I sometimes get questions sent to me via e-mail or social media about life, fatherhood, leadership, theology, marriage, etc. I recently received an email from a young dad and after writing my response I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and the reality of how blessed I truly was and am. This post is simply a response to a question and I got on my soapbox and ranted for bit. I hope it blesses you, challenges you and causes you to pray for the men around you and for the boys who will one day be men.
“[Elvin]…you embody many authentic characteristics of someone worth paying attention to. Was your desire to pursue leadership and Godly manliness a direct result of your experiences as a child with your father and growing up how you did?”
Thanks Luke. Your words are encouraging bro.
I grew up without a father and didn’t really have many men intentionally investing in me until I was 17. Bobby Betzold was a HUGE influence on me. I truly believe Jesus put a white dude from Kearney, NE in the life of a Puerto Rican kid from New York City because he was teaching us both something. But I truly believe I got the better end of the deal.
Bobby taught me how to read my bible and bought me a bible with highlighters and a pen. He challenged me to be courageous when I would rather hide. He spoke words of encouragement to me. He made a safe space for me where I could be vulnerable. He showed me how to love a woman. He showed me humility when he asked me to forgive him after he sinned against me – with tears in his eyes. He made me tell the truth when I would rather lie. He spoke vision into my life – What others saw as a problem to be solved he saw as a gift to be honed – He was the first person to ever notice I had a gift for speaking and gave me my first opportunity to teach the bible and share my story. He told me the truth, even when it was hard. He kept the main thing the main thing – pointing me to Jesus and telling me to listen & obey Jesus regardless of what anyone else says. His faith was real and bold and honest. He would encourage and challenge me to pray and share my faith.
He was far from perfect. Sometimes he made a mess of things. Sometimes he still does. But Bobby was just what I needed. A man who loved Jesus, loved his wife, loved his kids and loved me. A man who invited me in and made me part of his family.
I always say that the two major characteristics of masculinity are You Do it On Purpose (take initiative) and You Own It (you take responsibility). I think Jesus is the perfect man who didn’t sit back and wait but stepped in and stepped up to redeem us. He did it on purpose. He also took responsibility for our sin. Even though it wasn’t his fault, he took responsibility for it. Jesus is my model for manliness and my champion when I get it wrong. But as a teenager I needed to know what that looked like. As grown men, we still do.
Jesus has blessed me and placed many men in my life whom I have learned from. Some up close and personal and others from afar through books, sermons, etc. But I still think one man, through his investment in the life of teenager without a dad had the most significant influence.
This year I celebrate 17 years of marriage with the love of my life. I am a father to 4 kids. I lead and teach the bible at a church I love. I have taken faith risks when people thought I was crazy. I have held on when everything in me said “LET GO.” Bobby’s impact can’t be overstated. As an adult father of 4 I still sometimes find myself asking myself, “What would Bobby Do?”
I make it a point to publicly highlight Bobby’s impact on me from time to time (through social media). Yes, I am proud of him and want the world to know what he means to me. But I do it publicly because there are too many men who don’t think they can have an impact and too many teenage boys who need someone to make an impact on their lives. Bobby didn’t have a big strategy or end game to see a drug dealing kid from NYC become a husband, father, and pastor. He just loved Jesus and loved me and made room for me in his life.
What would it look like if we invested in the lives of just one young man? What would the ripple effects be for him. For his future family. For his community. For his legacy?
That’s a long answer to your question. But I get going and sometimes can’t stop.
Today, Bobby and his wife, Rhonda (who is way out of his league), are school teachers in Omaha. They are still making an impact. I love them.
Happy Father’s Day.