114: Men in Blended Families: Why You Need a Strong Support System
Former NFL player Jeff Kemp has spent decades connecting with men. He understands the common struggles which include insecurity, comparison, and shame. He shares with Ron Deal how men can best cope by understanding their identity in our Father God, and why healthy male friendships are valuable in everyday life.
About the Guest
- Get Jeff Kemp's Men Huddle Playbook
- Online Certificate course in Blended Family Ministry
- Tips to a deeper friendship
- Easy steps to friendship & huddling
- The Smart Stepdad: Steps to Help You Succeed
- Make a tax deductible donation.
- Call with your question: 407-826-2606, email a podcast topic suggestion: email@example.com
- The Summit on Stepfamily Ministry
Jeff Kemp is a champion for strengthening relationships and teams. He’s dedicated to building benevolent men, fathering and marriages.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Jeff joined the National Football League (NFL) as an undrafted free agent. He and his dad, the late Vice-Presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, became the first of only six sets of NFL father-son quarterbacks. Growing u...more
Former NFL player Jeff Kemp has spent decades connecting with men. He shares with Ron Deal why healthy male friendships are valuable and how men can cope with struggles of insecurity, comparison, and shame by understanding their identity in our Father God.
114: Men in Blended Families: Why You Need a Strong Support System
Jeff: I really figured out my identity is as a beloved son of a perfect loving father who smiles on me all the time, and he would like me to depend on him 24-7 in every instance of life. So if Jesus received his identity and every action step he was ever going to do from the Father, we need to do that.
Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, to pursue the relationships that matter most. In our last episode, we talked a little bit about the qualities of courageous stepdads. In this episode, we're still talking to men, but we're going to broaden the conversation a little bit to how men can connect with other men, be better husbands and fathers, and how they can work alongside their wives to have healthier godly homes.
My guest is my friend Jeff Kemp. It's nice to have you here with me—
Jeff: Good to be here.
Ron: —in the studio, in the FamilyLife Blended studio. Let me tell you a little bit about Jeff. He is passionate about strengthening relationships and teams. He was an NFL quarterback for 11 seasons; played with the Rams, 49ers, Seahawks, and the Eagles. Did I get that right?
Ron: And now he pours into marriages and families. He speaks for businesses and men's conferences and coaches leaders. He's the author of the book Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs. He and his wife, Stacy, have four married sons at this point, six grandchildren.
Jeff: Well, we bumped that up to nine. We had three in the last three months.
Ron: Oh my goodness.
Jeff: It's been a busy, busy, couple of months.
Ron: We’ve got to update your bio. Nine grandkids; my goodness. He and Stacy still speak for FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and they live right here in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I am, which is why he can join me in the studio today.
Jeff: And it's good to be with you.
Ron: It's good to be with you. We used to work together for a season; that was a lot of fun.
Jeff: I know it was.
Ron: We miss you around here.
Jeff: Well, we can do this type of thing as long as I don't blow this today. I'll come back again. I look forward to doing it.
Ron: That sounds good. Hey, you work with men a lot. That's kind of the thing that you really love to do the most, I think, right now. Is that true?
Jeff: Yes. I mean, when I left football, I was focused on marriage and did that for 18 years in a nonprofit that we ran and came to FamilyLife® for a similar focus on marriage and family. I found myself getting involved with some of the men's resources that Dennis Rainey and FamilyLife put together. I was always out speaking to men anyway. And then that started to accelerate, and I discovered I'd rather speak to a husband in a man context, just men, then in front of the wives. We do the Weekend to Remember; it's awesome.
Ron: Sure, sure.
Jeff: I'm always speaking about kind of identity and using kind of football and sports metaphors to talk about the blitzes and the challenges and the teamwork in relationships of life. —kind of feel like that's the sweet spot. I also feel, Ron, like it is a huge need, A in the culture, but B, for followers and believers in Jesus.
Ron: I was just going to ask you, what are the core needs that you see going on in men's lives, in terms of life, work, relationships? Are there some common themes that you see men struggling with?
Jeff: Confidence; they're not sure that they're doing okay.
Jeff: They're not sure if they're doing okay relative to other people.
