Dr. Clinton: Hi everyone. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton, executive director of the James Dobson Family Institute. We're at the 2020 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm joined right now by Matt Hammitt. Matt is a singer, a songwriter and former front man for the band Sanctus Real. I'm sure you've heard of them and a special song called "Lead Me" and more. Through his new work, Matt shares the tough lessons God taught him about the importance of family and being a godly and present father.
Matt, it's great to have you join us here on Family Talk.
Matt Hammitt: Oh, it's good to be here. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Clinton: Matt, I look at your book, Lead Me: Finding Courage to Fight for Your Marriage, Children and Faith. And man, I love that title. But hey, let's go back to you just for a moment and Sanctus Real, and getting out on the road and how insane it must've been traveling. And God was, I mean, had His hands all over that.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, it was really wild. I mean, 16 years old, meet these guys in high school, and little did I know that this band we started and named as sophomores in high school would go on for 20 years. And so as soon as we got out of high school, that started-
Dr. Clinton: That's every kid's like fantasy dream, "Man, I'm going to do a band. We're going to play in a band. We're going to travel."
Matt Hammitt: ... I know it's wild it actually happened. I mean, I don't think we really thought it would. I mean, not that we didn't want it to, it was just you figure you go to college and you move on. And then all the calls started coming from record labels, and we really prayed about it. I mean, we took it very seriously whether or not we would even go on that path. Of course, certainly us and our parents talking through it like, "Man, can this really last? Is this a quick flash in the pan kind of thing." But God kept opening the doors and we just kept walking. And 20 years later, it was [crosstalk 00:02:09]-
Dr. Clinton: A lot of songs came out of that group, by the way. But one in particular, I think that most people listening right now would know is the song, "Lead Me". Here's a little piece of that song.
Matt Hammitt: [Singing]
Dr. Clinton: Matt, that song, I'm telling you, I listen to that song a lot still on my own phone, you know that, and it ministers to me. It does. Where did it come from?
Matt Hammitt: Well, I mean, you can hear that first verse and through even the second verse, it's the voice of a wife and kids. But those words were actually from my wife, and I almost didn't release that song. The first draft of it was just those first two verses and that chorus about the loneliness that a wife and children can feel. Well, I guess about seven years into my marriage, in about 2008, my wife Sarah, who I have been married to for 19 years now, she really was at a place in our marriage where she just felt at the end of something. She couldn't totally verbalize it, but she was struggling.
Dr. Clinton: She was hurting.
Matt Hammitt: She was hurting bad.
Dr. Clinton: What's life really like on the road because we see the glory side of it?
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, yeah. It's funny, just every once in a while, I'll still be doing these events and I'll see a guy pacing in the parking lot, having a tough conversation. I can spot it from a mile away because I've been there so many times-
Dr. Clinton: And you know what's going on. Hey listen-
Matt Hammitt: ... of just pacing, on the phone.
Dr. Clinton: "Hey, when are you coming home?"
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, you can't be in person. You can't look your wife in the eye or embrace your kids when they're having a hard day. And so that distance that you already feel emotionally, even some of us that we feel these emotional distances when we're home sometimes. And so to put a real tight space between that, the thousands of miles, it's very difficult.
Dr. Clinton: You know, people crave emotional closeness. They just want somebody to hold them every now and then, to remind them everything's going to be okay, to show up. But there's a new book out called The Power of Showing Up by a psychiatrist that I follow. And he just talked about the significance of the agency element there. You can't get people safe. They can't soothe themselves. They can't feel seen or heard if you're not connected.
Matt Hammitt: That's right. Absolutely, right.
Dr. Clinton: If you're not showing up.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, that's right.
Dr. Clinton: I remember when I was traveling a lot. Matt, I wrote an article about being on the road; and my son, Zach, the love language for him was proximity. He likes touch, my boy did. You hear what I'm saying?
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, of course.
Dr. Clinton: And I'd get on the phone and he'd say, "Dad, when are you coming? When you coming home?" And I taught myself a little skill to try to be home with him while I was away. And I would create moments over the phone, like, "Hey bud, you know what I'd do if I was there with you right now?"
Matt Hammitt: Oh, that's cool.
Dr. Clinton: You know what he'd say, "What?"
And I'd say, "Man, I can get you down on a Dutch rub, bud. If I'm in there right now this... "
And you know what, he would feel it with me and we'd have those moments, but there's nothing that takes the place really of showing up.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah. Well, I mean, honestly, those are the words that my wife spoke to me the day I wrote "Lead Me". It was like, "You're here, but you're not here." I mean, that was what she was saying, through tears. And again, like I said, I almost didn't even share that because it's so close to home. But then obviously, the guys heard it and then the label heard it. And they're like, "You've got to finish this."
