A Legacy of Faith
About the Guest
Hank Parker informs moms and dads on the benefits of taking their children hunting and fishing.
A Legacy of Faith
Bob: Hank Parker is an award-winning, world champion fisherman. In the process of chasing that dream, Hank looks back and realizes he neglected something even more important.
Hank: I was not the husband that God called me to be and the result was total devastation. The Bible says you love your wife as Christ loved the church and died for it. It is not contingent—God tells the wife what to do, and God tells the husband what to do. So my behavior is not contingent on how well she does her job, and God showed me that clearly.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It is easy in the pursuit of our dreams to neglect what’s really important in our lives. Hank Parker talks about that with us today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have been inspired this week. I think I can do it—I think I can become a world class bass fisherman. [Laughter] I mean—
Dennis: Bob, I’ve seen you fish.
Dennis: Bob, tell the audience what kind of fishing pole I gave you.
Bob: We have been fishing together up on the—what was it?
Dennis: The White River.
Bob: It’s in Arkansas. They’re—what are the fish called? They’re trout?
Dennis: That’s what they are called. They have fins.
Dennis: They live in water.
Dennis: That is correct.
Bob: And there was a nice man in the boat who took those fish off that hook for me—I appreciated him a lot!
Dennis: But tell them about the pole I gave you. It was a kiddie pole—
Bob: It was a Zebco®.
Dennis: —a little pink kiddie pole, that was about two feet long and—
Bob: We’re going to post on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, a picture of the fish I caught with that big fishing pole—
Dennis: I was—that was where I was going.
Bob: —because I caught a pretty good-sized fish.
Dennis: I wanted to tell—
Bob: It was the big fish of the day.
Dennis: It was the big fish of the trip!
I got to introduce Hank Parker. Welcome back to Bob Lepine’s Outdoor Program. [Laughter]
Hank: The big-fish man caught it on a kid’s rod and reel, and it was two feet long!
I’ve never done that—that’s pretty special. [Laughter]
Dennis: Hank is a world champion bass fisherman. He has a TV program called Hank Parker’s Outdoors—also has a hunting program with your sons. Share with our listeners about that broadcast.
Hank: Okay. My fishing show is Hank Parker’s Outdoor Magazine, been running for
34 years. Then, for 10 years now, I’ve been doing a show with my two older sons called Hank Parker’s Flesh and Blood. It’s a hunting show over on the Outdoor Channel. We’ve had a lot of fun with that.
Bob: So, I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I can’t make it in the NBA—[Laughter]—okay? I’m not tall enough / I can’t jump that high. I can look at myself in the mirror and know the NFL is out for me. Can anybody be a world class fisherman?
Hank: Absolutely! And that is what is so cool about our sport. I was talking earlier with some folks about the growth of high school fishing. These kids that are not athletic / these kids that don’t necessarily qualify for any type of team sport—the water is level. Whether you’re a little girl, a little boy, whether you’re tall—it doesn’t make any difference. You know, the water’s level; and fish are not partial to anybody—they’re non-discriminate.
Bob: Well, the guy that we went fishing with that day, who was in the boat—who took the fish off the hook for me? [Laughter] I saw what Dennis paid him at the end of the day. He’s making a good living doing that. He’s doing alright; you know?
Dennis: There are a lot of days when you don’t go to work though, Bob.
Dennis: Alright. I want you to talk to our listeners—we’ve got other stories that I want you to tell—but I just—for a moment, talk to moms and dads about doing something like fishing or hunting with your son / with your daughter; because it really is a great way—
Bob is kind of kidding about this—but it really is a great way to bond and build relationships with your kids.
Hank: I have the opportunity—when I do fishing seminars, people will ask questions from time to time. I take every opportunity that I can to spread the word that fishing will break down a lot of barriers. In my life, it was everything. But almost every kid that you will ever see catch a fish—whether they are 2 years old or 80 years old / old kids— everybody catches a fish smiles / it’s fun.
But you know, we all are guilty—I’m guilty of driving the kids to school—the bell is going to ring at 8:15, and we’ve got to hurry and hurry. You kind of force feed a conversation when the mood’s wrong. Man, you can take your kid out on a riverbank—or in the boat and sit on the pond—just let him or her just open up. Let the conversation flow.
The quality of the conversation you can have in the right atmosphere breaks so many barriers that we try to force on our kids. Communicating is not just talking. To be able to really reach your children, you’ve got to work to create an environment. Fishing will help you do that. I promise you—it will help you get that.
Bob: Have you thought about why that is? What is it about fishing that causes people to just to relax and have conversations that they might not otherwise have?
