Hope for Fathers & the Fatherless: Dr. Rick Rigsby and Jerrad Lopes
Dr. Rick Rigsby: My folks taught us godly principles, modeled Christ in our home, and told us we could be anything we set out to be. This third grade dropout, the wisest man I ever met in my life, sails the world multiple times over, learns portions of multiple foreign languages, and perhaps the greatest lesson he taught me during the worst days of my life was to stand.
Hope for Fathers & the Fatherless: Dr. Rick Rigsby and Jerrad Lopes – Episode #204
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Our guests this week reflect on the influence fathers have in our lives—and the hope we can have even if our father wasn’t there for us as we would have liked: bestselling author Dr. Rick Rigsby and Dad Tired founder Jerrad Lopes.
Dr. Rick Rigsby is a master communicator who inspires people the world over, from Fortune 500 companies to professional sports teams and beyond—in fact, one commencement address Dr. Rigsby gave a few years ago went viral and has been viewed online more than 300 million times. Dr. Rigsby shares about the strong parents who shaped his character, what it means to be a person of influence, and the wisdom his father gave him all along the journey.
Dr. Rick Rigsby: My name is Rick Rigsby, and when I got to Texas A&M in the early nineties, I had a chance meeting with a legendary football coach by the name of R.C. Slocombe, and he hired me on the spot as a life skills coordinator, literally a character coach of sorts. And so along with those activities, I’m an ordained minister. I’ve been a pastor to a couple of churches, mostly in an associate role. And that’s pretty much a thumbnail sketch.
Learning the Basics from a Third-Grade Dropout
I have four degrees, and my brother is a presidential appointee judge. We weren’t the smartest ones in our family, it was a third-grade dropout daddy and a country mother from Oklahoma.
My father migrated from Texas [to the Bay Area], and immediately upon arriving in San Francisco, he falls in love with my mother. They rear their family in the Bay Area, and I’m the oldest of the lot.
So my father is a cook at this school called California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, which is about twenty-seven miles north of the city of San Francisco. It’s the only job he could find. Here you have this man from Huntsville, Texas, flat, dry, Huntsville, Texas. He’s never been on a ship before, he’s now a cook, and he’s a cook at a school that trains merchant seamen.
My father had the breakfast shift. He had to be at California Maritime Academy at five in the morning. The academy was only fifteen minutes from our home. My mother said for over thirty years he left at three forty-five in the morning. And one day she said, “Daddy, why do you leave so early?”
And his response was, “One of these days, one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence. You’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.”
You know, what he was really saying to me is, “How you do anything is how you do everything. It’s never wrong to do the right thing. You tell somebody you’re gonna get there at five, get there at four. Be ready to work.” That sticks with me to this day. I’m sixty-three years old. I cannot in any circumstance be late, or I’ll hear my father’s voice.
“How you do anything is how you do everything. It’s never wrong to do the right thing. You tell somebody you’re gonna get there at five, get there at four. Be ready to work.” – Dr. Rick Rigsby, quoting his father
I remember once I cut it close, because there was construction. And I heard my father say, “Son, you should’ve left the night before.” In other words, with those World War II parents, you didn’t make excuses. That was my dad. Those folks that survived the Great Depression? You didn’t make excuses. That was my mom. And together, it was constantly raising the bar. By the way, [it was] something I hated as a kid, something I couldn’t stand as a teenager, but something that brings water to my eyes as an adult.
“[My parents constantly raising the bar was] something I hated as a kid, something I couldn’t stand as a teenager, but something that brings water to my eyes as an adult.” – Dr. Rick Rigsby
And so we have these simple lessons: “Don’t judge. Be early. Son, be kind, be kind. Kind deeds are never lost. See the biblical connection, son?”
“Whenever you’re kind, the world will stop. Son?”
“Not only do I want you to be kind, but I want you to be a servant.”