And people need to hear this because I think, you know this, man, just like there's this need for emotional validation and closeness from the people we love, we also need that same kind of feeling of validation and understanding from other people in the world to know that we're not alone. And so I think that was really the power of that song was that these are the things that everybody's feeling, and the beauty of a song is you can put those feelings into a song which tangibly reaches people and lets them know like, "Hey, I'm not the only one dealing with this."
Dr. Clinton: Yeah. You're on the road, you're ministering, you're torn. There's that Divine tension going on, and something happens.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah.
Dr. Clinton: We're going to come back and talk about that in just a moment. You're listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton. A special in-studio guest today, Matt Hammitt, brand new work called Lead Me: Finding Courage to Fight for Your Marriage, Children and Faith. He was the former front man for the band Sanctus Real. Forward on the book by Bart Millard. You know Bart, MercyMe and company. Big movie came out about those guys and Bart's life.
Hey, Matt, let's go to a defining moment. You know in life, sometimes the plug gets ripped out of the wall and everything comes to a grinding halt.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, for me, 2010, Sarah and I, I told you we were already kind of in this season of marriage where it was difficult, and I thought we were getting through it. The song "Lead Me" actually came out on the radio right around that time, but what also happened was we were pregnant with our third child. And we went in for an ultrasound and found out we were having a little boy because we already had two little girls so we were so excited. But we also found out that day that our little boy only had half of a heart.
And so our lives really changed as parents, trying to figure out, "Wow, what does this even mean?" And you know how it is. You know you deal with illnesses with family and you're just… now you're in the cycle of you going from doctors and specialists. I mean, everything about life just kind of hits a whole new-
Dr. Clinton: It's one of those moments when you just want to throw up.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah.
Dr. Clinton: You don't know where to go. You don't know what to do. You're looking around and you're confused in your heart. You're hurting.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, absolutely. We definitely felt that. And so from April to September when we found out that our son was going to be born with this disease, hypoplastic left heart was the name of it, only half a heart, we found out he was going to have to have multiple open-heart surgeries, and so just preparing for that. Here's the irony of this whole story of "Lead Me" and a lot of the tension you find in this book.
On the very day that "Lead Me" went number one on national radio, I was at my son's bedside after he was recovering from his very first open-heart surgery. And so, you want to talk about a visual of the contrast between what was happening in my professional life and my personal life, number one song on the radio, I've always wanted. And then here I am, I really, honestly, I just wanted my son to live that day. That felt like a very clear picture of what my life had really felt like in a lot of ways over those years.
Dr. Clinton: You, through all this, began to make some changes?
Matt Hammitt: Absolutely.
Dr. Clinton: It's hard to make change.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, and it took some time. We had multiple open-heart surgeries with our son and a lot of close calls. Because I took four months off to be in the hospital, I had to go out and work even harder. You can imagine the agents and everybody is, "Hey man, this song's huge. Everything's blowing up." And what does that do? That even spirals us into even a bigger cycle of touring.
And so the crazy thing, the big irony is this is the song I wrote about being more present as a husband and father-
Dr. Clinton: And you're caught in the tension of the whole thing.
Matt Hammitt: ... and the success of it pulled me away even more. It was about a three-and-a-half-year cycle of me coming to the very end of myself, of seeing this message, knowing I wasn't living it. I got to the point where I knew that this restlessness, there was a release in it that God was telling me, "Hey, it's time. It's time to sing it less and live it more." I had to make a decision. And I knew that that decision that God was calling me to make was to step away from the only thing I had known for 20 years and step out of Sanctus Real, and really live what I was singing in "Lead Me."
I write about these moments in this book of standing on stage and hearing, literally, like Winter Jam Tour 215,000 people singing every word of "Lead Me" back to me. Knowing in my heart, all these people, they're going home with their kids tonight, I'm going to hop back on the bus again. And I'm not living the very song that... These words are convicting me now.
Dr. Clinton: Let's talk about the other person in this play that's unfolding.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Clinton: She is the one you said "I do" to.
Matt Hammitt: Yep.
Dr. Clinton: She's holding them babies.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah.
Dr. Clinton: She's a mama.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah.
Dr. Clinton: And what was it like for her?
Matt Hammitt: It was so hard, so hard. She felt like she was losing me to the grind of the road. We shared the most vulnerable, raw stories in the book of what was happening during that season that was just tearing us apart, and part of that was the grief of a sick child.
Dr. Clinton: Sure. I mean, when a child is hurting, it really puts a unique stress on the marriage.
Matt Hammitt: It does. Yeah, that grief of chronic illness. We began to even resent the way that each other grieved, because we'd grieve separately.
Dr. Clinton: "You don't understand me. You have no idea what it's like."
