As my family recently drove back from eating dinner at a local restaurant, my youngest son randomly announced that he was going to list all the “Names of Daddy”. Matthew, Matt, Honey, Mr. Speck, Mr. Matt, Coach Matt, Dad, Daddy, Father, Father Papi the Dearest… Before he could complete his list, my oldest son got mad at my middle son for stepping on his white shoes while my youngest son proceeded to yell at them both for interrupting his list. As the backseat descended into a symphony of chaos, I couldn’t help but grasp the wheel a little tighter and reflect on what each of these titles truly mean.
God has placed me in many roles, titles, job descriptions and circumstances as a vehicle of influence to those around me. He has done the same for each of you. We stand in front of thousands of people throughout our lifetime. Each encounter has the potential of influence. Every action leads to a reaction. Every word leaves a mark. Every embarrassment creates a memory. Every insult leaves a scar. Every word of encouragement fans a flame. We are not alone in this world.
We must first recognize who we are called to be. From there, we can embrace our influence on others, use that power to change the world around us, and point people to our Heavenly Father. We are children. We are students. We are friends. We are husbands. We are teachers. We are fathers. We are coaches. We are ministers. We are men of influence. We are called.
Call Me Matthew
I remember the first time I ever got in trouble at school. It was in Kindergarten and I had just moved to a new school in a new city. A few moments before afternoon dismissal, as the class eagerly awaited the ringing sounds of freedom, I extended my body from the ever-shrinking squared carpet seating arrangement, and grasped a fresh but fat yellow crayon. For no reason other than being a 6-year-old and a boy, I took the crayon and decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to show my teacher how well I could write my name. M-A-T-T-H-E-W. I wrote each letter with precision and accuracy in a manner in which my teacher and parents would be proud. Do you know how hard it is to write neatly on carpet? With a crayon? When the bell rang, I rolled the crayon back under the desk, stood to admire my handiwork, and then emptied my cubby on the way out the door.
As I attempted to walk through the doorway, Mrs. Lee extended her arm creating a blockade between me and my family station wagon. She looked down at me and told me to return to my square on the floor. She called my mother in and showed her my masterpiece. I thought to myself, “They must both be so proud of me!” My mom looked down. “Matthew?” (Yes! She was able to read it!) Then her punctuation changed again. “Matthew.” (Oh. Why has her tone changed?). “Matthew!” (I see. This is actually a bad thing.)
I spent the better part of that afternoon with a bucket of soapy water, a mildewed yellow sponge, and as much elbow grease that a Kindergartner could muster attempting to remove my name from history. To my family, my teachers, my bosses, and my mortgage company… When I am being loved, disciplined, called upon, or held accountable… When I am acting serious, introspective, charitable, or artistic… Call me Matthew.
Call Me Matt
Shortening a perfectly suitable name into a single syllable is the epitome of laziness. I remember the first time I was called “Matt”. In fourth grade, we had an incentive based literacy program called, “Treasured Reading”. In this program, students would read books, write the titles on a reading log, get a parent signature upon completion, and earn prizes once reaching certain benchmarks. I took great pride in having the most books accounted for on my list and had been waiting for prize day for weeks.
The parent volunteer in charge of the program pulled out the reading log with the most books read and started to announce the winner. As she held up the sheet, she started scanning the document for some evidence of ownership. She turned the paper around and it was obvious that the top line was missing the name of the student. I quickly ran up to the front of the room and wrote my name at the top of my reading log. The whole class giggled as I ran back to my seat and folded my hands in eager anticipation. She then announced the winner. “The student with the most books read during this marking period is… Matt!”
Matt? Who is Matt? I heard the students murmur as if they were hearing this word for the very first time in their life. I protested and called out, “My name is Matthew!” She turned the sheet around to show the four short letters written at the top of my sheet. M-a-t-t.
“Well, if you are Matthew and not Matt, then who should I give the prize to?” I reluctantly raised my hand and pointed to myself. I don’t remember what the prize was that day but I do remember this as being the moment my laziness gave me a new name. To my friends, my classmates, my neighbors, and my casual acquaintances… When I am being rushed, introduced, referred to, or mentioned… When I am acting lazy, silly, adventurous, or efficient… Call me Matt.
Call Me Honey
The highlight of Christmas each year is when the kids read the gift tags out loud that my wife, Tiffany and I, write to each other. They include salutations such as: “To: Woman, From: Man”, “To: Sweet Cheeks, From Hot Cakes”, and my personal favorite, “To: Hot Momma, From: Sexy Daddy’. After 4 years of dating, 17 years of marriage, and raising three active boys, we have called each other every name in the book. Perhaps the most simple, yet enduring name, is “Honey”.
