What will you be doing on Sept. 8? Odds are it won’t be as life-changing as what’s in store for Sam Hancock. Although the 25-year-old Luminate lead singer (in the center of the photo) is used to having crowds focus on him while four of his best friends back him up on stage, this Saturday will be a little different. No guitars. No frenzied fans. Rather, Sam will be standing at the front of a church, waiting to slip a ring on Emily Smith’s finger.
Sam appreciates the magnitude of the commitment he’s about to make. He even told me it scares him a bit. “The excitement kind of wore off into fear because all these friends I have, and even some people in my family, are literally in the middle of divorces,” he explained. “They’re Christians, too. So it’s like, OK, how is this all working? I thought ’til death do us part’ was for sure going to stick in a Christian home with a Christian mindset.”
That anxiety led Sam to sit down with Chris Stevens, a father of four whose 15-year marriage has been an inspiration to him. “He and his wife have been through ups and downs,” Sam said, “so I went to him and said, ‘Hey, man, you’re married still. How did you do it?'” That conversation led to “Heal This Home,” a song appearing on Luminate’s new album, Welcome to Daylight. It indicates that unselfish love is a daily choice. It also reassures listeners that, with God at the center, even a struggling marriage can thrive—not exactly the kind of message we’re hearing from the culture at large.
“Every movie you go to is telling you what love looks like, and to be quite honest, it’s completely the opposite of biblical principles of love,” Sam said. “In movies, you meet somebody who’s cute, that you’re attracted to. You go out on a date. You end up skipping the marriage part and go straight to the ‘good stuff.’ And you wonder why they aren’t together. It’s so crazy how they’re doing all of this backwards. But the biblical [approach] is a covenant. I don’t want to say it’s a contract, which can make it sound less than love, because love is full of life. It’s exuberant. It’s the deepest emotion humans can tap into. But it’s a covenant, an agreement: When I don’t want to I will still choose to love you. If both parties are doing that, that’s when marriages last.”
“Heal This Home” conveys that hope in its chorus:
When you feel like something’s missing and your world is crashing down
When the house you’ve built is falling into pieces on the ground
When it feels like there’s no way to fix what’s wrong
Love is strong, and God can heal this home.
Sam considers this a “prophetic song” over his relationship with Emily. And in concert, it’s a chance for him to intercede for troubled marriages in the audience. He’s convinced that the Holy Spirit can do as much with a three-and-a-half-minute song as through an entire counseling session.
Considering Sam’s passion for music, I couldn’t help but ask what he thought, growing up, about the songs of his soon-to-be father-in-law, Michael W. Smith.
“Um, honestly? I have to be really honest here…”
Uh oh, trouble in paradise.
“… I have to be dead honest with you, it’s kind of a taboo yet funny conversation around the table, but …”
I knew I should’ve gone with “What’s your favorite color?”
“…I cannot name his catalog at all. I can name the hits and that’s about it. I grew up in a Christian rock family. My dad was into all these bands like Whitecross and Whiteheart and Petra and Bride. He had a couple [of Michael’s] records, but it was never like, ‘Let’s just pop this in and go for it.’ So it’s always funny, he’ll have to remind me and show me songs I’ve never heard before. But I will say this, as far as a married couple to look up to, they are number one.”
Whew, good save.
But Sam is absolutely right. After 30 years of travel, artistry and fame—a potentially toxic combination that has torpedoed countless marriages—Michael and his wife Debbie have prospered where it matters most: at home. Which means that when Sam and Emily tie the knot on Saturday, their holy covenant will include a living, breathing example of how to do things right.
If you’ve been blessed with solid marital role models, take a minute to brag on them. We’d love to hear about it!
To hear our entire conversation with Sam Hancock—including how he asked a Christian music legend for permission to marry his daughter—listen to episode #165 of the Official Plugged In Podcast.