him to maintain by insisting he complete certain chores around the house, the President began to explain his request for humility in his prayer life. His humility comes with a consistent recognition of God’s infinite wisdom in light of his finite understanding, as he said, “None of us have all of the answers” and “the full breadth of human knowledge is like a grain of sand in God’s hand.” Two statements that I know and agree with but…sometimes as a man, honestly, I feel like I have to have all the answers to my families questions and fears.
I recognize that a lack of humility creates a pressure that has the capacity to render me incapable of being the man I need to be. At other points, this often self imposed pressure to have all of the answers makes the temptation to leave my family and start anew with greener grass and a clean slate seem appealing in times of my inadequacy. But the challenge of being a man, whether the leader of a nation, a company or our household is to remain humble, recognize our own weaknesses and accept others points of view.
Personally, it is a challenge to admit that in my roles as father and husband I don’t know everything. But in a man’s prayer to God to remain humble we receive the ability to know and admit our limitations, accept the input of our wives and still be secure that – “I am the leader.” The prayer for humility, as Obama confessed for himself, is what drives a man to seek God daily for wisdom and direction in all facets of life.
Theme #3: Walk closer with God. To learn of and lean on God daily is the first and most important task of the President of the United States, as it relates to faith. He stated the need to walk closer to God as the theme that binds all prayers together. In a world and role that calls for intense pressure and glimpses of the tragic he is reminded of how fleeting life can be.
In our own lives, there are daily reminders of how precious life is. Whether in death and tragedy or financial struggle and strained relationships – our lives are constantly changing. This is a fact that makes it imperative that we as fathers, husbands and leaders tell our loved ones how much we love them and care for them.
That God would entrust a spouse and children to me, to us, is at all times mind boggling, yet we are encouraged to seek God’s face. To rise above the quest for riches, position and power, as the President said, “that every so often we would rise above the here and now, and kneel before the eternal.”It is a recurring theme that reminds us that “those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall walk and not get weary the shall run and not faint.” Obama then closed with his own daily regiment of walking close to the Lord, with these words, “When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me strength…And when I go to bed at night I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins, and look after my family and the American people, and make me an instrument of His will.”
While no one can determine or judge another’s faith, only God can. The encouragement for us all is to proclaim our own faith stance in our family, to our wives, and to our children. Let them see a man, a husband, father and leader that stands for something as he kneels to God for on their behalf for everything. Keep the faith.
What do you think, BMWK in what ways does your faith and specifically prayer, shape your marriage, family and life?
Edward is an Ordained Minister, Bible College Professor, Pastoral Marriage Counselor, and Author of two first of their kind marriage books, Husbands, Wives, God: Introducing the Marriages of the Bible to Your Marriage and his new book (2011) Husbands, Wives, God – Weekly Devotions: 52 Weeks of Relationship Enriching Devotions. To learn more about Edward and Husbands, Wives, God go to edwardclee.com or follow on facebook at Husbands, Wives, God.