This month’s speaker is Britt Gusmus, author of the recently released The Oak Tree Source, as well as co-author of The Impact of Influence, released last year. He was also a multi-sport athlete with prospects in Major League Baseball before, as he freely admits, bad choices and a lack of emotional maturity derailed his athletic career. But his spiritual journey taught him that he needed to “evolve” from what the world saw him as into the man God wanted him to be. Now a coach, educator, and speaker, he draws upon his experiences to inspire similar evolutions in men of all ages.
Good evening and welcome. My name is Paul Amos, and I’m the founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed as an organization and a community of men brought together to discuss life’s difficulties as well as our triumphs over those difficulties. Today, we are honored to have a special guest in Britt Gusmus, who is here today to talk about his new book and about his experience in life. So please welcome Britt.
Britt: Thank you very much, Paul. I really appreciate it. It is great to be on the show with you today.
Paul: I’m going to start today the way we start with all our guests and ask you what does redemption mean to you?
Britt: Well, Paul it’s the guiding question of my life because I was in such need of redemption during a certain portion of my life, that when I experienced what real redemption is, I will never be the same. And so what redemption means to me is being restored, being made new. Being restored to not only the image bearer of what our Lord and Savior, Jesus and the God of the universe gives us, but being made new in such a way that all of the past, all of the things that I carried personally were removed. They were part of my story, but God used them for his good. And so redemption to me is one of the most important concepts, words in my life, because there are so many instances, even today, where He continues to use me as an example of His redemption and how He wanted to redeem the world, but to make it new and bring it to Himself.
Paul: I thank you for that. For so many people in our audience, they’re looking for that ability to be renewed. They’re looking to be seen in a different way, and to realize that God has redeemed us all, and to do that even before we’ve asked is a truly powerful message. To hear you speak about what redemption means to you means a lot to all of us.
Paul: If I could now shift and pin it a little bit and ask you to just tell a little bit about how you got to where you are, what’s a little bit of your history and how God came to you and brought you to Him. For many people that are our audience today, those stories have been tough stories, and I understand that your one who has been through a series of culminating events that have brought you to a very special relationship with Jesus Christ. And so, if you wouldn’t mind, we would love hearing a little bit of your story.
Britt: As a young man, as a kid, we go all the way that far. My story starts with very loving parents that had their own inabilities to not connect and show love in ways that were always good. So part of my inner messaging or we talk about those old tapes in our lives, I got these messages that said you weren’t enough print, you need to perform for you to be loved.
I carry those messages deep into my deep into my adulthood, and that’s where God really redeemed my heart. But he also, before that, blessed me with the ability to play sports, to hit a ball, to shoot the ball, a throw a ball, and that’s really where a lot of my identity came from. In those times I was striving so hard to be something that my parents wanted me to be, to be something that my friends wanted me to be, to be something that everybody else wanted me to be, except for what I wanted to be. And I carry that mantle for so long.
Britt: When I was 13 years old, my dad gave me Micky Mantel’s biography, the great Yankee baseball player, and I wanted to be “The Mic”. Wanted to hit home runs. And about that time, at 13 or 14 years old, I found out that alcohol could help me escape the pressures, the stresses, the confusions, the hurts that hang-ups in my life. I said, This is what I want to be.
So I started drinking at a young age, and I hit a lot of home runs as a young man. But that idea of not being enough, not having enough really set a motion, a hook of shame in my life, which I played out really well until I was 31 years old.
I had a lot of success as a ball player, but I felt like I was living a Jekyll and Hyde lifestyle. The more home runs I hit, the more touchdowns I threw, the more three-pointers I hit, the more accolades I received the worst I felt about myself. That’s what shame did to me. It really set an anchor in my life, as I started to understand more after my ball playing days ended prematurely.
At 18 years old, I was drafted by the Houston Astros. I was a state champion quarterback here in Denver, Colorado, and the largest classification here in Colorado, enjoyed success as a multiple-time All-State player and drafted by Houston, went to college to play ball. When I was away and I didn’t have any supervision, I couldn’t really supervise myself. But even so, even in that Jekyll and Hyde lifestyle, I was an All-Conference player in a really tough Western junior college athletic conference. Hit 390, had 10 home runs and 50 RBIs.
As the narrative still just kind of swirled around me, I couldn’t handle the fact that I could still have success. I just was in turmoil. So my ball-playing days ended early when I was 21. And this thing that gave me so much of my identity…was my identity. I was playing ball, that’s how I got attention, that’s how I gained love, that’s how I did everything.