There is something special and unique about the names a husband and wife will call each other. These names are so unique, that if anyone else were to call my wife one of these names, the world would see this mellow mountain of a man erupt like a violent volcano, spewing my wrath in the direction of the perpetrator. These silly names of affection become terms of endearment that help cement the playful, loving bond that husbands and wives are called to cling to.
We don’t call our boss, “Babe” or our co-workers, “Smoochy Poo” without having a late afternoon visit with the human resources department. When my wife calls me, “Honey”, it signifies that I am hers and she is mine. It shows belonging. It shows relationship. It shows commitment. It shows intimacy. It shows a playfulness only meant to be shared between a husband and his wife.
It is the name she calls me in the middle of the night to silence a bad dream. It is the name she calls me when I get a little too loud or obnoxious in an overly competitive situation... To my wife, and only my wife… When I am being whimsical, practical, encouraged, or redirected… When I am acting patiently, foolishly, lovingly, or apologetically… Call me Honey (but only if you’re my wife!)
Call Me Mr. Speck
Tiffany and I had been dating for a little over a year, when she looked deep into my eyes and said the words that every young man fears. “Honey… What are you planning on doing with your life?”
Without skipping a beat, I answered with great confidence. “I am going to play guitar at church and get paid for it.”
Being the patient, kind, loving person that Tiffany has always been, she looked back into my eyes and said, “Honey… How about you transfer to California Baptist University, get a degree in liberal studies, and become an elementary school teacher?” 476 students, 3,077 days, 23,077 hours, 1,384,650 minutes later, here I am, finishing my 17th year teaching.
As a child, I always kept my journals and important assignments in a large purple tub from preschool all the way through college. It turns out, I always wanted to be a teacher. I just needed that gentle reminder from a special somebody. In Preschool, “When I grow up I want to be a doctor or a teacher.” In Kindergarten, “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut or a teacher.” In first grade, “When I grow up, I want to be a skateboarder or a teacher.” Since I am squeamish of blood, scared of heights, and can’t balance on one foot for more than a second, it was only natural that I would find my professional calling as a teacher.
My favorite activity I enjoy doing with my class is a popular writing prompt titled, “I Wish My Teacher Knew…” This gives students a monthly opportunity to share with me anything that is on their minds. Some kids will just write about how they wish I knew how much they liked bugs or chocolate chip cookies. Some kids will write about how they wish I knew that they had a little sister that drowned in the swimming pool last summer and they have trouble sleeping at night because of it.
I return the trust, by completing the assignment as well. The only change is, “I Wish My Students Knew…”
…that I talk about the amazing things they do each day with my family when I get home.
…that I pray for them to have a good and successful day at school.
…that I would do anything to help them and their families.
…that I love running into them in public.
...that I miss them on school vacations and breaks from school.
…that the world is a tough place to live but it is much easier when you are surrounded by people that love you.
…that there will be people they meet in life that do not care about them or their hopes for the future.
…that the friends they choose now will help shape their futures forever.
…that their dreams can really come true.
…that there are many people that are cheering them on and want them to succeed; even people they have never met.
…that there is nothing they could ever say or do, that would make me stop caring about, creating for, and loving each one of them.
Now, get out your language arts books and open to page 76.
To my students, their parents, my coworkers, and the credentialing board of California… When I am being scholarly, creative, compassionate, or authoritative… When I am acting silly, sarcastic, sympathetic, or strict… Call me Mr. Speck.
Call Me Daddy
Being the father of three boys, has been one of the greatest blessings a man could ever receive. The first time I held each of my children, I became overwhelmed with emotions and prayed silently to my Heavenly Father. Each prayer sounded something like this. “Dear God. Thank you for the gift of this wonderful healthy child. Please help me not screw this up! Amen.”
Do you remember those creepy robotic babies that the girls in high school were forced to carry around as part of their final grade for some sort of home economics class? First trimester, they learned to bake. Second trimester, they learned to sew and balance a checkbook. Third trimester, they had to keep a child alive.
The first time the baby started crying in chemistry class, everyone giggled. The second time it cried, everyone groaned. The third time it cried, someone yelled out, “Put the stupid key in its back and turn it into the off position!” The problem was that these babies recorded every bit of data and the “parent’s” grade would be lowered every time they took a shortcut. Turn the key - Minus 10 points. Zip it up in your backpack - Minus 10 points. Leave it in your locker - Minus 10 points. Let your boyfriend babysit while you use the restroom and his friend draws a mustache with a permanent marker above his lip - Minus 10 points.
Parenting is so much more than just trying to get a passing grade. As men, we are called to parent our kids in a way that promotes discipline, integrity, honesty, righteousness, justice, and many other words we never understood until we first heard the tears of our very own child. It is a responsibility that we cannot just pass on to the next person that walks in the door. However, it is a responsibility that we WILL one day pass on to some other man’s daughter, some other child’s father, some other employer’s investment, some other stranger’s lifeline. Are we raising our children to influence the world? What will their future say about YOU as a father?