Jeff: And comparison is higher than any point in human civilization. First of all, the business world, you know like the athletic world, super competitive. You know, “What have you done for me lately?” As soon as you meet your quotas, they raise them. We're going to bring in someone else, pay them more, now I want more. And then you get fired, and you know people don't stay in jobs very long, so there's a lot of insecurity, a lot of comparison. And that has a lot of second guessing going on in guys.
So confidence, and then trace back to their own dad never told them, “Dude, you have what it takes. I believe in you. Hang in there, you're great.” I had that from my dad; most guys don't have that. Alright, so confidence is big.
Secondly, a sense of shame. Because we all screw up and we're more isolated than in the past, so we don't have a really great way to process our screw ups and realize we're not the only one. We also can't get out of our mess ups and our weaknesses, even our addictions alone. But if you're always trying to look good in front of others or afraid that you're going to compare negatively to them, or they'll disrespect you, then you're not going to open up and have that so you're feeling some shame. And that's not from God. You and I both have talked about this. Shame is the enemy's message that—
Ron: Right. That's right.
Jeff: —you suck, you stink, and you can't change.
Ron: That's right. It's very debilitating and so insidious because it just unravels everything inside you about who you are and your ability to do anything.
Jeff: Yes. It kills the chance to change and grow and improve.
Ron: Yes, yes and it contributes to isolation like you were saying. Men are feeling more competitive; that isolates because it's now, me against you, or at least my idea of you. I don't even know you necessarily as a person or a coworker or whatever the, “You're the guy with the business that competes,” but it sort of creates this big gap. And then shame comes in and says, “Oh yes, and by the way, you're not as good as Jeff is. You're not as worthy as this person is or that person is.”
Ron: I imagine the stepdads listening to us going like, “There's always this shadow of the biological dad sort of looming out there in the lives of these children that you're trying to connect with and it—you know that can easily be “You're not worth them,” or “You're not worthy of them,” and compared to him, who are you and all of that.
Jeff: Right. Well, FamilyLife Blended has done a good job and, and you've been very conscious of this—that all the “Yay, marriage is great. God's gift; super lifelong marriage. Here we go; here we go, team.”—if you're not careful, you're sending a message to those whose first marriage didn't work or those who aren't in a marriage that you're less than, that you're not whole.
Ron: That's right.
Jeff: And I think you and I both believe you are whole because A, God made you; B, you ran away from him; C, Jesus brought you back and He is the one who makes you whole. And you really don't want to get into a marriage unless you have that wholeness.
Jeff: So, a second marriage or a third marriage or a blended family is a great family; the one you're in right now, not to be compared against someone else because we all have our own history and background. Shame and isolation, you were talking about those two, they feed on each other. It's like a crazy cycle.
Ron: That's right.
Jeff: Anyway, so we were talking about men's confidence is low. They have too much comparison going on. There's this sense of shame. And if they have been having trouble with pornography or sexual temptation, compromise in the sexual area, maybe there was an affair in their background and, and they haven't confessed it; it's a secret, the enemy's going to come in and tell them they're disqualified. You might as well just fake it.
Ron: Let me ask you—
Jeff: God has this thing called guilt. “Hey, you got off track. It's not hitting the blueprint, the bullseye, but Jesus has paid the price for that. I can forgive you for that and I know you'd love to get back on track. Would you just please receive the gift I've given you of forgiveness and start going the other way?” It's not because you go the other way, that He gives you the forgiveness. Here, He gave it to you; we just don't receive.
Ron: That's so difficult though. I mean, because I know what's inside of me, and I've heard from other guys is, “Yes, but I got to do this. I’ve got to do it myself,” right. That there's that sense of pride and self-reliance that is easy to kind of—
Ron: Yes. You know, like that's, “What am I worth if I'm not accomplishing, if I'm not conquering?” I think that's the word I was looking for.
And so, I have this struggle and “Man, I know I need the Lord, but I can do better.” You know, I think there's that little side of us that wants to take it on, that wants to defeat whatever that enemy is.
Jeff: In some degree, men kind of want to deserve what they get. Like, I'd like to earn some of this good stuff God does for me.
Ron: And there may be worth tied into that as well.
Jeff: Sure; maybe I shouldn't, maybe I shouldn't really go to him. Until I've done a couple things to get myself on a little better footing. Or some people after they have this amazing forgiveness from God and this experience, a few years later, now they start trying to do it on their own when they were saved totally by Him and His grace. But they're trying to live a little bit on their own effort. I've tried that. You've tried that. We've done ministry that way.
