Stats: 28yo, 143#, 5'7", ~14% BF. Wife 31yo, 1yo girl, 3yo boy

Bench 2x160#, Overhead Press 3x120#, Squat 4x210#, Deadlift 5x260#

A few weeks ago, a longtime friend invited my family to join his family for dinner. On a cold winter night, I loaded up my little family and drove up to their place.

Arnold*'s eldest daughter - only about 12yo - greeted us at the door. He and a handful of his eight children met us in the entryway. He gave orders for them to help my wife, my kids, and me with our coats, shoes, and the gear we had brought. As soon as we had unpacked ourselves from our winter garments, he gave us each a big burly hug. He exuded nothing but joy. As far as I could tell, it was his greatest pleasure that we would join his family for dinner that night.

We trundled around to the kitchen. He took charge of the conversation to ask about our family. Arnold has known both my wife and me from before we had kids (and before we were married). We joked about all the life-with-little-kids learning experiences we have had. On the other side of eight children, Arnold and his wife both laughed with us. They've been down that road many times.

As his wife prepared dinner, he took responsibility for all of the people. He wrangled and managed children as they needed managing, and he sat to further chat with my wife and me. A playful toddler ended up in my lap, so he spoke mostly with my wife about all the latest news with her family.

Soon we transitioned for dinner. Arnold gathered up all the children to the table while his wife set out dinner. He prayed a blessing over our meal before we settled down to eat. He made sure my wife and I had our places and all the necessary accessories for feeding our own little ones. He did not sit down until after everyone else was seated with food on their places.

While we ate, I observed how his wife related to him. She was comfortable. Very comfortable. They were always in some kind of physical contact - sitting close enough that their shoulder, legs, arms, or whatever were always in contact. There was nothing romantic about this kind of touch. It was just - uh - close. And it was clear that she was the one getting close, leaning into his presence, it felt like.

Arnold did not take one scoop of food for himself until after everyone else was well into their first helping. When bread rolls came out of the oven, he took the two burnt ones for himself and doled out the properly cooked ones onto everyone else's plate (despite his wife's protest, "You don't have to eat the hockey pucks!").

As many people in my life have noticed, Arnold's wife asked about how I've gotten in shape. We discussed how my generation's lifestyle by default doesn't produce strong men but how important it is for a man's fulfilling his role in a household to be strong, confident, etc.. Arnold roared to life in agreement. He's always been strong. He has a job that requires a moderate amount of heavy lifting, and at home, he's always working on the family vehicles and the house. Oftentimes when other men bring up fitness, they seem to speak from a place of competition, but Arnold's spoke more to celebrate how good strong, virtuous masculinity is in general. Our wives seemed to appreciate our little exchange.

We dispatched children to play and start a fire in the fireplace while we adults retired to the living room to chat. My wife and I sat on a couch next to each other (as I noticed how close my wife didn't sit to me). Arnold's wife sat in an armchair, and Arnold knelt on the floor next to her, helping my 1yo play with toys while also leaning onto his wife's armrest to chat with us.

His focus was 100% on us. He was entirely interested in everything we had to share. His wife also sharing and joking while still enjoying the pleasure of her husband's presence. I again had kids in and out of my lap, but it wasn't lost on me how vastly different Arnold's way of being a husband and father was from my own custom.

A short while later, we said goodnight. Again, Arnold dispatched his children to assist us. He gave us big, burly hugs, while he and his children all implored us to come back again soon. Indeed, we certainly will.

My Takeaways

From this experience, there were a few key lessons I walked away with.

Be like Jesus in service. Arnold served his family before he served himself. He did not do it to seek validation or praise but to joyfully execute his responsibilities in caring for his family and his guests.

Be like Jesus in lordship. Throughout the night, Arnold gave instructions to his children and to his wife, and his orders were followed without question. He did not need to "flex" his power to get his way. He was not in any way embarrassed to be in charge. He very comfortably guided everyone in what to do next.

Let everyone enjoy your presence, mirth, and joy. All evening long, Arnold was the happiest person in the home. Despite rowdy children, burnt bread, and interrupted conversations, he took pleasure throughout the entire evening. We as his guests got to share in - to participate in - that pleasure, filling us up with joy, too.

*not his real name