FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Creating a Safe Marriage

with Rod and Sheri Hairston | January 5, 2015
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Does your wife feel safe with you? Pastor Rod Hairston, former chaplain to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, and his wife, Sheri, tell how a man "covers" his wife emotionally, financially, and spiritually. By meeting his wife's needs, a husband creates a safe haven where his bride feels loved and cherished. Rod explains the difference between "active" and "passive" covering, as well as "corrupted" covering.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Does your wife feel safe with you? Pastor Rod Hairston, former chaplain to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, and his wife, Sheri, tell how a man "covers" his wife emotionally, financially, and spiritually. By meeting his wife's needs, a husband creates a safe haven where his bride feels loved and cherished. Rod explains the difference between "active" and "passive" covering, as well as "corrupted" covering.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Pastor Rod Hairston and his wife, Sheri, tell how a man “covers” his wife emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

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Creating a Safe Marriage

With Rod and Sheri Hairston
January 05, 2015
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Bob: In football, when a defensive back blows his coverage, the other team often scores. Well, a husband has the assignment to provide defensive coverage for his wife and for his family. Rod Hairston says, when that coverage breaks down, the family finds itself under attack.

Rod: When it comes to spiritually covering, sometimes it’s just a simple prayer— sometimes it’s not even praying with your wife—it’s just whispering a prayer for her. If a guy will do that, it will make a tremendous difference. Sometimes I just have to say, “I prayed for you today.” When it comes to emotionally covering, it’s simply being able to say: “Are you okay? Do you need anything from me?” That’s the scary space for a man. It’s to say, “I can’t fix this, but I do care about how you’re feeling.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk to Rod Hairston today, along with his wife Sheri, about a husband’s assignment in marriage. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We did not rehearse this—so I hope we’re going to get to the same answer. I think we will, but—

Dennis: People are going to be shocked that this is not rehearsed.

Bob: This is not rehearsed / we did not talk about this ahead of time. We never talk about things—

Dennis: That’s what I was getting ready to say! [Laughter] Let’s just clear that up—this is not a scripted broadcast.

Bob: No.

Dennis: This is real family life.

Bob: Okay, so a woman’s number one need from a man—what does she need?

Dennis: Well, she needs to be loved, and she needs to be secure. I’d put those words together.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Because if she doesn’t feel safe, she hasn’t been loved and she’s not secure.

Bob: I was going to say safety too. So, we were on the same page to start with. The number one thing—

Dennis: Well, let’s ask our guests!

Bob: I think we should.

Dennis: Rod and Sheri Hairston join us on FamilyLife Today. Sheri, Rod—welcome to the broadcast.


Sheri: Thank you.

Rod: What a joy to be here!

Dennis: Sheri, what about it?

Sheri: I would say, for me, the answer is security.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: What does that look like to you?

Sheri: It looks like protection, provision, prayer covering. It looks like love—acceptance of who I am.

Bob: It sounds like you’ve been reading the book your husband wrote. [Laughter] It does; doesn’t it?—because that’s exactly what he talks about.

Dennis: The book is Cover Her. How would you answer the question; Rod?

Rod: I would say, definitely, security. I would say “valued.” As you put the two words “love” and “security” together, I would put “security” and “valued” together.

Dennis: Okay—that’s great. Well, Rod and Sheri have been married since 1991. They have four children, ages 17-22. Rod doesn’t have these rings on his fingers— [Laughter]—and I’m ticked off because—

Bob: You wanted to see them!

Dennis: I wanted—no, I didn’t want to see them / I wanted to wear them! [Laughter]



I wanted to put both rings on my fingers and then post or send it out on my Twitter account.

Bob: Do a hand selfie.

Dennis: Oh, yes! [Laughter] Absolutely, because he’s been a part of two Super Bowl—count them—NFL championships with the Baltimore Ravens.

Rod: Yes.

Dennis: And he has been the chaplain for the Ravens for 14 years. He is, today, the pastor at Messiah Community Church in Owens Mills, Maryland.