Ron: Yes, that's right. That's right.
Jeff: That's really an oxymoron.
Ron: Yes, that's right.
Jeff: I think the sense that identity heals a whole lot of things, and probably the biggest lack is crystal clarity on your identity being received from Father God as a beloved son, based on what Jesus did for you, not what you do to make God happy with you and stop frowning at you.
So, I think a lot of guys listening, probably if you asked them, “Hey, does God love you?” “Yes.” “Does he like you?” “I don't know, not most of the time.” And you know what?
Ron: At least not sure about it.
Jeff: That's a lie.
Ron: Yes, yes.
Jeff: That's that shame lie from the enemy. He likes you. He smiles on you. He loves you. He gives you credit for all the righteous living and character of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 says, [paraphrase] “God made him who never, ever sin to be sins punishment for us who did sin so we could be made into the righteousness of Christ.”
I'm going to use the word receive again. If we don't receive that, we start thinking we need to earn our identity, earn our righteousness, earn our acceptability, earn my ranks in the pecking order of good Christian dudes or good men, or the guy at the work or whatever success measure there is and there's about 800,000 of them on the internet today. Comparison is just so tough. I especially feel bad for young men and boys. There’re so many different measures of, what are you supposed to be? It's confusing. That's why I talked about, a lack of confidence, confusion, some shame, and it goes back to identity.
Ron: Let's dovetail this into, or kind of pull this conversation into the home—relationships. I heard somebody say something years ago, and I've never forgotten it because I recognize that it was true about me, and it can be even true now if I let it. And that is, a lot of men, the only friend they have in the world is their wife. And you add to that a context where you're trying to compete in the world. You're trying to do well by the kids. You're trying to figure out life and your own biological children and do right by them. And a lot of men, by the way, in blended families don't get to see their kids very much.
Jeff: Yes, it’s tough.
Ron: They're with their stepchildren more than they're with their bio kids. And there's something that just feels wrong about that, so you have this guilt thing going on, right. And everything you're saying, the shame of that and “I'm not quite good enough;” that whole inadequacy piece. And then you go to that primary relationship with your wife and she's disappointed in you; or there's a criticism, there's a “Listen, honey, you're not quite cutting it with my kids the way I wish you were” or, you know, whatever those messages are that reinforces you're not quite enough. Wow. That's a hard place to be. You just feel like you're losing everywhere.
Jeff: Yes. That's that lack of confidence, and it goes back to our dads. Forty-three percent of guys grew up without a dad. Twenty-five percent of those who did have their dad in their life don't feel an emotional connection to him. You're looking at six or seven out of ten men don't have an emotional connection from their dad where they would've heard the message, “Hey, you measure up. You have what it takes. I know today wasn't good.” You know, “You got a couple Ds on your report card; your character, your future, it's good.”
If you're not hearing that in your childhood and then you're not going to hear that at work. Right. And then in marriage, or in your new blended home you are not hearing, “Hey, great job. I'm so proud of you. You're hitting it on all cylinders,” you're going to feel like you don't measure up. And that will probably make a man shut down more than lean into the relationship, which is the huge concern that we have. There are answers. God wants to use your challenge, your emotional hardship, your conflicts, your difficulties, the blitzes you face. He wants to use those to get you closer to Him and closer to your wife.
But you brought up something—you said most guys would say, “My wife is my best friend.” Like if you ask them, “Who's your best friend?” A lot of guys today, they're so busy. They're doing great by their kids and coaching little league and doing this and working hard, trying to go to church with their wife. “My wife is my best friend,” and I would say “No, she isn't. No way.” I'd say “Your wife needs you to have a best friend who makes you a better husband. She is your amazing, special, way more than just best friend. She's your lover. And yes, she's your friend. She's your comrade and your partner.
You need a best friend or two that help you see the real you, encourage the you that God knows is in there, and make you a better husband on the days where you're not so good and on the days where you felt built/beat up at home.” But the guy reminds you, “You know what, you have persevered through a lot of stuff and you're a faithful husband. I am proud of you, dude. I'll be praying for you.” You need that sometimes, because your wife isn't going to say that to you every day.
