Bob Merritt [00:00:03] I have enough humility, will I have enough strength, Jeff, to ask somebody, hey, will you help me see some things in my life? It’s a person of strength who is willing to admit I’ve got an anger problem.
Podcast Intro [00:00:28] Welcome to DadAWESOME. You’ve joined a movement of intentional Christian dads who are adding life to the dad life. Thanks for taking a courageous step towards learning and growing and being mentored as you become DadAWESOME for your kids. On this podcast, my dad, Jeff Zaugg, interviews intentional dads from all around the world as he explores the path of becoming DadAWESOME.
Jeff Zaugg [00:00:59] Gentlemen, welcome back to DadAWESOME. This is Episode 185 and my name is Jeff Zaugg and I’m so thankful you’re joining us today. This is a two part conversation with Pastor Bob Merritt. And this is the first time ever in a 185 weeks I’ve never bumped into someone at a coffee shop, someone I’ve never met before, but that I know who they are and they’ve impacted my life from afar in a kind of two steps removed sense. And Pastor Bob Merritt is one of those people. I bumped into him about a month ago in a coffee shop in White Bear Lake, and I asked for two minutes of his time and I just took took a moment and said thank you to him on behalf of the ways that I have been influenced indirectly from his leadership, through his staff, through friends, mutual friends, through mentors of mine who have served with him directly and so grateful that he not only gave me the two minutes, but then we spent 10 minutes chatting. And then the next week he’s like, come on over, let’s do this interview. And he’s like, let’s spend two hours, let’s go deep. And so I was so grateful. Bob just invested in me as a young dad, his story, and he was gracious enough to say, go ahead and play some audio clips. So back a year and a half ago at the final service that Pastor Bob Merritt led at Eagle Brook Church, there was a moment where his son Dave and his daughter Meg, they shared reflections on their dad. Usually you get moments like this at a funeral, but because of his legacy, almost three decades of leadership at this church, this amazing church in Minnesota, his son and daughter shared. And it was a moment of celebration of his decades of leadership and ministry. And so I got permission to share these short clips of this week, episode one hundred and eighty five, a short clip from his daughter, Meg, and next week will be a short clip from his son, Dave. And this is going to set up the conversation. And this to me as a dad of young daughters, man, it’s powerful to hear, to think of my daughters three decades from now. What would they say about me? What would they say about their dad? And this is priceless. So I’m going to share what Meg shared about her dad. And then right into the conversation, part one with Pastor Bob Merritt. I want to remind you guys, we do have the DadAWESOME nudge. You simply have the text. This number text the number 651-370-8618 and just text the word “DAD” to the number six five one three seven zero eighty six eighteen. It’s in the show notes. But that, again, is a way to get this throughout the week, knowledge of intentionality to become DadAWESOME for our kids. So let’s jump right into it. This is the first half of my conversation with Pastor Bob Merit’s. We’re going to kick it off with a with a message from his daughter Meg shared about a year and a half ago. This is episode one hundred and eighty five DadAWESOME Dad.
Meg (Bob’s Daughter) [00:03:44] The things that I so deeply valued about you growing up are the same things I am so grateful you do for me today. You have consistently loved me well for thirty four years. Thank you for investing your time and energy into my life when I was growing up. And now that I have a family of my own, thank you for making me feel valued and important, for tucking me in at night and telling us stories about all the times you misbehaved as a kid. Thank you for editing my school papers, even though your criticism made me cry and I eventually just had Mom do it. Thank you for teaching me the important things like how to shoot a basketball, hit a baseball and make a good venison burger. Thank you for praying for me every day when I asked for it and when I don’t, for telling me how beautiful I am, not just because you should, but because you truly believe it. Thank you for showing me how much you love me daily, for traveling thousands of miles just to see me smile. Thank you for fully embracing Nelly and into our family and for loving my kids so well that you have become their most favorite person. And thank you for always making me feel safe and secure and for letting me know I always have a home with you and mom no matter what. I’m so grateful to you both for making our house not just a place we live, but the one place I always want to be. I love you with my whole heart. So lucky to be your daughter.
Bob Merritt [00:05:03] It really is in the small, little daily things that really matter. And it you know, I think parenting is the hardest thing on the planet. You’ve got four little ones and we had two and that’s all I could handle. Drove me crazy many times. So very, very difficult. And you wonder as a parent, especially when the kids are young, will this ever end? Will this ever turn out? But I would go back and say it’s it’s your daily faithfulness, even though you don’t know what you’re doing half the time. But it’s your daily faithfulness to your marriage, to showing up at home after work, to put the kids in your lap and just day after day after day after day of monotony in many cases. But out of that, God has a ripple effect and will do things and impact people now in ways that you’d never dreamed possible. So we’ll start there. Yeah.