Hank: I just think it calms your nerves. It is very soothing / it is no pressure—you don’t have to make a hoop / you don’t have to be physically gifted to get it done. Man, you just throw a bobber out there.
Fishing can be really sophisticated and complicated—a lot of electronic equipment we use and some of the stuff in techniques and methods. But that’s really not what fishing is all about. That’s just a specialized technique for a very limited number of the people that participate in the sport.
Fishing is about families / fishing is about good times. Fishing is about sharing—fishing is about being with someone / interacting—you want to be with. And that’s really what fishing is all about—to take your kid and be able to put your arm around him or her—just breaks those barriers. They’re under no pressure.
You know, our kids today—the academic demands are so hard on them. If you don’t fit in to play team sports you get made fun of. So they’re under pressure—they’re constantly being critiqued because they can’t do this. I know how that feels. All of a sudden, you put them in an environment where there is none of that—no pressure at all. Here we are, just having a good time. I think it just breaks down those barriers that allow them to open up. Boy, if you can ever get them to open up, then you can really start to communicate.
Dennis: One of my favorite moments, here, on FamilyLifeToday—Bob will know when it was before I finish saying the name—but it was a tribute given by RV Brown.
R V Brown gave his father, who was—lived to be in his nineties, I think—didn’t he, Bob?
Dennis: And R V was one of 18 kids?
Dennis: He gave his dad a tribute. You know what he reflected on as he spoke to his dad in that tribute?
Dennis: He said, “You took me fishing,”—Willy Fish?
Bob: He called his dad Willy Fish Brown.
Hank: How ‘bout that!
Dennis: Did you go fishing with your dad?
Hank: I did! Early on, before my dad got so consumed, we fished. It was so special—it was incredible. If I can, I’ll tell a really quick story. I’ve had all these goals in my life. I was the first angler to ever win the Bassmaster Classic and the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year—I was the first guy to ever win the Grand Slam. I’ve had some pretty good achievements.
A lot of times, people ask me a question about: “What is your greatest moment in the outdoors?” The greatest moment for me in the outdoors—my youngest son, Timmy, who loves the turkey hunt. I’m a big-time turkey hunter; so I’ve got all these rules: “We do not talk in the turkey woods. You can break a limb and maybe you’re an animal; but if you talk, you are a dead give-away.”
We were sitting on the riverbank on the Broad River in South Carolina. This big gobbler was gobbling. Every time a bird—if you are not familiar with turkey hunting—in the morning, when they wake up, in the spring of the year, they gobble. He’s up in the tree and he’s gobbling. Every breath / every little tweety bird that makes a sound—he is trying to out-gobble. Timmy pulls up on my shirt—he just tugs my shirt. God had painted one of those incredible sunrises, and there was steam coming off the water. He was so overwhelmed with that—he had to tell me. He pulled on my shirt. I looked down; and he said, “Daddy, I love you.”
I was about to cry and the turkey was. It was just so special. But his little heart was so full of gratitude and just overwhelmed with being in that environment. That was my greatest moment in the outdoors
Dennis: When you do go fishing or hunting with your kids—well, it requires that you be all there. There is no competition with a screen or with the phone. It’s just a relationship between a father and a son, or father and a daughter, or for that matter, a mother and her son.
Bob: Now wait, are you telling me you have to leave your phone in the car?—or you can’t take it into the woods?
Dennis: I promise you, you wouldn’t go turkey hunting with Hank Parker if you brought your cell phone on you.
Bob: I was thinking about the similarities between the two of you, because you’re both turkey hunters. I think one of the differences is you’ve actually shot a turkey; haven’t you, Hank? [Laughter]
Hank: Self defense.
Bob: Because, Dennis goes out every year; and every year, the turkeys have been safe. [Laughter] Have you ever shot a turkey?
Dennis: I have, Bob. But in recent years, they’ve not been in danger. [Laughter] No; there’s no doubt about it.
You’ve had quite a career—winning all these accolades / inducted into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and so many things that have come your way. You indicated that there was a bit of a drift in your life—even after you came to faith in Christ—that began to change at some point. Would you kind of bring us up to date on what took place in those years that led you up to that? And then, how did that change occur?
Hank: There was a tremendous revival when my dad got saved. Then, I got saved; and I became very legalistic. I went through the motions and I did what I felt was expected of me. I worked bus routes to go seek kids to bring them to Sunday school, out of duty, not out of my heart. I was pretty tough on my family. I was so legalistic, at some points in time, in my life—I was just bogged down in it.
I was married to a wonderful lady, and we had five children. I had gone to California on a little fishing trip; and I met her in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we were buying a house. She tells me she wanted a divorce. It rocked my world beyond—I didn’t see it coming—should have. I was a part-time husband, at best. I, of course, blamed it all on her. It was completely her fault, in my mind; until one day, when I was shaving, God said: “Look in the mirror, and you’ll see whose fault it is.”