Ron: Yes, and so what you're saying is you need some same sex friends, other guys who are in your life, and is it guys, lots of guys? Is it a few guys, one or two guys?
Jeff: Well, Jesus had Peter, James and John. The number three is a pretty good number in the Bible. I would say you need two close, deep friends. The problem, Ron, is we don't really have a definition of friendship. We might have had a few good ones in high school, maybe in the military, on a team.
Ron: A lot of times they're more buddies than friends.
Jeff: They were buddies. You felt bonded by some experiences. You went through a challenge together or something.
Ron: Played on a team together or something.
Jeff: Yes. Yes, yes. But did you tell your story to him, and did he tell his story to you? Does he know some of your secrets and dark side? Do you know some of his? If you know some of those things about a guy, you'd call him at 2:00 AM in a crisis. A 2:00 AM friend is a really strong key friend. A lot of men don't have that. But even so Ron, if you have a guy like that, but you don't talk to him, but every three months or so, he can't help you next week when pornography's about to eat your lunch or your anger with these step stepkids or your wife.
Ron: Yes, whatever it is.
Jeff: Or your ex-wife is about to grab you and take you off track. If you don't have a guy praying for you, who knows really what's going on, then you feel alone and you don't have the teamwork that God intended for us. We're not supposed to go alone. You know, the Bible says bear your burdens with one another, confess your sins to one another, and you'll be set free.
It says, spur each other on to love and good deeds, good fathering, and don't forget to meet together, as is the habit of some people, but keep on meeting together because life's rough. That's Hebrews 10:24-25 with a little bit of Jeff paraphrasing.
Ron: I was going to say a little paraphrase there.
Jeff: But I mean, in essence it's saying get together and encourage each other. I would call that level of friendship that does it like weekly so that there's no secrets or problems.
Ron: It's consistent; it's not occasional, but there's actually some ongoing depth there.
Jeff: And you can actually process the stuff that's about to happen in your life before it happens and not make those dumb moves like I've made many times when I didn't run it by a guy. Or you can talk about a tough thing real quickly after it happened, confess it and have even more strength to your repentance of apologizing to God because you got honest with a guy—get prayed for and have fun. I mean, it's fun to have this kind—I'd call that level five friendship. If there were five levels, this is the deepest level.
Ron: Okay, so Jeff, I want to ask you a question. I'm going to give voice to what I can imagine are two different listeners—
Jeff: Yes, give it.
Ron: —and the questions that they're asking right now. Number one is imagining a wife who's listening to this conversation going, my husband has none of this.
I thought I was supposed to be his one and only friend, and I'm hearing that he needs more than just me because they can bring something to his growth process that's really valuable for him, and she's wondering, “What do I say to my husband about this?” That's one question.
The other question is guys that are listening to this right now who are feeling really intimidated. Like because what you just described, level five—
Jeff: Getting there is scary, right?
Ron: Getting there is scary—
Jeff: And is it possible?
Ron: And it's like, where do I start looking for that person? Like I have buddies—I'll speak for me—I have buddies. I have friends. I have a couple of guys that I have consistent conversation with, and those are really helpful relationships, and they have some depth to them.
But if I was just in those buddy friendships where we all work hard to look good to one another and nobody's really vulnerable, nobody's transparent, to take that relationship and move it one step closer to what you just described is scary. It's just flat out intimidating. And I can imagine somebody listening, going, “I don't know that I can do that. I don't even know where to begin.” Let's start with that question.
Jeff: My answer is going to be the same to most any question of: how do I do this? You know, how do I do this Christian thing? How do I do this husband thing? How do I forgive? How do I develop deep friendships and get vulnerable to make it happen?
You do it by going to God like Jesus did and saying, “I don't say or do or think anything my Father doesn't give me,” and “Everything my Father's doing, I'm doing,” and “I cannot do anything apart from my Father.” Those are all quotes from Jesus. If Jesus, the perfect, strongest, amazing, courageous, studly, perfect guy, needed his dad to do anything, so do we, and we're invited to do that. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” says Paul, Apostle Paul.
I would say talk to God and say, “I want and need a couple friends and I'm afraid of being betrayed. I'm afraid of putting myself out there. And then another guy doesn't open up to me.”