Matt Hammitt: I couldn't understand... Exactly. "Why do you do this when you're hurting?" And "Well, why don't you do this when you're hurting?"
Dr. Clinton: Yeah. "For you, all you get to do is you get to run away from it. You get to go do your thing-"
Matt Hammitt: Exactly.
Dr. Clinton: "... and everybody clapping and cheering you on. Here I am sitting at home fighting my way through this, dealing with doctor's appointments, fevers, colds, pack lunches, wash dishes."
Matt Hammitt: Yes, exactly. Then I get home and I want to rest, and the diapers hit my chest. Of course, "It's your turn."
Dr. Clinton: [crosstalk 00:12:36] And then you're like, "Wait a second. I'm exhausted. I just wanted to say hi to everybody."
Matt Hammitt: You walk in the house and it looks like a nuclear bomb went off because she's trying to keep up with life and I feel responsible. And it's like, but I want to rest, but I can't.
Dr. Clinton: How'd you guys walk through that. That's not easily done because the anger surges. And by the way, it takes us to a place where it's hard to hear each other.
Matt Hammitt: You know what that is exactly right. Everything standing in the way of being known in those moments. And so for us, I mean, it came down to the change for me. It came down to the hard decision of, am I going to put my marriage first? Because I knew that we were at the point where if I kept going the way it was, I didn't know if I'd lose my marriage, but boy, certainly I didn't want to find out.
Dr. Clinton: Do you remember where you were the moment you said, "I'm done."
Matt Hammitt: Man, I absolutely do. Yeah, I remember laying on the bus. I remember trying to figure out how I was going to kind of get one foot out and keep one foot in. And I remember it was after a big conflict that we had the night before.
Dr. Clinton: Fighting?
Matt Hammitt: Yep. Oh yeah, on the phone. You can read all about it. It's messy, but it's in there. We were honest. I've had people say, "I cannot believe you put that in the book." I'm like, "Man, if you're going to do it, tell the story."
Dr. Clinton: [crosstalk 00:13:56] Come on, man, it's where people are living.
Matt Hammitt: You've got to let people know, you're not the only ones.
Dr. Clinton: It's rough out there. If your marriage has any potential for God, I personally, I believe all hell will come against you. You know that. I believe that.
Matt Hammitt: Absolutely, that's right.
Dr. Clinton: And it is a fight.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, and it's in those moments you decide, are you going to let God use that brokenness to take those pieces and build you back together only by his grace, or are you going to try to manage it all yourself? And I knew, I heard that voice that God was speaking to me. I knew what He was calling me to do and I just had to decide, and making that decision was the first step.
I love what Dr. Cloud says when he says, "Character is about the ability to meet the demands of reality." We compartmentalize. We tell ourselves all these stories that we want to hear about how we can make things work out the way we want to. We hear the pieces that we want to hear. We throw away the stuff that's too hard just so we can keep moving forward. And sometimes God just has to stop us and force us to take a hard look at our lives and who we really are. And will we meet the demands of not what we want our life to look like, but what it really looks like, and are we going to stop and hear what He has to say to us?
And that's really the story… for me is what are the action steps that I have to take? Not just the intentions of who I want to be and keep rolling through, but to stop and take a real hard look at what it is I need to actually be doing to make a difference.
Dr. Clinton: Matt, it reminds me of another group and a song, Casting Crowns' song, "Broken Together".
Matt Hammitt: Ah, I love that song.
Dr. Clinton: [crosstalk 00:15:29] I got this thing going in my mind right now and thinking, okay, here's a couple who made a decision to hold on and fight through it. Before we talk about what you're doing now, which is pretty exciting, I want to talk about, I mean, how it's going with Sarah and with the kids.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah. Sarah is trying to get me out of the house a little more now, actually. I'm around so much.
Dr. Clinton: Hey, go fishing. Go sing somewhere. Go do something.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, she's like, "Great. Go on, go do it. Go do it all."
Dr. Clinton: It's something when you start feeling safe and connected again, it creates freedom.
Matt Hammitt: Man, you could not have just said that better. And it's so simple, that it is so true that when you really take the time to understand and listen, especially with our wives, just the need to be understood and heard and "come close to me and hear me, validate me, just hear my heart." When you create that space to be known and for your wife to be known, you're absolutely right, there's that safety in the relationship where you're not clenching on to everything and choking the dear life out of everything. You're coveting because you don't have it. And then it's like there's that freedom there, and that is where we're at now. We're just experiencing this freedom in our relationship to be known and know each other and enjoy-
Dr. Clinton: To love and be loved.
Matt Hammitt: ... to breath and love. And it's there, it's the margin that we needed. And so of course, we still have our fights. Of course, like everybody else, as you know, we still have our difficulties. But man, because of the hard decisions we've made to put each other first, we're experiencing the benefits of family.