Dennis: Had you let career so dominate your life? I mean, because—to be really good at something, whether it’s basketball, golf, or fishing—you’ve got to be all there / to be focused.
Hank: I didn’t even know—to be totally honest, I did not know how consumed I was with competitive bass fishing—I had no idea.
I promised my kids—my kids were growing up—and their mom was an awesome mom. She was just great to those kids, and she worked hard at it.
But those kids had gotten to be 12 years old / 10 years old. They wanted to go race golf carts and go-carts, and they wanted to go climb trees, and deer hunt and squirrel hunt—do things that moms are not normally willing to do. Some moms are good at that, but their mom—that didn’t interest her—so they needed their dad. So I promised them—I said, “If I ever win the World Championship again, I’ll retire”; and I did.
In 1989, I won the World Championship the second time; and I retired. I was 36 years old. But it wasn’t until I retired that I realized how consumed I was. My every waking thought was about the next lake / my next strategies—what I am going to do. All of a sudden, the thing that hit me the hardest when I retired is: “Man, my mind’s cleared; because I’m not thinking about the next tournament.” It wasn’t until then that I realized how consumed I was; but as far as my marriage was concerned, it was pretty much too late.
I came home to try to fix things—in which I didn’t know there was a problem in the marriage—I knew there was a problem in my parenting / that I wasn’t there enough. My kids would stand at the door every time I’d leave and cry. You know: “I’ve got to quit doing this.” So, when I retired, I did realize how consumed I was with the sport.
Dennis: Would people in your church, where you attended, would they have said: “Yes; Hank and his wife are doing fine. He’s very successful.”
Hank: Absolutely! No one in the entire world would have thought—my children didn’t see anything—no one knew anything. My wife had just grown so frustrated with my being gone constantly and had no confidence that I would ever change. She had just resolved in her heart that I would never be there for her—so she was moving on. She had got to that point and wasn’t any changing her mind. For four years, we tried—for four years, we tried.
Dennis: —tried to push back against divorce.
Hank: Tried to fight it. But I look back—you know, I would blame her in my heart, but God showed me clearly it wasn’t her—it was me. Had my priorities—you know, people—I hear it all the time—when the Bible says you love your wife as Christ loved the church and died for it; and then wives submit to your husbands. It’s not contingent—God told the wife what to do, and God tells the husband what to do. My behavior is not contingent on how well she does her job. God showed me that clearly. So I can’t blame anything on her. I have to take the blame, because I was not the husband that God called me to be; and the result was total devastation.
Bob: I want to ask you a really hard question: “If I could take you back ten years before your wife said, ‘I want a divorce,’ and I could put a path in front of you, and I could say: ‘This one leads to bass championships and world recognition—the Hall of Fame.
“’This one—you’ll make a living for your family, doing what you enjoy doing. You won’t get the endorsements / you won’t be in the Hall of Fame, but you’ll live it out and things will stay intact.’” Could you pick?
Hank: I could pick in a heartbeat. There’s no doubt I would have chose to take the job to make a living and keep my family intact—no doubt.
Dennis: It was devastating to you.
Hank: You know, I don’t tell this very often—I don’t know that I’ve ever really told it—but I walked away / I didn’t take anything. I didn’t take part of the home—I walked away—I didn’t have a place to live. I lived with my son in an apartment for a year, because I wasn’t capable of making payments. I left everything. I had about two million dollars worth of debt—that’s all I left with—I didn’t have anything.
But I wasn’t able—people: “Why didn’t you fight for what your fair share was?” I wasn’t able to fight—I was devastated / I didn’t want to live.
I had gotten to the point where the papers—when I got those papers, I cannot tell you what that did to me. But they’re on my desk—and the first time in my whole life I was afraid of my own self. I wasn’t thinking clear. I went to shut the door of my office. I have a trophy shelf there with all my trophies. I looked down at the bottom, and I saw all my kids in a picture. I fell on my face in my office and I said: “God, You’ve got to give me something I don’t have. I’m at the lowest point I’ve ever been of my life.”
Now, through this whole four years of fighting and trying to save my marriage, I was so angry with God. I didn’t pray—so I’m the Prodigal Son now—I’ve been gone / I’ve been in the hog pen. I fell down on that floor and the Father came. The Holy Spirit put His arm around me and said: “I’m here. I’ve been waiting on you.” It was a revelation that I had never experienced before or since.
God loved on me and gave me something inside, and this suicidal idea that I had left me. I don’t say I didn’t ever have struggles after that; but I never, ever got to that low, low point ever again.