All of a sudden it was gone; and I was left with me. And that became a very lonely spot. I did my best to start and stop. I have various careers, was a real estate agent, was a salesman, and my natural gifting that God gave me outside of playing ball worked pretty darn well. Until I, at 31 years old, was broken, came to my knees and said, ‘Okay, I can’t live this way anymore, and I don’t want to be a phony.’
That was the one thing that really, amongst many other things, drove me to my knees was I didn’t want to be a phony anymore. At 31 years old, I crawled into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, and that’s where my journey with God started. And it has been an amazing one. In recovery, I met Jesus, met Jesus in those rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I started my relationship with Him. I was introduced to a book called Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. I got to actually see him speak in person, and the convergence of my broken heart and my brokenness and his story of God being Abba really set my relationship with God in motion and amazing things, amazing redemption has happened in the corresponding 17 years that blows me away every day.
Paul: Wow, what a fascinating and amazing testimony, and it says a lot about you and your character that you walked into those rooms and sought that out yourself, that you want it to be more than what you felt.
When I heard you say you felt like you were not enough, and the shame that you felt, it really resonates with me. Some of my own personal experience is to know what that feels like, to know how painful that can be.
So at the same time, you walked into these AA rooms, you felt a shift and change in your life, and now God’s put you in a place that you’ve been able to come out and speak in a way and bring a message that is truly powerful.
Your new book that you’re launching now, The Oak Tree Source, is an inspiration to so many people, and I’m glad that it’s getting out there. Talk for a minute about what you’re talking about in the, about evolution, and about the things that are at the heart of the message God’s brought you to bring.
Britt: So that idea of evolution and change and knowing that it doesn’t matter where you are in life, there’s redemption, there’s a do-over. I talk about my life being a do-over. I talk about my life as before my relationship with God, and I know many of us, we call ourselves born again, but I feel like I’ve lived two separate lives, and it is absolutely incredible.
The motivation for The Oak Tree Source was something that obviously had been percolating in me, and Paul, you mentioned God’s redemption in us even before it starts or even before we choose it. I believe He had this message in my heart, before I was even close to even choosing Him and choosing redemption.
With that being said, I got clean and sober in 2003. I was in a prayer meeting, I was in a Bible study at our church in 2005, and we had a little meeting where some folks from a charismatic church, came in and did some prophecy over us, and one woman prophesied over me and she said, Britt, you’re going to grow strong like an oak tree. And this was in 2005.
As the messages kept coming and kept coming in, and I had a couple of friends say ‘Britt, your story is amazing. You should write a book.’ And the messaging kept coming, the little nudges that we know that God gives us when His hand is near us, when His power is near us, kept coming. And it could not be denied any longer, and so that’s where the real motivation for the book came. And really understanding that in order for me to gain the fulfillment, the alignment, my insides matching my outsides as a man, as a husband, as a father, as somebody who is charged in the classroom, on the field of play, as a coach and teacher to affect young men and women’s lives and be what God called me to be when He called me to go back and finish my degree and get my master’s degree. That it couldn’t be about me anymore.
As these little nudges kept coming, I spoke to my pastor, this was when the message for the book was really forming. He talked about a term that Paul used for Jesus in the Greek translation when he was writing to the church in Ephesus, and that term was kaphale. Kaphale means source, the starting point. And so I reference Ephesians 5, 22 and 5-23, as far as that scripture and how it’s been interpreted over time and men’s masculinity and what we think we should be and how we think we should be viewed.
And it struck another cord with me that if we men, become the source, the starting point, the foundation of their marriages, for their fatherhood, for their companies, for their businesses. Jesus was the source, but He was the head of the church. And so, if men can understand this idea that if you’re willing to serve, if you’re willing to become a source, a starting point for everything in your life and those people in your lives, your presence is going to be like you are the head of… ____<Name It>____ (your family, your organization, your company, etc). Your mentality is to serve, your mentality is to be the starting point.
That message is loud and clear in the book, and when we become the source, the starting point, not only does our presence grow and we become respected as the head of whatever it is, but we grow strong roots of faith, the Holy Spirit, goodness, love, all the fruits of the Spirit, we grow those strong roots in who Jesus is as he’s building his kingdom within us and our presence becomes strong and sturdy like an oak tree.