Dr. Clinton: Hey, what a beautiful gift to us all, you know that, and it's a great message. Again, the new book is called Lead Me: Finding Courage to Fight for Your Marriage, Children and Faith. It's by Matt Hammitt. Matt is the former front man for the band Sanctus Real. It's an amazing story of hope, really to me.
And Matt, let's talk a little bit about what you're doing now. You've teamed up with a good friend of all of ours, Kirk Cameron and some others, and what's God doing?
Matt Hammitt: Yeah. So when I left, I didn't know what to do. I was like, "Okay, Lord... " I was still writing music and doing a little music, but I wanted to leave my hands open in that season. Because I feel like when you're trying to promote this thing, like a band, you're pushing so hard to try to open doors and opportunity. And I just decided I was going to let God do all that, and it was really neat because He showed up.
I got a call from Bob Lepine at Family Life asking me to be part of Family Life Speaks-
Dr. Clinton: Family Life Conferences?
Matt Hammitt: ... Conferences.
Dr. Clinton: Marriage and Men's Conferences?
Matt Hammitt: Yeah.
Dr. Clinton: Nice.
Matt Hammitt: I do that four times a year. And then Kirk Cameron called and he said, "Hey man, I'm doing this marriage and parenting event, Living Room Reset. I'd love for you to join me, share your testimony, do a little singing-
Dr. Clinton: I've talked with Kirk many times about that.
Matt Hammitt: Yeah, so we're excited about that, being a part of that. It's my third year going out with Kirk. And then of course, this is my first book, which I've been working on for a long time. I've got a lot more in me, so I'm excited to kind of start writing more. And then I'm just speaking at men's and marriage conferences throughout the country, and so it's a really exciting season.
One other thing I'm going to mention that's really exciting is we just finished the final edits on a feature-length documentary that we did as a family called Bowen's Heart, about what it's like to be a family that lives with chronic illness. You know, can you give your heart to something that will break it over and over again? By God's grace, we've been able to, but that's the grace we need. And we're just trying to steward our story and use it to help other people.
Dr. Clinton: That's story of your son, Bowen?
Matt Hammitt: That is, that is. Yeah. But you see the story that we just talked about, too. You see that at play throughout a year of our lives of how do we work through these hard things as a family. We just want people to know they're not alone.
Dr. Clinton: Yeah. The book again, Lead Me: Finding Courage to Fight for Your Marriage, Children and Faith. It really comes out of this song, as we close today, entitled "Lead Me" by Sanctus Real. Matt, it's been great having you here and may God continue to lead. Bless you, your family, and by the way, that ministry.
Matt Hammitt: Thank you.
Dr. Clinton: You're touching lives.
Matt Hammitt: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
As we close the show today, I want you to know that I'm so grateful you listened to this interview. And I pray you were touched and that God blesses you and your family. If you're having a difficult time in your marriage, you're not alone. You can reach out to the folks at Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk by calling (877) 732-6825. Someone there would be happy to pray with you, point you in the right direction and get you the help you need.
Roger Marsh: A beautiful musical ending to this edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh, and I pray that you've been touched by the very profound message behind that popular song. We've been listening to Dr. Tim Clinton's interview with Matt Hammitt, the former lead singer for Sanctus Real.
When you visit today's broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org, you can find out information about Matt's book and also the work he's doing today. There, you can also request a physical copy of this interview. Simply tap on the order a CD button to have a polished broadcast CD delivered right to your door. Find all of this when you go to the broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org, that's drjamesdobson.org.
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Well, that wraps up today's broadcast. Be sure to tune in again next time for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. Have a blessed day everyone.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.
Dr. Dobson: Fatigue and time pressure can undermine even the healthiest of marriages.
Roger Marsh: Dr. James Dobson for Family Talk:
Dr. Dobson: How can a man and woman communicate with each other when they're too worn out to even talk? How can they enjoy a sexual relationship when they're exhausted at the end of every day? How can they take walks in the rain or sit by a fire when they face the tyranny of an unfinished to-do list? When asked these kinds of questions, most people will tell you that the pressures they feel today are the result of temporary circumstances. In other words, they think their future will be less hectic, a slower day is coming. Unfortunately, their optimism is usually unjustified.
It's my observation that the hoped for period of tranquility rarely arrives. Instead, the short-term pressures have a way of becoming sandwiched back to back. We delude ourselves into believing that circumstances have forced us to work too hard for a short period of time. When in fact, we're driven from within. We lack the discipline to limit our engagements with the world, choosing instead to be dominated by our work and the materialistic rewards it will bring. In our fast-paced society, what many of us really need is to take more time for the loving relationships with spouses and children and friends that give life meaning.
Roger Marsh: To find out how you can partner with Family talk, go to drjamesdobson.org.