Bob: And you just recently retired from that chaplain role with the Ravens; right?

Rod: Yes, just a year ago.

Bob: Yes, so the next time they get a Super Bowl ring, you don’t get it; do you?

Rod: Unfortunately; [Laughter] but I can say—

Sheri: We want them to win.

 Rod: —that we definitely want them to win. It was such a blessing to be part of two Super Bowls. I’m the only pastor I know with two Super Bowl rings.

Bob: That’s right.

Dennis: Hey!


Well, I want to go back to your book because a number of guys have read my book, Stepping Up. What I’d like to say is—this book, right here, fills in a lot of blanks that I left in Stepping Up about how a man can step up, as a husband, and truly protect, and care for, and spiritually guide and cover his wife.

Let’s just pull back to the beginning and what the big idea for the book is, Rod.

Rod: The big idea for Cover Her is—and it’s in the subtitle—How Men Can Create a Safe Place for the Ladies in Their Lives—physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Our job—our calling/our assignment from God—and we get this from Genesis by virtue of the principle of first mention—that: “Adam was assigned and called to protect the space God had put him in. Because He put Eve in that space, he was thereby to protect her as well.”

Bob: You actually start the book, not by talking about a man’s role in relation to the women in his life, but you start by talking about a man understanding what manhood’s all about in the first place.



Now, you worked with the Baltimore Ravens. I mean, guys in the NFL are kind of the epitome of masculinity in a culture.

Rod: Yes.

Bob: But I’m guessing that some of those guys were confused about what real manhood is.

Rod: Absolutely! They were; I was; so many of the men that I encounter in my ministry are confused about what it means to be a man. In the book, I talk about how society has really kind of confused and feminized what it means to be a man. So we have to have a conversation, early in the book and early in our relationships with men, about: “What does it really mean to be a man?”

Bob: So, if you’re sitting down with a guy, and we’ll just say he’s a rookie; okay? He’s come on the football team; he’s a rookie; he’s kind of got some swagger about him and all of that. He’s got this idea that manhood looks like being tough or bragging. If you’re going to correct him on that, where do you start?



Rod: I start with his number one issue—and this is the number one issue for all of us, as men. My number one responsibility, as a man—the number one thing that identifies me, as a man—is my response to God and my responsibility under that call.

Dennis: So, it’s a man’s relationship with God that defines his manhood.

Rod: Absolutely.

Dennis: A lot of guys get their identity from their career path, their address, what they’re driving, what they’re wearing,—

Rod: Yes.

Dennis: —the amount of money in their checking account. You’re saying it’s a spiritual address that gives a guy a sense of significance in knowing who he is.

Rod: Absolutely. The clarity comes when I begin to commune with God / relate to God. I begin to find out who I really am.

Bob: Yes.

Rod: You see, because what I learned first is all of the extrinsic things. When I come to God, He begins to work on the inside.

Bob: Right.

Rod: He begins to tell me who I am against the backdrop of my brokenness.



Bob: And that’s where you develop, in the book, this idea of man-strength.

Rod: Yes.

Bob: That a guy has got to develop man-strength. Unpack what you mean by that phrase.

Dennis: Well, before you do that, though, Bob, I’ve got to just turn to Sheri, at this point. Go all the way back to 1991.

Sheri: Yes—May 26th!

Dennis: There you go!—when you married Rod. How well did he know his address—his identity as a man, back then?

Sheri: Well, I have to say that, in the past 23 years, he’s grown a lot in that area. But there was always been something about Rod. The thing that attracted me most to him was his heart for God—that has never changed—his desire to know God, and to love God, and to let others know God and love God has been very attractive to me. That hasn’t changed. So some of it, he already had.

Dennis: So he had the DNA.

Sheri: He had the DNA; it’s grown and developed over the years.

Dennis: And he’s learned some of the skills, though.



That’s where I want to develop, for men, some hope that they don’t have to be exactly like Rod Hairston 23 years later.

Sheri: Exactly.