Jeff: “Or being betrayed and having him leave me after a while. God, those are my fears. But Jesus had deep friends. He turned the disciples into deep friends. You know, Paul and Barnabas were friends. Jonathan and David were friends. Jesus wants us to have friendships, so will you give that to me?” So just tell Him, “I'm afraid, but I want it. Will you help me?” And then, I would say you just do a few friendly things each week to one or two guys. Which means text him and say, “When can we catch half an hour on the phone?”
Ron: Okay, start with prayer and then start taking—
Jeff: And ask God who?
Ron: Ask God who.
Jeff: —who and then take little baby steps like, call a friend or text him if you need to find time and say, “Hey, can we catch up for half an hour this week sometime on the phone?” Don't tell him what you're doing like, “Hey, I'm trying to build a deep level five friendship.”
Ron: [Laughter] Would you be that friend for me?
Jeff: Just say, “Dude, I thought I'd ask you what's going on in your life that's really important that you'd be willing to share and how I could pray for you. And if you want me to start, I'll tell you what's up with me. Probably the most important thing is I've been so busy I haven't dated my wife for three months. I haven't been praying with her and I'd like to, but I haven't gotten back in the habit. Those are probably the most important thing, and if you could pray for those, that'd be awesome.”
Ron: And still, let me just, I want to make a comment because I think once you get to a place where you have learned how to be vulnerable in this manner, and you have.
The things you just said, learning to pray with my wife—
Jeff: Those were pretty deep. I get it. I agree.
Ron: But no, my point is that comes more easily once you—
Jeff: Oh yes.
Ron: —have gone down this road, and you've spent so much time spinning down that road yourself, that comes easy to you. So again, somebody hearing that going, “Wow, I don't think I could say that.” Great, find the little thing that you feel like you can reveal to a friend and consider it a little litmus test like, I'm going to share this little thing about me that is sort of out of the ordinary for my relationship with this particular guy and this friendship. And I'm going to see how it falls. Like if I share this little piece of me and the other person says, “Man,” or just doesn't know—
Jeff: —goes quiet.
Ron: —goes quiet.
Jeff: —starts talking about the basketball game.
Ron: Or totally changes the subject. Guess what? You just learned that's probably not the guy. That's probably not the friendship that's going to progress and become something. But if you share something with somebody at some point and they return or they acknowledge or they say, “Man, thank you, I appreciate that.” Or you know, at some point you see them opening up.
I'm a firm believer, Jeff, as I know you are as well, that when somebody goes first, it makes it a whole lot easier for the next person to go. Somebody has to find the courage to do that vulnerability thing and then watch and see what happens. If the next person does it, first of all, it got easier for them because you did it.
But second of all, when they show you in-kind, similar vulnerability, that's telling you that there's potential in that particular friendship for that to be something that can progress to a level five.
Jeff: Exactly, and you know, to listen to the advice you just gave me, which is, “Jeff, you got pretty vulnerable quickly because you're comfortable doing this.” And yes, I have two different huddles and I meet with them every week. We change the time if the time doesn't work, because we believe in it that much and it's fun, but it's also like super needed now.
Maybe a first call with a guy is, “Hey, the most important thing going on with me is one of my sons is having a struggle and we haven't been able to talk for a couple months and that's hard on me. You know, I just want that to get better. Would you pray for that?” That was personal. It's about me, but it's also about my son.
You could have said, “Work, work's tough as heck,” or “Hey, pray for my marriage.” You don't have to tell him what's going on in your marriage. But just bringing up that topic is a vulnerable step. And when you say to him, “Hey, what's important going on in your life?” And he doesn't say what really is important, don't worry. Then say, “What going on in you can I pray about?” Which is not for your aunt's cancer or something. What's going on in you? And make sure you give them something personal in you to pray about.
And if, like you said, you see a kind of decent response, give them a call a week later and do it again, and then a week later and do it again. Then you may want to say, “Well, let's catch a cup of coffee” if you're in the same town. I do this with friends who aren't in the same town, which broadens my circle of potential deep level five friends.
I had a friend of mine who I've been meeting with for eight years—you know him, Greg—he just moved to North Carolina. That didn't kill our group. We just switched to Zoom.
Ron: Okay, you can keep it going. This day and age there's no reason to stop.