Someone once said that, “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.” I had a third grade dropout daddy who even said, “Make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.” “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Pride is the burden of a foolish person. So, be a servant, son. If you’re going to do a job, do it right. Be excellent.” Now I know it ought to be “do it well,” but I like the way he used to say it. “If you’re gonna do a job, you do it right.”
So what do we have? We have a third grade dropout daddy who enters a culture, rearing children where there seems to be a deficit when it comes to common sense and executing basics. And he just takes these basics that he lived his life by, his whole life, he practices them, models them in front of his children, and then teaches his children to not judge, to be early, to be kind, to be a servant, to do whatever you do with excellence.
“If you don’t learn character in the trenches, if you don’t learn the basics in the trenches, what in the world makes us think that when we get to the big stage, it’s all of a sudden going to happen?” – Dr. Rick Rigsby
The Most Important Lesson a Father Gave
My wife, my college sweetheart, the mother of my two children, would get sick. [She was] diagnosed with breast cancer, and after a courageous six year battle, she went home. And right before she died, two days before she died, she had no hair because of chemotherapy. Her tummy punched out because of a liver [that was] no longer working. She weighed about eighty pounds, and she was in really bad shape. And some of the last words she ever shared with me on this earth were these: “It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. What matters to me most is how I live.”
And so how could it be that a dying wife taught me how to live, gave me a charge, placed a demand upon me? It doesn’t matter your condition, but what matters is how. Now, hold that thought. Hold that thought. Let’s go several days later, to the funeral.
There’s not much that’s worse than going to your wife’s funeral, clutching the hands of your two little boys. And I remember looking at the remains in the casket, and I remember saying, “Daddy, I have no hope.”
And my father said—now remember, [he’s a] third grade dropout—“Son, you can’t lose something God gave you. You haven’t lost hope. You’ve lost perspective.” And then he said these words: “Son, just stand.”
Those two statements, one by a third grade dropout daddy in front of a casket, one by a dying wife, came together and gave me such incredible encouragement in the form of a demand that was placed on me to put one foot in front of the other. When I wanted to quit, to keep living, when I wanted to die, to get up and put my clothes on and drive my kids to school. When I wanted to stay in bed all day and just cry.
Those two statements are the statements that I use now, twenty-four years later, all over the world, because I encounter people at every level who just want to give up, who don’t feel like they have hope, who feel like there is no reason for which to hope. And I encourage them with the words of a dying wife: “It doesn’t matter how long we live. What matters is how we live.” I encourage them with words from a third grade dropout: “You have hope. You haven’t lost hope. You’ve lost perspective. So just stand.”
Faith: A Firm Foundation
Faith impacts the quality of my life in a way that it is the foundation for my life. And I find that without faith, I’m left up to my own vices, my own way, and I’ll choose to serve God when it’s comfortable and when it’s convenient. Faith says, “Nu-uh. Get out of your comfort zone. Seek Me so that you can trust Me, so that you can obey Me.” Faith keeps me grounded. Faith keeps me pointed toward home. This is not my home. I’m only a temporary citizen on earth.
Faith tells me to go talk to the truck driver that I don’t want to talk to. Faith tells me to pull off my headphones after I preach the revival and I’m on an airplane and all I want to do is fall asleep. Faith tells me to talk to that flight attendant who’s ready to quit. Faith tells me to talk to that guy who’s on his way to a strip club. Faith encourages me to go beyond my comfort zone and to have a visceral reaction for the people of Jesus and encourage them. Faith literally impacts every aspect of my life—every aspect.
“Faith encourages me to go beyond my comfort zone and to have a visceral reaction for the people of Jesus and encourage them.” – Dr. Rick Rigsby
If it wasn’t for my faith, I would literally be the proverbial ship without a sail. I would just be aimlessly floating in the water, making sure that I was comfortable, making sure that I was convenient, making sure that I was safe. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it wasn’t for my faith in God, and [I was] left up to myself, I would be miserable.