Dennis: I mean, you’ve been in the incubator here.

Rod: Absolutely. This has been a journey—it’s been a process. I grew up without my dad. I was constantly trying to find my identity—searching for significance. In that short span of years, I looked for it in all of the wrong things; but, when I began to connect with God, intimately, something changed.

Dennis: There are a lot of guys, Rod, who probably were near to turning this radio program off because they are going: “Here we go again! Here’s a guy who’s got it all together. He did it from Day One. He’s had all of the gears in place since the beginning.” But you just said you didn’t have a dad.

Rod: I didn’t have most of the gears in place—I promise you. In fact, when my wife got me, she kind of got me just out of the bakery shop, if you will. [Laughter] I was just done—I mean, just half-baked. [Laughter]



So, I was really raw in the process of my manhood. One of the big things for me was that I struggled with my identity. I spent a lot of time discouraged about that.

Bob: She told me that it was one of those take home and bake pizzas. [Laughter]

Dennis: I mean—she controlled the temperature! [Laughter]

Rod: That’s right! Yes, she did; yes, she did.

Bob: So let’s go back to the subject of man-strength.

Rod: Yes.

Bob: What is man-strength?

Rod: Man-strength is the inherent strength we’ve been given by God, as men. God gave Adam authority, right off the block / right out of the chute—He gave him the power to name the animals / He gave him the power to name his wife—that is symbolic of God giving authority. Adam had that authority right away. My argument is that we have that simply because we’re created in the image of God.



We have strength that can shape things and shape people’s lives, just by virtue of our presence—how we carry ourselves, and the things that we say. We have that man-strength in our DNA from God.

Dennis: What I hear you saying is—God created man and instantly imbued, within him, the assignment of having dominion—

Rod: Absolutely.

Dennis: —dominion over creation.

Rod: Yes.

Dennis: And, ultimately, as He made Eve—a dominion/a responsibility, not to rule over, with a fist or to use her—

Rod: That’s right; yes.

Dennis: —but to properly protect her, care for her, and love her.

Bob: Yes, because some guys hear you say, “Okay, man-strength is authority—got it! I’m glad you said that!”

Sheri: Tender warrior.

Bob: Yes, that’s right. The authority has connected to it significant responsibility to care for that which is under your care.

Rod: Absolutely. That’s exactly why God gives us the authority. It is so that we can expand God’s rule in the earth—expand the reflection of God in my children’s lives, in my wife’s life, in my work, in everything that I touch.



We need to operate in that authority because there is a sinister plot, by the devil, to make men operate as if we have no authority.

Dennis: Okay, Sheri, I heard you kind of saying, “Amen,” as we were talking about the need for a man to properly protect his wife. What gives Rod that authority? Now, we know God gave him the responsibility to care for you and protect you but, practically speaking, as you see him living that out, what gives him that authority in your life?

Sheri: The fact that he is a tender warrior—the fact that he is sacrificial in his love for me—the fact that he denies himself to see the kids and I prosper and do well / that he serves us. His servant heart gives him the ability to rule in our home.

Dennis: How have you seen him deny himself?


Sheri: Well, you know, the simple things like going to work every day to serve us. There’s not a need or a desire that we have that he does not get on his knees about, and asking God, “How am I going to make a way for my family?” There is not an emotional need that I can’t come to him with and experience his tender understanding.

Dennis: I just want to stop there. I want to say—I’m glad you mentioned that he sacrifices by going to work every day. I really mean that because I think sometimes men, in this culture—where having much, or having more, or gaining more assets and accumulating things—that’s where it’s really found. What I heard you saying—he communicates your value/your worth by being a man who faithfully provides for you—

Sheri: Yes.

Dennis: —as a wife and as the mother of your children.

Sheri: Yes, absolutely.


Bob: So, you talk about man-strength in the book, but you didn’t put barbells on the front of the book. You put an umbrella on the front of the book. [Laughter] Why is that?