I don’t know about you, Paul, but all of the accolades and all of the awards and all of those things that the world gives me pale in comparison to knowing that my presence led by Jesus, led by God the Father, led by our triune God, led by the Holy Spirit, grows strong and sturdy and dependable like that tree of life that is on the photo of my book, they’re in New Orleans. Then I know I’m leaving a legacy.
I think, and I believe wholeheartedly, that not only have I sponsored men in AA, and been around men in mentorship to help them understand that it’s not about them. I think men really need to hear that message of legacy and what that can mean for them. If they are willing to one, become honest, become transformationally honest with themselves, be willing to align what’s happening inside of them with what’s happening outside of them, and they too can understand that, okay, yes, I want to have all those things. I want to be the head of everything. I want to be the head of these things, but it takes service, it takes being a source.
When we do that transformational work, whether it’s in recovery, whether it’s in Bible study groups as men, we get to the substance. So I talk about substance, the essential stuff that life is made of. When we’re distracted, when we have this and that, the media, our lust, and all these things that distract us, we don’t get to the substance, the essential stuff that life is made up, that makes it more fulfilling for us. Those are the main themes of the book, and obviously you can tell that I get pretty fired up about it because my life is born out just what we’re talking about, and I feel so passionately about men having more fulfilling, substantive lives that can help them leave a legacy and really have a presence that is meaningful.
Paul: Wow, that is awesome. I cannot wait for our audience to have the opportunity to read your book. You’ve got so much passion. Let me try and dig into a few different topics because you have a lot of them.
So let’s go back to source. Source sounds like a fascinating, and an interesting thing for us to focus. So often, men, their entire lives have been told to be the source. To be the source of strength, to be the source of power, to be the source of everything that goes on in their world and their family and their personality in their own success. Talk for a minute about making God the source versus us being the source, and the critical elements that come from that relationship as opposed to it coming off you when we are being the source ourselves.
Britt: Right. It’s such a great parallel. Is it not? So you’re exactly right. My wife, Carrie, going on 13 years of marriage by the way, the love of my life, early on, we were friends, and she bought me a birthday card that was a quote from John Wayne, and it says this, “When you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts will follow.” and it’s such a poignant, quote as to how men think. Does it take a certain amount of strategy and will to close the deal that you’re closing to make the sale? Yes, it does, it takes that idea of masculinity. But becoming a source, becoming the starting point means that you have an expertise, means that you have been willing to venture into those places in your heart and mind that have really kept you back from having more connection, more kinship, more belonging, actual belonging and connection at depth with your co-workers, with your partners in business, with your spouse, with your kids, because we made it about ourselves. It is our own strength that has to get everything done, and that has been the American way. There’s such respect and honor about men who are self-made men, but there’s an emptiness to it that I have found that men are searching for more.
Why do they turn to pornography? Why do they turn to chasing women? Why do they turn to being the life of the party or being the center of attention? Because they don’t have a source that they can actually connect with. They don’t have a source that is bigger than themselves, being our God, so we are looking as men to fulfill those in other ways.
When God is the center, the source of our lives, all everything that is meaningful, everything that is good, the power that can never be filled, that hole that can never be filled by what the world gives us will be filled when we make God the source of our lives. We see it every day, Paul.
We see it every day. Men becoming depressed, men looking outside of marriage to be fulfilled, men who are not even married, just wanting to fill that hole. My experience has been that hole was never filled with alcohol or women or seeking accolades and awards, but filled by the risen Jesus Christ, filled by the God of the universe. Growing roots in Him.
Paul: Powerful and so real. When I think of my own personal experiences and the things that I’ve dealt with, you’re so right. I spent my life focused on making myself into a business person, making myself into an executive, making myself into someone who could be successful despite whatever challenges were thrown at him. At each turn, I began to fail. You talked earlier about two lives; well I live two different lives.
I had one going on the outside and one going on the inside. That ultimately was something that caused me great struggle, but you were able to live two lives and two lives one that was negative in your early days and one that was positive, by finding that source, by coming to that source and saying, ‘You know what, this is something that I need, for God to be in my life, and then I can turn to the right thing.’
How do you convince men who are at the bottom, who can’t see that way out, who can’t see the evolution that you talk about as the place for them to get to. What are the encouraging steps that you do offer them or the path that you talk to them about getting from the points of addiction to the place of source?