Jeff: Yes. So, and I would also remind a husband, your wife needs one or two best friends more so than a girl's group for girls' night out. I'm not saying she can't do that, but that's going to be conversations at the usual normal level—don't go to the personal deep and important stuff. She needs one or two trusted friends that are on her side, have her back, love her, will say tough things to her, will support her when life's hard, pray for her. That's the same thing that you need from a person of the same sex. It's not a threat to your marriage. It's a blessing and a help to your marriage.
Right now, Ron, my life's going pretty well, but the biggest thing I'm realizing after 40 years is even though I have worked on and feel like I'm fairly humble in my exterior approach to life, I am proud in my marriage. The person I need to be most humble with is Stacy, because I have thin skin when it comes to her disappointment in me, or corrections of me, her telling me I'm driving in a way that makes her feel unsafe and I'll say something like, “Have I ever crashed with you in the car?” She'll say no, but you know what? It doesn't matter because she still has her stomach in knots because she's not comfortable switching lanes as fast as I do or driving the way I do.
Ron: What you've keyed in on I think is really, really good and insightful. I think what I hear you saying is when she makes a comment and really, I was just going to turn this whole friendship conversation to marriage. I think a lot of guys, the last person we want to be vulnerable with is our wife. There is a level of—
Ron: Yes. I mean, you are completely naked when we start opening up in that way. As tough as we can be as guys on the outside dealing with work and taking on the world and conquering whatever mountain we've got to kind of climb, when it comes to our wives, you know, she's the most important person in the world.
Jeff: We're a little boy with a little boy's fragile ego.
Ron: It's true.
Jeff: But you know what, this comes back to identity. I'd urge every single guy here to do something crucial. I started this journey aggressively when Covid hit, and I was not traveling anymore, and I had plenty of time on my hands.
Ron: Which is good and bad, right?
Jeff: I started dating Stacy again. We started playing tennis, which is our fun thing. I started having time with God and reading the Bible more, but I didn't want to just read it. I said, “God, I would like to be re-fathered by you,” and I started reading the Bible as a son listening to his dad. I really figured out my identity is as a beloved son of a perfect loving Father who smiles on me all the time, and He would like me to depend on him 24-7 in every instance of life even this moment while we're talking. Okay.
If I crash my car into someone on the way out of here, I have to depend on Him in the conversation I'm going to have with the person I hit or who hits me, the police person who comes to take care of us, my wife, when I talk to her and I'm embarrassed that I did this dumb thing or whatever it is. I’ve got to be trusting in God and listening to Him. He'll carry me through that. We typically don't depend on Him.
I'm reminding guys, if you know your identity in Christ as a son and the Father, you don't need your wife as the only voice to tell you whether you're worth something or not. And in that circumstance where you're going to be kind of embarrassed and feel kind of ganged up on, if God is saying, “I love you, Jeff. I got your back. I'll never turn you away. You have what it takes,” you can handle listening to your wife tell you the truth and not be defensive, not be prickly.
Ron: It helps. Yes. I mean, it becomes the source. The truth of your identity at that point in time overrides whatever truth—if I could say it that way, lowercase t—is coming at you from your wife.
Jeff: —and your emotions.
Ron: I can totally relate to this. I think this is really core to humans.
Ron: Men, women, children, everybody like constantly saying, now wait a minute, who am I? And how do I hang onto that in the midst of this moment when it feels like you're completely against me? Whoever the you is—a boss, wife, friend, whatever that is, child—I can remember who I am in Christ and bring that forward into this moment.
That's empowering. It's just super hard to do, but it really is a good bedrock on which if we can center our lives and we can really stick with that and hang on to that, then it really is the thing that helps us in the middle of raging rivers.
Jeff: I'm going to tell people just applying the thing you're hearing, Ron, and me say right now, have your identity in Christ, be a beloved son of the Father, bring that into every crisis and argument and disagreement. That's going to be hard unless you've gone on a journey to ask God to give you that identity and make you super clear and secure in it. And He will help you if you ask Him.
I think you might want to do what I did. Say, “God, I'd like to go on a journey to be re-fathered by You.” What's that mean? I'm going to start asking you some questions. I might even write them down on my computer or in my phone or in my journal, which is what I did. I wrote God questions, and He starts answering them in various ways: Bible, prayer, take a walk around the block.