Jeff Zaugg [00:06:02] And I guess before I have so many more questions, but before going deep, just to give us a landscape of your family today, you’re sharing some news from two days ago at the time of recording. But talk about your kids ages and then how old are your grandkids?
Bob Merritt [00:06:16] Yeah, so Megan’s our oldest. She’s thirty four, married to Nelly. He’s a radiologist. And Meg is a stay at home mom with three little ones, two little girls and a little boy, ages six, four and two. And I mean, it’s it’s it’s it’s a hurricane in their house, it’s just I go over there and a half hour, I’m cashed out and I don’t know how Meg does it. She has the hardest job on the planet as a stay at home mom. And then David is thirty three and they just gave birth to their third little girl two days ago. I held her yesterday for the first time. Her name is Thompson Lorraine Merritt, Thompson was my wife’s maiden name. And so the call her, Tommy. And we just feel, my wife and I are on the deck last night, just feel incredibly blessed. Can’t believe the goodness of God. David, is a lawyer, downtown Minneapolis, his wife, Sarah, is a manager of 3M and they’re just trying to figure life out and manage that whole deal of career and, you know, nannying and raising three little kids. But what I’m most proud of, Jeff, is that my kids and their spouses love Jesus with all their heart. They love our church. We go to church together on Saturday nights. We fill a whole role. Yes. And the little grandkids run up to Kid-O-Deo, they can’t wait to get to church. And so but my wife and I lead the way. If if I would not, if I would have bailed on church at any point along the way. Forget it. My thirty four and thirty three year old son and daughter are still watching their dad, who’s 64. And we don’t miss church. And I tell dads, you know, you may get into this, but I tell dads all the time who are struggling, you know, parents, their kids are off the rails, they’re teenagers and not even teenagers yet. And I’ll say, well, are you going to church? Well, yeah. And you know, and, you know, they’re not or they hit and miss. And I just I, I, I don’t hold back anymore. I just tell them and I look at the dad and I’ll say, look. You don’t have to know how to pray. You don’t even have to read the Bible that much. You don’t have to know how to memorize scripture or do devotions. But you can lead your kids to church and see what God will do because they’re watching you. And I’ve had dad after dad take me up on that. Yeah, but I can tell you. You know, if the dad isn’t going to church. Forget it, forget it. And we got what we got in our culture. Kids who have lost their way. Kids who are getting into trouble, I mean, on and on and on, we’ll get into this, but God will speak to your kids. God will speak to you as a parent. Dads and moms say I’m not getting that much out of church. Well, maybe it’s not so much about you, right, these days. Or if you’re not going to church that’s, you know, effective, try a different church. But you have got to at least lead your kids and your grandkids. It’s automatic that this is a part of our life. This is a part of a routine. We are church people. Yeah. On the weekend period. It’s that if you’re not doing that as a parent. You’re dropping the ball flat out and who knows what’s going to happen.
Jeff Zaugg [00:09:58] And often people are like, well, give me what are you learning? What are the dials I can turn to be more DadAWESOME. And I love this about you, Bob, is the the idea that you’ve just you’ve just said, hey, like average guy, average guy focused on average, like let’s let’s go there. And actually in our hearts, friends will joke with me. They’ll say that’s being pretty dad average instead of DadAWESOME or that’s like that’s not very DadAWESOME like my friends will joke with me about it. But really we need is is average dads to just choose decisions, consistent decisions for the long haul. And this is what I pulled from even the research I’ve done in your life and your leadership, and your family is choosing to make what you’re seeing a very practical, easy decision. I’m going to choose to be a dad who goes to church every week. I’m going to choose to be a dad who shows my kids I love God. And one way I’m going to do that is the Bride of Christ. The local church is a big deal.