Even with faith, I am astounded, a lot of days, at my stupidity. So I can not imagine not having faith in God, not believing in Christ, not being led by the Holy Spirit. I don’t even want to think about a life with a lack of faith.
Getting Back to Basics
I think you can’t accomplish big goals unless you’ve taken care of the basics, the little things, first. There’s a former football coach, the late Chuck Noll, who coached for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Listen to what he said on one occasion: “Champions are champions not because they do extraordinary things, but because they do ordinary things better than anybody else.” I remember that every single day, and I try to develop disciplines that push me out of my comfort zone that cause me to stretch to be the very best I can be.
So here are my disciplines. Every morning, I seek the Lord. It is very important for me to seek Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him. I find that I have a very difficult time trusting and obeying if I don’t first seek, and that takes a variety of different ways. Oftentimes it’s reading and meditating and contemplating, memorizing, but every time it’s listening. It’s listening to that still, small voice. Oftentimes, God just whispers. That is probably the most important—that is the most important discipline I have throughout the day.
Narrator: To encourage others to develop their own discipline to seek God, Dr. Rigsby reads the January 5th entry of Jesus Calling.
Dr. Rick Rigsby:
You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness, that you learn to rely on Me.
True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you. I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life through deepening your dependence on Me.
My second discipline [is] reading. I am a vociferous reader, because my goal is to learn something new every day. It was that basketball coach at UCLA by the name of John Wooden, a great basketball coach, even greater human being. And he said, “Learn as though you’re gonna live forever. Live as though you’re going to die tomorrow.” And, you know, I want to learn something every single day, so learning, reading, is a very important discipline.
I think moving is a very important discipline. Our God is a moving God from Genesis to Revelation. And I think having exercise is a very important discipline that helps me to do what God called me to do.
And rest goes right along with that. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I used to foolishly take pride in how little sleep I could get. And then I realized that my brain needs time to unplug, and it needs time to recharge, and my body needs time to heal.
And my fifth discipline: be the best family member and friend that I can possibly be. I work at that every day. I work at relationships. No matter who I’m talking to, [I try] to communicate with clarity, to communicate with salience, to communicate intentionally, to communicate on purpose, whether I’m trying to build up a son, encourage a wife, or stand in front of an audience and give them hope. So those are the basics—some personal, some professional, all enriching, I hope and pray.
Growing Your Influence
Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Your ability to influence people within the sphere of your periphery will determine the impact that you make. My father said it in a very simple way. He said, “Son, you want to grow your influence? Don’t judge people.”
“Your ability to influence people within the sphere of your periphery will determine the impact that you make.” – Dr. Rick Rigsby
“Well, what do you mean, Dad?”
“I’ve been all over the world, son. I’ve seen good and bad in every shade. It amazes me, son, how people will judge you based on what you look like and determine whether they’re gonna talk to you. How can you impact people, son, that you’ve already judged? So don’t judge folks.”
Growing your influence has nothing to do with what your hair looks like or how tanned you are. Growing your influence has nothing to do with your physical shape or your physical attributes. It has everything to do with executing basics. Are you telling the truth? Are you thinking the best of people? Are you doing what you say you’re going to do? This is what grows your influence. Are you dependable? Are you looking out for other people? Are you keeping an eye on others, making sure that they are safe? Are you your brother’s keeper?
Those things, all formulated together, have tremendous blunt force that can cause you to impact another life. Think for a moment about the person who led you to the Lord. Was it that person’s words, or was it that person’s lifestyle? I would argue the latter. And that lifestyle makes a rather profound, robust, powerful impact on a life.
“Think for a moment about the person who led you to the Lord. Was it that person’s words, or was it that person’s lifestyle?” – Dr. Rick Rigsby
Narrator: You can learn more about Dr. Rigsby and his resources at rickrigsby.com.
Stay tuned for Jerrad Lopes’s story after a brief message about beautiful editions of Jesus Calling products available exclusively at Barnes & Noble!