Ron: And you know one of the things that occurs to me is if you do that, not only will God lead you in a process, but he might have to unpack some stuff inside you first. Like on the journey to vulnerability with a friend or your spouse, He might have to show you all the things you're trusting in that are not Him.
Jeff: Yes, and He'll show you what you haven't really been totally honest with Him about yet. Sometimes we're afraid to tell God things because He'll be so disappointed in us. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead and forgave all of that, and He loves us. Romans 5, “While we are yet sinners, he proved his love for us.” That applies for the rest of your life.
So, I think we’ve just got to be more free with God to tell Him exactly what's going on, including our frustrations, our laments, our grief, our fear, the shame we're feeling, and let Him cancel it and then tell you who you really are based on what Jesus did.
And get off the performance track, either the secular, competitive, be a good football player, make some money in the world, impress everyone—you know, lifestyle performance track or the Christian look good—have your family in church on Sunday, don't have any kids that have problems with drugs or drop out of school or whatever.
We need to get off that performance track.
Ron: And that's so hard, Jeff, because every part of our life, other than our relationship with God, it feels like the messages that we get in society—I'm going to put it that way—are performed: do, accomplish, achieve, whether it's getting a college degree and pleasing mom and dad or getting a good job and doing well so you get that little extra raise or finding the next step. Everything seems to be a ladder.
Jeff: Well, and it's exaggerated by the comparison culture.
Ron: Yes, yes.
Jeff: The culture is a consume, selfish culture and a compare, competitive culture. I mean, think of the teen girls with body image and a million other things on Instagram and TikTok that they need to measure up to. Same thing for teen boys and tween boys. But same thing for the mom who's 32 years old and thinks “I’ve got to be as great as all these other moms at all this stuff.”—all at the same time. And then the men who were already insecure because men are kind of wired to want to know, do I have what it takes? Do I measure up? You know, can I do it?
A daddy or a grandpa or a good godly mentor should say, “Yes, you have what it takes. I'm not measuring you by the externals; I'm measuring you by your heart.” God came to Gideon when he was afraid, hiding in a wine press, 19-year-old scaredy cat and says, “O Gideon, the Lord is with you great and mighty warrior, mighty man of valor.” He spoke his identity into him, his character into him, his destiny into him, before he was living it. That's what everyone listening needs to hear from Father God, “I made you and I don't make junk. I forgave you and I forgave fully. I said, it is finished on the cross, so will you please receive that and the identity as my son or my daughter.”
And from that point, keep receiving. Because if you're having a hard time getting along with your spouse, handling that stepchild, handling your bio child who you don't see much, who's mad at you that the family split up, go to Father God and say, “I can't on my own, but I don't need to beat myself up because Jesus has forgiven everything.
And you smile on me and love me and say, ‘I have what it takes so give it to me please.’”
And then depend on Him in every moment. A, to make a friend like we talked about and just inch along towards level five. B, to get honest and vulnerable with your spouse. Because you will not grow intimacy if you don't get honest and that does mean being vulnerable.
I would just say to husbands that thing I said about I need to get more humble with Stacy in that one area of life more than anywhere else, I think what that means is validate her emotions before I worry about my feelings. And let God be big enough to help me with those yucky feelings about myself and be—let God figure out. If she's off base by ten percent, I don't need to tell her. “Oh, but you know what, I did it,” “No, that's not right,” “You overexaggerated that,” “I didn't like your tone.” No, no, no, Jeff, accept what she said as a gift and let God work on her and let humility change you. And if I get different a week from now, a month from now, four months from now, she's going to be a way better wife because she's got a better husband to respond to.
So just focus on yourself but get honest and validate the emotions of the other person. God's big enough to handle ours, but we need to validate theirs if we want intimacy.
Ron: You brought up the word receive again. I know you're writing a book where that's a core concept. Do you mind telling us a little bit about it?
Jeff: That's the title. It was so funny, Ron, I was—you've written a lot of books; this will be my second one. The first one was kind of a facing life's problems and trials and difficulties. I put the metaphor of a football blitz, bad can turn good into it. That was called Facing the Blitz.
This one, I couldn't get the title for a while. I was waking up in the/early in the morning, 3:00 AM, obsessing. We're typing out millions of options, asking people's advice, and then I eventually cracked up and said, “This is terrible.