Rod: Yes, because the covering is about creating that safe space. Red is for the blood of Christ. I believe that that blood—as Christ’s blood is operating in my life—I become a better “coverer.”

Bob: It’s a red umbrella. That’s why—

Dennis: And the book is called Cover Her; right?

Rod: Yes.

Bob: Rod, you differentiate, in the book, between what you call “active covering” and “passive covering.” You also talk about “corrupted covering.” Explain all three of those; can you?

Rod: Sure; absolutely. Active covering is for those God has assigned to you in marriage and as your children.

Bob: Okay.

Rod: It’s where I make sure that Sheri and the kids—financially—to the best of my ability / anything that I can do—they are provided for.

Dennis: This is your duty.

Rod: This is my duty.


Bob: If we were talking football terms, because you’ve been a chaplain for the Baltimore Ravens for years, when a linebacker or a defensive back has a coverage area, that’s his turf. He’s supposed to make sure nothing happens on that turf that causes the ball to get past him; right?

Rod: That’s his assignment. If he blows his coverage, the entire team suffers.

Bob: Yes.

Rod: If I blow my coverage toward my wife and my children, not only do they suffer presently, but they could suffer for generations. It’s an enormous responsibility. So, I take the active covering. I have to be very intentional about covering them physically: “Do you have what you need in your account?” “What are the needs coming up in the family?” Emotionally: “What do you need from me?” I have to ask that question, and that’s a scary question for a man. I have to be very intentional about that with my wife and with my kids. I say the girls but, of course, that applies to my son as well. That’s active covering. Passive covering—

Dennis: Before you go on—

Rod: Sure.

Dennis: —I just want to say that your son is getting a lesson in manhood—

Rod: Yes.


Dennis: —in men being strong—by watching you care for your wife and your family.

Bob: And not blow your coverage.

Rod: Yes. That’s been one of the joys of my journey. I have one son and, as I mentioned, I didn’t have a father, growing up. I’ve been very conscious about what I pass on to him because I know he’ll carry the torch for the next generation. It has been fun. I talk to him about learning how to—what the girls need from him as their brother / how to create that safe place for them, even as a young man.

Bob: Okay; what is passive covering?

Rod: Passive covering has to do with women who are in my sphere, as a man, otherwise—whether they’re in church, whether they’re at work, even if I’m on the bus or somewhere in the market. I have a posture that says to them: “I’m safe to be around. There won’t be any aggression. I won’t be offensive. I won’t look at you or approach you inappropriately.” That’s passive covering.



Bob: Okay, now about corrupted covering—what’s that?

Rod: Corrupted covering is when you try to cover people that you have no business covering.

Bob: Yes.

Rod: So, for example, as a married person, it’s inappropriate for me to go to a single woman’s home—

Bob: Right.

Rod: —to fix her faucet, or to fix a flat tire, or to try to provide for the needs of her and her children when God has assigned me my wife and my kids. That is corrupted covering. One of the ways we’ve seen corrupted covering has been the misuse of power and authority in the church, where a lot of bad ministry has taken place when men of God have stepped beyond the boundaries and kind of twisted their protection and covering of women for sexual reasons.

Bob: They’ve used their authority—the position that God’s given them—for gain / for their own purposes—

Rod: That’s right.

Bob: —rather than for what God would intend; right?


Dennis: You know, I can’t help but think, Sheri, as you listen to Rod talk about his assignment and his understanding of his assignment, that it just kind of causes your heart to swell—and your face is bursting with a smile right now. [Laughter] I mean—really.

Sheri: Yes! I feel very blessed. I feel very loved—I’m thankful / I’m thankful.

Dennis: A woman was made to be cared for like this by God. A man is never more of a man than when he’s making his wife feel like you look right now.