Bob Merritt [00:10:52] And again, I get it. There are a lot of churches who are who are not effective, that are not effective. They’re not being obedient to God’s call. I get that. Don’t let that one bad church experience, you know, cause you to say, well, I’m going to write off church for the rest of my life. There are great churches in the Twin Cities and around the nation. You just got to find one and allow God, just be humble enough. If I can say it that way, as a parent or as a dad, be humble enough to humble yourself, to say, you know what? I’m going to open my life up to God’s word through a local church and I’m going to lead the way in my family and see what God does. Jeff, I wanna read one scripture that’s really the foundation. And I won’t read a lot of scripture reference if it’s Deuteronomy six and God is instructing Moses, you just gave him the Ten Commandments and and now Moses is instructing the people, OK? And he says, Love the Lord. Your God with all your heart is talking to the people now, the Israelites and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Parents, these things that I’m teaching you are to be on your hearts. Moms and dads, and then he says, impress these things on your kids. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up. In other words, you can’t teach as a parent your kids what you don’t have in your own life. So he says, impress these things on your kids, these commands that I’m giving you today. And are to be on your heart. So the question I would have for Dad’s. Do you know God’s word well enough? Are God’s commands on your heart? Because you can’t teach your kids what you don’t have. And you don’t have to be a Bible scholar again, get make church a regular habit. I would say also begin reading God’s word or start reading some good books so that God’s word and God’s ways are in you because you can’t you can’t pass along to your kids. What you don’t have yourself and I would also say how you live your life and then go down a ways it says so that love this phrase so that you will live long, that you will prosper. And that you’ll be blessed in every way, so it’s not I command you to do this because I want to. I want to. I want to control your life. That’s not it. Right?
Jeff Zaugg [00:13:52] It’s release blessings.
Bob Merritt [00:13:53] It’s it’s so that I can open up heaven’s blessings to you and you can enjoy the beauty and bounty of marriage and family and adventure and life and doing life together. And so you don’t have to go through all this broken, messed up stuff that many families go through. And we all are broken, messed up, by the way, for sure. You know what I mean? There is messed up and there’s train wreck messed up.
Jeff Zaugg [00:14:17] And I do see that a what keeps some of the dads listening? What keeps at times me in a in a spot, a posture of lean back versus lean forward is often pain. Pain, I think can lead to passion or pain can lead to passivity. And so most of us have either a church or a pastor or a Christian friend who is in some way, a parent who was following Jesus, like some way brought pain into our life. And I think that’s some of the reason some of these dads do not make sure to prioritize, because pain has led to passivity and also God’s word priority. I think pain has led to passivity in that area and versus I actually think pain can fuel passion and we can take pain. We can experience healing and we can actually step in with more passion for the local church, more passion for God’s word. When you talk about the option, how we have some options there when pain comes our way.
Bob Merritt [00:15:10] People have been wounded by church, have been wounded by Christians who mishandle God’s word or use it as a battering ram. So there’s pain associated in some people’s life with regard to church. And so they say, well never again, and I’ve had people who had a bad experience 40 years ago. And that was the moment of pain that caused them to walk away from God or they had something tragic in there happen, you know, in their life happened, something happened health wise or an accident. And they say, well, God’s not good. God wasn’t there. How come he didn’t protect us? And so they use that pain point as the thing that keeps them away from pursuing God. And that’s tragic. You know, life is full of pain. We all have it. But what I would say is that God doesn’t cause that pain. Right. But God can help you heal from that pain and put you on a better path if you’ll if you’ll be willing to allow him to do that.
Jeff Zaugg [00:16:21] You wrote an article actually was pulled from your from your book, so your your book done with that, this was pulled from from that excerpt of that and said let pain be a signal and say, you know, that hurts. I better fix that. Overcome that, heal that, be done with that. So we actually that’s that’s the gift that pain is, is it shows us an area to put some attention to. And we can we can like, keep limping with that pain or we can choose a different direction. Go a little further into that topic of like how we look for signals. We actually should pay attention to pain areas and press in.
Bob Merritt [00:16:57] So I like to golf and I had a pain in my shoulder and it was a severe pain that that took me out of the game for months. And I went to every doctor on the planet to try to figure out what was going on. The key was to find ways to get healing, not to ignore it, so that I could be free to play to play a game that I love. And so in that way, pain is is a signal that something’s wrong when it comes to life. If I’m constantly in financial trouble and that causes pain, if I if I’m constantly losing projects at work or or getting laid off or fired, if I’m constantly going through friendships and they end up in a ditch and that causes pain, why why are those if there’s a pattern of pain in your life, what’s causing that? Instead of just jumping from friendship to friendship or relationship to relationship. Do you have enough wherewithal to pause and say, OK, this this is this is putting me in a bad spot over and over and over again? There’s pain associated with that. What’s causing it? Is there something in my life that’s that’s causing that? And I think a lot of times, Jeff, people go through life unaware, you know. I constantly fight with my spouse, for example. OK, well, it’s always her fault or it’s always his fault. And while they may be at fault, I can tell you that both of us are probably at fault, and until we start digging around and figuring out what what do each of us bring to that problem? Where is that pain coming from? Well, we’ll never get over it. Yeah, and then we’ll be constantly limping through life.