Ad: Barnes & Noble has exclusive editions of Jesus Calling that make a perfect gift for others—or even yourself! You can enjoy a smaller-size Jesus Calling devotional with a beautiful blue design or a larger-sized Jesus Calling with a striking sunset orange color and a large comfort print inside. Order these exclusive editions from Barnes & Noble online, and pick up curbside at your local store today!
Narrator: Jerrad Lopes didn’t set out to found a ministry for dads and husbands. In fact, his own father left his family when he was only three years old. As an adult with a family of his own, he faced a hard season of professional failure, where he found himself feeling distant from his wife and children. Not wanting to repeat what was modeled to him by his own father, Jerrad vowed to show up better for his family. As he began to work on engaging with his own family better, Jerrad realized how many men felt that they, too, weren’t the dads and husbands they wanted to be—and Jarad’s ministry, “Dad Tired,” was born to help men on their journey to a more satisfying family life. Jerrad shares some wisdom and resources he’s acquired along the way to help families grow stronger together.
Jerrad Lopes: My name’s Jerrad. I’m a pastor and the founder of a ministry called Dad Tired, which is a nonprofit ministry focused and motivated to help guys lead their family well. I’m a husband myself. I’ve been married for ten years to my wife. I married way up. I still can’t believe that she said yes to me. And that we’ve got three kids. I have an eight-year-old son, a six-year-old daughter, and a ten-month-old daughter. And we live out here in Portland, Oregon.
So I actually grew up with my mom, who was a single mom. My dad bailed when I was three, so it’s just me and my three much older sisters, so I was the baby boy. And, you know, we didn’t start really going to church until I was probably seven or eight years old. I think my mom was taking us really out of necessity, like just needing some help, as much help as she could get as a single mom. And when I went there, though, I was surrounded by a lot of Godly men and community who really poured into me as a young boy. And that was really the start of me being drawn towards Jesus. And I really believe that God captured my heart at a young age and just really instilled in me a deep, deep faith.
I remember when I was a kid, I was playing basketball in my driveway, and I remember this so vividly. I would play basketball in my driveway day in and day out, and I would imagine that my dad was sitting there coaching me, and that he was mentoring me, just being part of that.
Just thinking about that breaks my heart, in hindsight, now as an adult man. And I remember in those moments, even as a young kid, thinking I can’t wait to be a dad one day. And so to be in this moment where I’m raising young kids, I’m partnering with God to see these young kids fall in love with Jesus, I mean—I don’t mean this to sound cliche at all. There really is no greater honor.
I had a mentor tell me that I’m going to have a bunch of titles on my business card one day. I’ll probably switch all kinds of different careers and jobs and whatnot. But the thing that will go with me to the grave are the titles of husband, father, and disciple. And so I’m just trying to take those really, really seriously. Man, to be celebrated as a dad on Father’s Day? There’s just no greater joy for me.
“I’m going to have a bunch of titles on my business card one day, [but] the thing that will go with me to the grave are the titles of husband, father, and disciple.” – Jerrad Lopes
Creating Dad Tired Out of Brokenness
I never set out to create any kind of ministry, like a dad ministry or husband ministry. That was never my desire. It actually was started out of a really, really difficult season in my own personal life.
I had helped plant some churches with a friend of mine, and that actually ended up going really badly. It went south, and we just made better friends than we did co-laborers. And I was actually kind of spinning out of control as far as my identity goes. I was dealing with depression, and in that season, I was pulling very far away from my wife. I was pulling far from my kids. I just was a poor excuse of a husband and dad.
And it was during that season that my wife actually—we were in the middle of an argument, which was pretty normal for us during this particular season of our marriage. But we were in the middle of a fight, we were in our bedroom, I remember it very vividly. We’re in the middle of a fight, and I say something hurtful to her to be hurtful to her in just my immaturity. As a young husband, I say something to be hurtful, and her eyes well up with tears.