To my moody 14-year-old, my competitive 11-year-old, and my artistic 9-year-old… When I am being protective, commanding, judicious, or inquisitive… When I am acting grumpy, bossy, forgiving, or carefree… Call me Daddy.
Call Me Coach
Everything I ever learned about baseball, I learned playing video games and watching TV. Everything I ever learned about managing children and their families, I learned from teaching. Everything I learned about arguing with an umpire, I learned from marriage.
You know the old cliché, right? The one that says the coaches are just trying to relive their glory days? Well, I didn’t have any glory days. I played soccer for 15 years and never once scored a goal. I played basketball for 3 years and actually had a parent (not mine) yell from the stands, “Get that boy off the court!” And my coach did. I did one season of track and field and never once beat another human in anything. One time during hurdles, there were just two of us racing. The kid in front of me tripped on a hurdle, fell down, cut his leg, and lost his shoe. I thought to myself, “This is it! I am finally going to beat somebody!” As I reached my arms to the sky in victory three feet from the finish line, a blur flashed past me on the right. Somehow, he got up, retrieved his shoe, put it back on and STILL beat me.
I coach because my kids love the game. I coach because I want to spend every possible second I can with my own children. I coach because I need human interaction with other adults, especially men. When I first started coaching, I was very judgmental of the other dads. They either cussed too much, had too many neck tattoos, or didn’t know how to talk to children. Luckily, I was quickly able to see that they were actually just like me. They loved the game. They loved their kids. They wanted to spend every possible second with them. These men have become some of my best friends.
I coach because I want to be a good influence for all my players, coaches, and their families. I coach because I want to teach kids how to win, how to lose, and how to respond to adversity. I coach because there is something deeply satisfying about having a civil discussion with an uninformed umpire in need of a tongue-lashing from a washed up 40-year-old school teacher choking on a mouthful of sunflower seeds.
To my players, the coaches, the umpires, and the little girl heckling me from the stands… When I am being outlandish, instructive, argumentative, or over my head… When I am acting proud, disappointed, strategic, or athletic… Call me Coach Matt.
Call Me Mr. Matt
So far, every calling I have discussed, has taken place outside the walls of a church. Through my experience, the majority of ministry takes place in our schools, jobs, homes, and recreational activities. The equipping of others to find and follow their calling is what I have the privilege of doing every Sunday morning.
I am an assistant children’s director and worship leader for kids from preschool through sixth grade at my local church. The 30 minutes I get to spend each week with the hundred or so kids is a responsibility I take very seriously. Kids can be a rough crowd. One week they are clapping on beat and singing so loud that they later confide that they were singing so loud they may have had an accident during worship. The next week, I ask them to stand up to sing and they look me dead in the eyes and say, “I don’t have no time for that!” And… 1-2-3-4. Here we go!
One Sunday, about five or six years ago, after an increasingly frustrating morning, my drummer and friend, Eric, asked me in a serious tone that only a drummer could have, “Why do you lead worship?”
I remember getting defensive and saying something like, “Well who else is going to do it?” or “What else do you expect me to do?” I realize that neither one of those was a good answer. So years later, here is my answer, Eric.
I lead worship because I want the kids to see Jesus. I want them to know who He is, what He did for them, and what His plan is for their lives. I want to set an example for what it looks like, sounds like, feels like to live out loud a life of praise regardless of the response of others. I want them to know that God has called each of them to be an influence in the lives of those around them. I want God’s love to pour into them so much that they can’t help but spill it out through their words and actions at home, in school, and in everything they do.
To my church, their children, my band, and the countless volunteers… When I am being musical, poetic, preachy, or discerning… When I am energetic, commanding, instructing, or imploring… Call me Mr. Matt.
Embrace Your Calling
God has called each person reading this article to be a person of influence. Most people reading this are parents. More specifically, you are probably a dad. As a dad, you are unique. You are set apart with a purpose. When your children look at you, they don’t just see you as “Daddy”. They see you for everything you are called to everybody. They know that people need you. They know that people depend on you. They know that you are way more than even you realize you are.
I struggle deeply with anxiety, worry, and feelings of insignificance. I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to change the world and then five minutes later feel defeated and questioning every decision I’ve ever made. This world can be a dark place. It feasts on the insecurities of men like me and men like you. As men, we are stubborn and often afraid to admit that one of our greatest fears is that we will not have any influence on the people and world around us.
Sometimes it takes an innocent time-wasting game of a 9-year-old son to remind me, to remind you, that we are called for so much more.
To my readers, to my failure, to my future, to my past… When I am being confident, insecure, brave, or afraid. When I am receptive, open, honest, and willing… Call me Called.
Check out the next article: Calling of the Weak: Attack. Avoid. Attach.