Jeff Zaugg [00:19:05] Yeah, the brutal facts. I’ve always been intrigued by Jim Collins, and he said he said you absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. And I think brutal facts and blind spots could be pretty… You’re getting after it already with what you’re sharing that like we need as dads to figure out what are we not seeing we need to confront things that are… Insanity, right? Do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. How can how can dads listening identify maybe some of those areas or discover some of those areas and then and then choose choose to step into them versus versus keep ignoring and letting the same results come?
Bob Merritt [00:19:46] Well, let’s let’s take anger, for example, which is a huge issue that many men most men I do I’ve struggled with anger, being very cautious and harsh with my language because of that. But anger is something that I struggle with. And I think a lot of men do. But a lot of men are unaware of that. They’re unaware of their anger or their words, just completely unaware. Everybody else can see it. Everybody else can feel it. But they’re unaware and so as as a father, as a dad who has little kids around home, he can he can lose his temper and I have and yell and curse and and whatever, or just go into a private room and sulk. And I’ve heard this statement so many times, it makes me sick. Well, kids are resilient. They can handle my anger. Well, yeah. But it’s affecting them, they’re absorbing all of that, they’re not yelling back at you as four and five year olds are just taking it and you say, well, kids are resilient. They’re resilient, yes. But that anger? Is going to play out in their lives in the form of shame, depression. Probably grow up as a teenager who is angry, him or herself. And caused destructiveness throughout. So if I’ve got an anger issue, but I’m not seeing it. Will I have enough humility so. Will I have enough strength, Jeff, to ask somebody, ‘Hey, will you help me see some things in my life?’ See it’s a person of strength who’s willing to admit I’ve got an anger problem or I’ve got a spending problem. People of weakness, will never admit they have an issue. They’re always saying, well, it’s your issue. It’s your problem, it’s your problem. They’re always assessing blame or pointing blame. It’s only people of strength who are willing to say, wait a minute, my life’s not going the way I want it to or my kids are acting out or things aren’t the way they should be at home. Is there something in my life? That’s a person of strength who asks that question. People of weakness will never ask that question. They just keep keep behaving badly.
Jeff Zaugg [00:22:18] So it starts with strength. Then what do you do with the information? And the information could come from your spouse, could answer that question. Your kids, your friends, I mean…
Bob Merritt [00:22:26] Yeah, my spouse, my wife, Laurie would tell me, you know, as a young dad and she’d say this is an issue in your life and I would just blow her off. We don’t like to believe what our spouse says, you know? Well, she’s got an issue or she’s got an ax to grind or whatever. You just kind of. Yeah, I hear you, but I really don’t believe you. And so in my life, it took a full year of counseling that probably saved my career and perhaps saved my marriage and my kids. It took it took a professional intervention directed by our board.
Jeff Zaugg [00:23:05] So you didn’t ask for it?
Bob Merritt [00:23:07] No, I did not ask for it. I was so unaware of my problems, my own issues. I couldn’t see it. We all have these blinds. I just couldn’t see it and didn’t believe it because I had this, quote unquote success at church and church is growing, you know, who are you to ask me or challenge me? Because I’m this this, you know, successful guy. And then the board said, hey, man, you either you either get counseling or you’re done. And I couldn’t believe it. I’ll never forget that night.
Jeff Zaugg [00:23:38] What a gift I cheer on get counseling. I cheer on like crazy all of the DadAWESOME community. I’m like, go see a counselor. Like, I’m such a fan of counseling, but to know some people listening or watching are like you actually need the gift of friends or professional, like, a nudge. I mean, I hope that we all could walk in and say like say, hey, I want to look for the blindspots myself. But you had the gift of someone else.
Bob Merritt [00:24:06] Oh, my gosh. You know, I it took it took a board because I’m so strong head and strong willed, it took a board to say you’re going to lose your job. Yeah. We’re going to fire you unless you go get help. So I’m like OK, and I went, yeah, I mean, it’s it is a gift. I would say, Jeff, every human being, because we are sinful, we are all flawed. We all have blindspots. Every dad should give themselves the gift of going to professional counselor and say, hey, where am I good and where am I weak? Would you help me see my weak spots? That would… for many men, that would be the key transformational moment in their life that would cause them to excel at work, at home, whatever they do. And and so many men are again, they have we all have this issue of pride. We think we got the world by the tail or unwilling to say, you know what, there may be some weaknesses in my life. But if you have the humility, I just keep going. You got to be humble enough and self-aware enough to know that we all have flaws and weaknesses, that if we could just get somebody to help us look at that, you know, it could just open the world to us because we could now start to manage our weaknesses.
Jeff Zaugg [00:25:33] So in in gathering, just gathering and researching for this this conversation, Bob, like, knowing about the celebration that happened at the 28 year mark of you handing off leadership of Eagle Brook, my guess is professionally, that celebration looked different because of a point where a board member told you you have to go get well.