I'm supposed to tell men that they can receive everything they need from their Heavenly Father like Jesus did and I can't receive the stinking title to my book. Maybe this book doesn't have any credibility.” Eventually it came; the title is Receive and the subtitle is The Way of Jesus for Men.
And the gist of it is the way of Jesus was, number one, receiving His identity from the Father. Remember, the Father said, “My son in whom I'm well pleased,” “My beloved son, in whom I'm well pleased,” “the chosen one,” and he told Peter, James and John, “listen to him.” He said his identity, his unconditional love, the pleasure he takes in him, and the place and purpose in life that Jesus had. He got all that from his Heavenly Father. Ron Deal, Jeff Kemp, and every dude out there needs to receive those things: their identity, unconditional love, the pleasure and approval and delight, the smile and the pat on the back from your dad, and a calling, a purpose. “You fit in. You're part of my kingdom plan.”
You're a janitor; you're a high school teacher; you're a tech guy; you're writing software; do it to God's glory and be a teammate with other Christians. And love your wife as an even more important job than that one, and your kids as one of the most exciting jobs you'll ever have—get that from God.
So that's the gist of it. The way of Jesus is receiving from the Father, and secondly, friendship. He said, “I call you friends, my friends,” and then he turned them into friends, and he sent them out as friends two by two.
So, if Jesus received his identity and every action step he was ever going to do from the Father, we need to do that. And if Jesus lived by friendship, we not only need to do that, but Ron, it's way more fun than living by yourself, guessing what people think of you, being afraid to open up, not having conversations that go any deeper than the crazy economy and what's going on in sports and the political junk that's even crazier than the economy. No, live with a teamwork approach, not ten best friends. You can't have that. You don't have to go open and spill your guts to some Bible study of ten guys, but you should have two close deep friends. I'll help them get there Ron, and I know you and FamilyLife Blended will share one of my resources with them.
Ron: Yes, tell us a little bit more about that. I know huddling is one of the concepts.
Jeff: It's not a football term, but business uses it. Huddle up, let's get/let's huddle, let's get some/a team together to huddle and figure out where we're going. That's the gist of what I think friends can and need to do if they want to move to that deepest level five. Level five friendship, what Jesus had with Peter, James, and John, and what he wants for us, is intentional. It's consistent. It connects pretty much every week. It's trustworthy. It declares, I'm confidential with you. Are you confidential with me? If a man will say that up front, he's way more comfortable sharing. But we never define that.
I've just defined friendship as those things, including openness and honesty and praying for one another. And don't be afraid to share what the Bible says are your weaknesses or temptations or failures, because when you do it to a trusted friend who prays for you, you become more strong and free from that struggle and sin.
James 5:16. Look it up, write it down, practice it. Confess your sins to another dude and you'll be set free. It's God who forgives you. But how do you quit porn? You become transparent and open in a little team. How do you get rid of your alcohol in your life, your anger in your life? You confess it to a guy and say, “Pray for me on this. Let's talk about it next week.”
So anyway, those are traits of level five. And huddling means we get on the phone or on a zoom or live, real regularly. For me it's weekly. I don't think you could do it monthly and cover all the ground you need to. I have a playbook to help men with that, that they can get on my website. I have two little tip sheets for deep friendship this week that I'll give to your ministry, and you can share it with people if they want to get ahold of you guys.
Ron: Jeff, thanks for being with me today. I really appreciate it. And to you, the listener, I want you to know we're going to make those available to you. If you want to learn more about Jeff or get that free pdf, just go to the show notes. It'll tell you how you can get a hold of that. If you have a question or an idea for a future episode, let us know that as well. We'd be happy to hear from you.
We always want to remind you this is a donor supported podcast and ministry. FamilyLife is a donor supported ministry so if you want to just say thank you for some of the resources that we're making available to you, you can make a tax-deductible donation as well. Again, look in the show notes and that'll tell you how you go about doing that.
Okay, next time on FamilyLife Blended, you're going to hear the 20-year story of how Gil and Brenda Stuart finally got all of their children to attend their wedding. I know, sounds a little strange. Tune in. You're going to enjoy this. That's next time on FamilyLife Blended.
I'm Ron Deal, thanks for listening.
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