I realized how much He loved me and all those legalistic years were now behind me. I served God because I thought this is what I needed to do for a lot of years. But the last 16 years, I have served Him out of pure love. I realize how much God loves me and that it all changed in just a second.
Bob: Hank, if there’s a guy listening and he’s thinking: “If we can just gut this out for five years / if I can just stay focused on the business and get this thing, I can be at the top of the game. And then I’ll turn back around; and we can have it all, as a family”—what would you say to him?
Hank: “It doesn’t work!” This is what I did wrong, and I know this. My wife did not know how much I loved her—I never conveyed—I never put my arms around her and said: “Baby, let’s work this together. Here’s my schedule; is this okay? Can we do this? I love you. I want to make this for you.”
I never did those things—“I’m the big tough guy / I’m the world champ—I’m the man. You’re going to do it my way.” You can’t say: “I’m going go off and fish these next five years and, then, I’m going to come home and fix it,”—I thought that—it didn’t work.
Dennis: And what did work—was finally emptying yourself. It’s the only way a marriage can work—is with a husband and a wife who decide to surrender to Jesus Christ and to what He has for them to do. And there are some duties we have to do that mean we can’t outrun our wives and our children at home to accomplish something out in the world.
Early in our ministry, I had to decide: “Was I going to outrun my wife, Barbara?” I don’t know, Hank, why I could see something at that point that you couldn’t see in bass fishing; because I could have made the very same decision, because the ministry can be intoxicating—people telling you how you’ve encouraged them / you’ve ministered to them. But something spoke to me and said: “If you attempt to go do those things, and leave your wife and your children in the dust, it’s not going to be good—the outcome was going to be bad.”
I’ve made a lot of wrong decisions in my marriage / in raising our family. But in that one situation, I saw clearly that: “If you are going to make whatever it is an idol, in place of Jesus Christ—not surrendered to Him—and take care of Job One, which begins at home, you’re headed for big time trouble.”
Hank: You know, I think, with me, I never really thought about anything. I just went at it so hard that I did not stop and think about the partnership of marriage. I didn’t ever think I was doing anything wrong. I thought: “Man, I’m being a great provider—I’m giving them all these things.” I never really felt that I was doing anything wrong.
That’s part of my problem—was not reading the Bible / staying in the Bible and allowing God to talk to me. You know: “I’m going to help God. I’m going to show Him how I can do things,”—it did not work for me. I’m not an authority, but I can just tell you—in my life, I messed it up because it was about me. Had I been in the Scriptures and had I been getting daily lessons—and treated my marriage as a partnership, where I die to self and take half of her and she half of me—we wouldn’t have a divorce.
I want to tell you—I would rather die than I had to go through a divorce. It was the most devastating, painful failure that I’d ever been through in my life.
Dennis: So to that person, who is listening right now, who is maybe on the precipice of jumping, you’d say, “Don’t do it!”
Hank: Absolutely! “Do not do it! At all costs / at all costs, save your marriage.”
Bob: If we can help, that’s what we’re here for. Our goal, here, at FamilyLife is to provide help and hope for marriages and families. I’m thinking, Dennis, of our Weekend to Remember ® getaways—and the couples who have come, who have lost hope; but who hear a message at the Weekend to Remember that God uses to turn their marriage around. It doesn’t always happen—there are some couples who come and the breakthrough doesn’t happen.
But for a lot of couples, the Weekend to Remember getaway is the turning point for a marriage that has been headed in the wrong direction for a long time. They get rerouted and they find themselves in a new place on a new path. They have a fresh hope for their marriage.
I just encourage our listeners—if you’ve not attended a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to get more information. We still have a handful of these getaways happening this summer. Tomorrow in Texas—in Austin and in Houston—we’ve got getaways kicking off; and then continuing through the summer—in Arizona / Las Vegas—other getaways taking place. You can find out more about the Weekend to Remember, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call if you have any questions at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and the word, “TODAY.”
And if for some reason you can’t get to a getaway, and you’re in a desperate spot in your marriage, give us a call. We can recommend resources—we can recommend articles you can read / programs you can listen to—things that will hopefully give you a fresh perspective on God’s design for your marriage and how it can, not just survive, but how it can actually thrive.
And by the way, we should say, “Thank you,” to the listeners who support this ministry, financially; because you guys are a big part of all that God is doing through the ministry of FamilyLife. You make it possible for what happens here to be heard by more people around the world through more devices / through more means than ever before—more people visiting our website / more people attending our events.
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Now, tomorrow, we are going to hear about the Parker family—the Parker boys. We want to hear about what your sons are up to—have got some great stories to share with you tomorrow. I hope you can tune in as we continue our conversation this week with Hank Parker.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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