And she says, “Jerrad, I just want you to know that I’ve been waking up every morning at two a.m. and I go into the living room and I get on my face and I pray that God would capture your heart again.”
I always say that I would have rather she cussed me out, or said something mean back, like I could have handled all of that better. And it was in that season, actually—a very millennial thing of me to do—I went online to process my emotions, which I don’t recommend. But I jumped on Facebook, and I wrote this post about how I felt like I was failing as a husband and as a dad. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to be the man that God was calling me to be.
And we actually went to Hawaii to share an anniversary trip and try to reconnect. I closed my laptop, came back a week later, and the first time I jumped back online, that post had been shared hundreds of thousands of times. And that was really the start of Dad Tired. Guys from all over the world were reaching out saying, “Man, I feel the same way. Like I feel like I’m failing as a husband and dad, but I don’t want to. We should band together.” And it was in that brokenness that Dad Tired started. So that’s really the beginning of the whole ministry that we have now.
We’ve got hundreds of thousands of podcast listeners now. We’ve got 10,000 guys in a closed Facebook group, pushing each other to be more like Jesus. It’s really grown into this little movement of guys who are really taking their role seriously. What I’m finding most often is that with guys, it’s not the lack of desire to be a spiritual leader. I think most guys in the church who really are trying to follow Jesus, they want to be the spiritual leader of their home, but two things stop them. Either number one, they just really have no idea how. They didn’t have a dad teaching them, they didn’t have a role model to kind of point them to what it looks like to point their kids towards Jesus. And they’re ignorant. They don’t know how to do it. That’s one group of guys.
The other group of guys maybe might know how or might have an idea of what it would look like to point their family to Jesus, but they’re getting stuck because of their own sin and shame. And they feel like, How could I possibly lead my family towards a God that I don’t even personally feel close to? And I actually think we have a ton of guys in that second category.
So what I’m trying to constantly push guys towards and remind them of is that the good news of Jesus is that God did not bail on you in the middle of your brokenness. He has a reputation of being near broken and messy people. And so if you believe you’re too sinful or you’re not equipped or you’re not spiritual enough to lead your family, you’re not believing in the God of the Bible, because the God of the Bible, like I just said, has a reputation from the very first pages all the way to the very last pages of being near and using broken and messy people to accomplish His will.
“If you believe you’re too sinful or you’re not equipped or you’re not spiritual enough to lead your family, you’re not believing in the God of the Bible.” – Jerrad Lopes
Encouraging Dads to Connect with God
We were doing a conference out in Texas, and we were just about to start, and some guy had walked in in the back through the back doors. And he came in, and I could tell he just kind of looked like a deer in the headlights, like no clue where he was or what he was doing. And I personally went over to him and I said, “Hey, man, are you here for the Dad Tired conference?”
And he said, “I think so. My wife just bought me a ticket to this thing, and I don’t know where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing or what this whole thing’s about.”
And we kind of laughed, and I just welcomed them and said, “Man, I’m just grateful you’re here. I’m grateful you took a risk of coming today.”
At the very last session, he actually kind of darted out pretty quickly, which surprised me. He didn’t really say anything as we were leaving. but he ended up writing me an e-mail the next day, and he said that he was so emotional that he had to get out of the room and just deal with what the Holy Spirit had laid on his heart. And he said, “Man, I’ve been a dad for a long time. I’ve been a husband for a long time. And in so many ways, I’ve just been selfish and I’ve not led my family well. And yet, I know now that this all starts with me personally falling in love with Jesus. And I just feel like He’s recapturing my heart. And I’m so excited to start telling my family about Him.”
And I was like, “This is why we do what we do.” It’s cool to have books and to do a podcast and all this kind of stuff, but there’s nothing cooler than a guy having an encounter with Jesus, that his own tank is being filled with the love of Christ. And out of that overflow, he’s starting to pour that out very naturally to his family. It was so awesome.