Bob Merritt [00:25:53] It would have never happened. It would have never happened. I would have either… something tragic would have happened in my marriage. I shudder to think of what could have happened even relationally, immorally. Because when you’re when you’re running so fast, which was part of the problem, just going a hundred thousand miles an hour without breath, clinically burned out for sure, but just trying to keep up with the demand at work. And I was teaching over at Bethel Seminary and that was really stupid because it almost wrecked me. It was too much. I didn’t know it.
Jeff Zaugg [00:26:36] So picture of the eyes I want to move from professionally to family, the eyes of your six grandkids and your son and daughter and their their spouses, their eyes right now, the difference in their life today. You already talked about the joy of sitting in the same row in church, but the difference in their life today because of a courageous board member who stood up and said, you know, rallied and said, we need to get him help. What’s the difference in their life?
Bob Merritt [00:26:58] Well, they they are experiencing their bubba, their granddad.
Jeff Zaugg [00:27:06] So it’s Bubba. And what’s that?
Bob Merritt [00:27:10] Nana, and that name was given to me. I didn’t necessarily ask for it. But anyway, the family gave it to me. They are experiencing a Bubba who is loving, kind, tender. Someone who has time for them, which I would never have time for staff or people who wanted a piece of conversation or whatever. They’re experiencing a person who is not perfect. But is loving, and even though I was those things deep down, those things were not being manifested because of my anger.
Jeff Zaugg [00:27:56] Yeah. So several chapters later than the passage you read in Deuteronomy six, Deuteronomy 30, I’ve set before you life and death, blessings and curses now choose life so that you and your children may live. This is a great example. I just am not in this chapter of life like I have. My oldest is seven and a half. So seeing a description of my children are… They’re flourishing, they’re experiencing life because you made a hard choice of pressing in versus fighting back against that confrontation moment or that let’s get him help moment. That’s what we want for everyone listening is to choose life in the hard areas that will take courage. And just just to get specific from your son and from your daughter, your daughter said this. She said home was not just a place I lived, but the place I most wanted to be. That’s what I want for my four daughters before I say what your son said, how, what are some ways that I can create a home, that I can lead into a home atmosphere that makes my four daughters say it’s not just a place I live, but a place I want to be.
Bob Merritt [00:29:01] You are the most important influence, Jeff, as a dad in your home. It’s not to minimize your wife’s influence. Powerful, powerful, our wives are amazing. And their job of being being around the kids most is monumental, but your kids, you are you are the most powerful influence in your boys or girls. They are watching you. At all times. For good or bad, how you live your life as a dad will impact your kids for the rest of their life. So, you know, I would say, number one, stay faithful to your spouse, your kids love the fact that they can count on their dad loving their mom. And that’s never going to stop. They don’t have to question. Where you’re going to be at night, they have no question about what you’re up to. They know you’re going to love their mom and you two are going to be their parents. Now there’s divorce, I get it. Sometimes it’s not the person’s fault. Somebody walks out, somebody misbehaves, whatever. But I’m just saying right now, you, as a dad, stay faithful to your marriage. That’s the best gift you can give to your kids.
Jeff Zaugg [00:30:38] Thank you so much for joining us for Episode 185 with Pastor Bob Merritt. This was just the first half of the conversations. We’re going to go deep into some storytelling, some practical stories of his fatherhood journey and the the not so great moments and the really precious, beautiful moments next week’s episode. Here’s a quick clip from the second half of my conversation with Pastor Bob Merritt.
Bob Merritt [00:31:03] You might not know what to do. You might say some things wrong, but do not bail. Don’t walk away. Don’t don’t you know, ignore the issue. Pay attention to the right time the right away, but stay in the battle. Don’t just pretend there’s not an issue. Don’t pretend that it’s going to fix itself. Don’t abdicate the responsibility of being a parent to the culture. You’ve got to be there. You’ve got to be present.
Jeff Zaugg [00:31:34] So that clip, along with about another twenty five minutes of my conversation, will be coming at you next week. Episode 186. The show notes, the action steps, the transcripts and links are all going to be found for this week’s episode at DadAWESOME.org/185. So you can find all that information in your podcast app or at those show notes. Will encourage you guys. Some of you have already left ratings and reviews on Apple podcast or Spotify. That is a way that more dads are finding this show and being impacted by this ministry. So I would be so grateful for your rating and review to help more dads find this ministry. Guys, thanks for being DadAWESOME for saying I’m not done learning, I’m not done done being mentored. I want to learn and grow and become more intentional with my fatherhood journey. So praying for you guys this week. Let’s go add some life to the dad life.