What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? The water off the coast of Coronado, California can be as cool as the low 50’s. In these wet, cold temperatures is where Matt Hoetker (and others) lay for several minutes at a time as they complete Navy SEAL training. The goal of this particular exercise is to bring you to the brink of hypothermia.


“Cold, wet and sandy is how they liked to keep us,” said Matt. “Their mission was to make you uncomfortable the entire duration of training.” In Matt’s particular class of potential SEAL graduates in the mid-90’s, he was one of 16 (out of 150 or so) who successfully completed training. So, in this post, I’ll cover what struck me as I interviewed Matt in front of a class of 8th grade boys. 

I was able to interview Matt as a guest for an 8th grade class of boys where he described some of the rigors of “Hell Week”, as well as other various exercises that were demanded of him during SEAL training. We discussed his childhood experiences that led him into manhood.  He also shared his experiences as a husband and father.  I peppered him with questions about his career path and how he transitioned from college, to the military, to a business owner.  We talked about his relationship with Jesus and he shared about a ministry he supports called Life of Valor.


I opened the floor for students to ask Matt questions. They asked questions such as, “How many pull-ups can you do?”, “What’s jumping out of plane like?” (…you get the drift).


Then, a student asks, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I was waiting for Matt to point to some underwater task, scaling some mountain, or a mission overseas.


He simply answered, “Well, nothing is harder than being a dad and husband.” As he continued on, I was hung on his answer. Here is a man, who has arguably done some of the most difficult tasks in the world—mentally, physically—yet that’s not where his mind went first regarding tough challenges. It didn’t reflect to a prior mission, training or surviving, what 140 other men in his class couldn’t do.  Instead, it jumped to the difficult challenges of being an intentional father to his children and loving his wife.


I’ve often wondered how I might fare in training like Matt endured in his military career. I’ve also wondered how I’d handle combat, and life-in-the-balance situations. Would I think quickly and do the right thing, or jump on a grenade for my team? How about laser-like focus under incredible pressure and still be able to deliver? One reason I muse on how I might fare in these situations (aside from enjoying movies like Rambo, Commando, and Red Dawn-80’s version), is because, those scenarios would be the most difficult circumstances I could imagine.


I had to stop and ask myself, “Do I place the training of my children in that elite category of ‘most impressive things’ someone can do?

After all, if a Navy SEAL (elite of the elite) says being a good husband and father is his toughest ‘mission’, then I should take pride in being a dads who build godly men as mission-critical.


There are critical moments in our kids’ lives. Times when the stakes are high. One decision can be life-giving or life-altering. Falling back on the training of our heavenly father is essential. Also, being around other dads is priceless. It means you have a team that will help you carry out your mission.


So, we asked Matt, “What was your thought process to get you through training?” He said, “One, I knew I wasn’t going to die, and two, all I had to do was finish one task at a time.”


Are you taking fatherhood one day or task at a time? 

Do you have a team of dads you can call on to help you in your mission? If not, Manhood Journey is designed to equip you with the training you need to intentionally disciple your son. You can start here.



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