We wrote a book called Dad Tired: Stumbling Your Way to Spiritual Leadership. And I just wanted to give guys a really easy and practical kind of guide to what it would look like for them to start stumbling their way. Again, I think so many guys just kind of feel paralyzed either because they don’t know where to go, or they just feel too much, like it’s overwhelming, the thought of being a spiritual leader. And so I just wanted to tell—the book is filled with tons of stories. It’s just basically a lot of stories about me personally kind of falling flat on my face and what felt like I was messing the whole thing up. But again, that idea that we’re just stumbling our way towards it.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the book since it’s been out. A lot of guys say they just feel like they’re sitting down with a friend at coffee, and kind of processing what it looks like to be that spiritual leader of their home. So that’s why I want to write the book, just to give guys more resources to really help them feel equipped to lead their family well.
God Loves You Just the Way You Are
One of my greatest fears is that I’m an imposter, that I would tell everybody what it looks like to fall in love with Jesus and lead their family well. And yet, me personally, I wouldn’t be having my own tank filled. And thankfully, I’ve got some good guys around me who are constantly pointing me towards Jesus. I have a wife who reminds me why we actually do what we do.
I’ll read the Bible through an entire year, and I’ll either do that on an app or through a Bible reading plan. And that allows me, as a busy dad, whether I’m in the car or on a commute or on an airplane, just to continue to remember that—I love the way Psalm 1 says that, “A man who is the man, who studies the word is like a tree planted near the living water.” I’m paraphrasing that. So don’t quote me. That’s Jerrad’s translation, but just a tree plant in their living water, and everything that he does prospers. And I just always think, like, you can obviously see a tree that’s not near water, it’s dying. And the tree that’s near water is just filled with life. And so I’m just reminded that for me to be filled with life, to give life, to see the goodness of God used and fruit come out of it, I just have to be in the living water, which is the word and Jesus Himself.
‘I’m just reminded that for me to be filled with life, to give life, to see the goodness of God used and fruit come out of it, I just have to be in the Living Water, which is the Word and Jesus Himself.” – Jerrad Lopes
This is Jesus Calling, November 20th:
I am pleased with you, My child. Allow yourself to become fully aware of My pleasure shining upon you. You don’t have to perform well in order to receive My Love. In fact, a performance focus will pull you away from Me, toward some sort of Pharisaism. This can be a subtle form of idolatry: worshiping your own good works. It can also be a source of deep discouragement when your works don’t measure up to your expectations.
Shift your focus from your performance to My radiant Presence. The Light of My Love shines on you continually, regardless of your feelings or behavior. Your responsibility is to be receptive to this unconditional Love. Thankfulness and trust are your primary receptors. Thank Me for everything; trust in Me at all times. These simple disciplines will keep you open to My loving Presence.
That passage there just speaks deeply to me, mainly because my personality is naturally performance-driven, and oftentimes my identity rides really deeply on how well I’m doing. The words that I just encourage the men to do is something that comes from a deep part of deep within my heart. And that’s really believing that in order for God to like me, I have to perform and behave well. So I’m struck by that passage, and just reminded that I cannot do anything that would make God like me or love me any more than He does right at this moment.
Narrator: To learn more the Dad Tired ministry and resources, check out their website at dadtired.com.
If you’d like to hear more stories about the love of a father, check out our interview with Dr. Meg Meeker.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with actor and producer Kel Mitchell. In the 90s, Kel shot to stardom at a young age as a performer on Nickelodeon, which compelled him to begin directing his own path. But as he grew older, he learned he enjoyed life so much more when he let God show him the way.
Kel Mitchell: Yeah, there’s troubles in life that I’ll go through. But I know that God is with me in those troubles, because as Christians, there are troubles you’re going to go through, because we live in a sinful world. But at that same time, you have to know that God knows the way of getting you out of trouble. He’ll know how to comfort you when that time is going on.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/video.