Sheri: Yes, thank you. I would say that, coming from my own background of being uncovered, Rod is a true blessing. When we first met and we were dating, I was just in awe that God would, in my own brokenness, still provide me with someone who would love me beyond my shame, beyond my guilt, beyond my sin, and that God would give me such a gift to provide me with someone who would cover me for the rest of my life



Dennis: Rod, you’re a pastor. We’re calling men to step up here. We can’t do this physically—there are a lot of guys who didn’t have a dad either—I think they need to be commissioned, right here. Would you pray over them and, in the process of praying over them, would you commission them to find a Crawford Loritts / to find a mentor and to get serious about God in their lives and about becoming the man God made them to be, even in their brokenness and in the vacuum they’ve got in their lives?

Rod: Absolutely.

Father, in Jesus’ name, we pray for every man—not only listening to this broadcast, but in our nation / in our world—who has no idea of the power and the authority residing in him to make such a tremendous difference in the lives of the ladies around him. I pray that you would open his eyes to behold the joy of being a coverer and a protector.



Father, turn us from predatory thinking and practices, Lord, to be safe places for the ladies in our lives. I commission every man, right now, to go into the space of the lives—those ladies assigned to you—and declare to them: “You are safe with me. I will care for your needs. I will be appropriate toward you. I will bless you with the strength and the power that Almighty God gives to me. You have my word.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sheri: Amen.

Bob: Amen. You know, I hope that the guys listening and hearing that prayer will recognize: “I need some coaching. I need other guys around me who can speak into my life—who can help me with the things I’m not seeing.”



And I hope they’ll recognize, too, that they’ve got something to offer to other guys who are struggling as well. I would encourage guys to get a copy of your book, Cover Her, and maybe go through it with a group of other guys and talk about: “How can we be this type of husband to our wives? How can we be the covering in our family?”

We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to—our website. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the page, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” There’s information about Rod Hairston’s book, Cover Her. You can order it from us, online, if you’d like. Again, the website is

Of course, this is the month of “Manuary” here at FamilyLife. We’re declaring this month to be a month when we’re hoping guys will engage with other guys. We’ve had more than 100,000 guys who have gone through our Stepping Up® video series that we created—



—fathers who have taken sons through the material / men who have gotten together with other men at church or in a small group to go through this ten-week study. In fact, we’ve heard stories about how it’s being used in homeless shelters, and in prisons, and in corporate board rooms. It really is amazing some of the stories we’ve heard. Our hope is that, this month, we would see another 50,000 guys get launched into this study.

But if that’s going to happen, we need some of our listeners to step up and to say, “I can lead that in my home,” or “…with our small group,” or “…at our church.” All you have to do is get the Stepping Up leader’s kit. It’s got the DVDs, and the manual, and everything you need to get a small group going. Right now, because it’s “Manuary,” our team is making all of the Stepping Up materials available at a reduced price.


If you’d like to find out how you can launch one of these groups in January—or I guess I should say, in “Manuary”—and join with tens of thousands of guys, from around the country and around the world, in going through this practical, helpful biblical material on manhood, go to Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” Then click the link that you see there for Stepping Up to find out more about what’s available and how you can save some money right now. Again, the website is If you have any questions—if you’d like to talk to somebody about this or if you’d like to order over the phone—call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”


You know, we talked about being a spiritual covering to your wife. One of the reasons, Dennis, that you and your wife Barbara wrote the book, Moments with You, which is a collection of daily devotionals/365 devotions for couples to do together, is so that husbands and wives could have time during the day when they could read a devotional you and Barbara have written, read a Scripture verse together, and then pray together each day—and do it in about five minutes’ time.

It’s a great first step for a couple that is seeking spiritual covering for their marriage. When you make a donation, right now, to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you the book, Moments with You,as our way of saying, “Thank you for your financial support.” This will get you started with a new spiritual discipline in the new year, and it’s a way that we can express our gratitude to you for your financial support of this ministry. We couldn’t do what we do without your help.

So, if you can make a donation, go to Click in the upper right-hand corner of the website, where it says, “I Care.” Click that link, and you can make an online donation. Or, if it’s easier, you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.


Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about how a husband can provide the right kind of spiritual, emotional, financial, and practical covering for his wife and his family that God has called him to do. Rod and Sheri Hairston will be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.

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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