Britt: It takes for sharing that all. I appreciate it. The thing about our society today is we live for the quick fix. I saw a guy on social media who talked about creating a relationship with Jesus in 90 days. And those of us who have been on the path with Christ as our Lord and Savior, know that it doesn’t happen overnight. And so I say this in the spirit of growing strong roots, going from the last house on the block takes:
And so I talked a little bit about this idea of a cycle, it’s not the redemption cycle, but it’s becoming a source cycle. We discover those things that got us to this place. We then begin to uncover those emotions, those thoughts, those behaviors and the causes of them that got us to this place. And then we start to uncover, ‘How can I do things differently?’ Which gets us to execution, and then when we get to execution, we then can actually start to execute those new behaviors. It takes a lot of introspection.
So my encouragement for men would be this, don’t be afraid to go to those places that you never thought you would share, those things that you were going to take to your grave and share those with a trusted man, a trusted group of people and be willing to have a different experience. There’s a prayer that we use in the rooms of recovery, which is:
Father, please set aside what I know so that I can have a new experience with you today.
It takes a lot of work to level your pride, to look at the behaviors that have held you back, that have put you in that position, and the biggest piece of it, Paul, is to level your pride by taking a real evaluation. Okay, I’ve lost my marriage, I’ve lost my business, I’ve spent time in jail. Whatever it is, the external behaviors are all from in here. When you get to that place of the bottom of the barrel, it’s got to be a pride-leveling experience, and that was exactly my story.
And I’ll tell you this too, be encouraged by this, that even at 17 years clean and sober, my pride still gets in the way, and those things of the world that I want to chase and be and have light shown on all the hard work I’ve done can come between the most sacred relationships in your life. So not only is it a life-long process to continue to be introspective, to continue to discover and uncover, discard and then execute a new way of life, which is for those of us that follow Jesus Christ is that it’s always one step away, your pride, your selfish desires are always one step away. That’s why it’s so important for me to continue to understand that while being a source is thankless at points, at times, it’s the most rewarding and gratifying actions and behaviors that I do in my life.
Paul: Wow, well, I know that you have transitioned from being the incredible athlete to the incredible salesman to the incredible man in recovery, and it’s one thing to do it on an individual level. But my understanding also is that you’ve become a great coach, and you’ve become someone who is willing to give back to others, and that’s what you’ve done in your book here, but you also do it to your players. Talk for a minute about what it’s like to lead others in trying to be the source and trying to help them evolve.
Britt: It’s so humbling. It’s just so humbling. Every piece of it. Football was always my first love, and I started coaching youth football as soon as my ball playing days were over in baseball. It was so humbling to give back and to be around a game. When I actually followed God’s hand on me and he said, Britt, go back to school.
Paul, this is some powerful redemptive stuff right here. I graduated, this is full disclosure, I graduated high school with a 1.4 GPA. God wanted to redeem that part of my story. He kept nudging me. I was in sales and I was doing well. But it wasn’t fulfilling. He said go back to school.
I went back, got my undergrad, got my Master’s degree, graduated summa cum laude. From a guy who left high school with shame and bitterness and anger. This is it, Paul, this is it. This is the redemption. He said, No, Britt, I’ve got, I’ve got more for you, I’ve got a plan for you.
And just like Romans 12:2 says, ‘Don’t be conformed to the things in this world, but to be renewed by your mind, by your relationship with Jesus.’ and I know I’m a little bit off on that scripture, but that’s what He did. So I graduated summa cum laude, and that the confidence booster in that and having my wife there with me right by my side, and my daughter and watching that happen gave me the confidence to say, Oh my gosh, to whoever I teach and coach, need to fuel this passion.
So it is so humbling to see what God has done. And when I’m in the classroom, when I’m on the ball field, I serve. From the smallest things to holding the door open for the players and they’re like, No, no, no, no, Coach… Let us get that for you. I’m like, No, no, no, no, no, I’ll get that door for you. Or being asked, as a long-time quarterback, being asked to coach tight-ends, did it. Coach running backs, stepped into whatever gap was needed, and a part of being a source of strength and substance is working with passion. The boys know, every time we go out to practice that I am going to be honest, I’m going to look them in the eyes, I’m bringing a high energy and I’m going to a high and humble energy, if that can actually exist in the same sentence.
For them to know that I am doing precisely what God called me to do, and I was courageous enough to follow it. I’m pouring out all of that spirit on them Every. Single. Day.
So when you’re living your calling, obviously, it makes it a little bit easier, but when you’ve been through your hero’s journey, when you become your own hero, those are the things that help them connect with me. Those are the things that make me relatable to them, and make me authentic to them.
In the classroom, again, just there to pour out to them, whether we’re studying… I teach Honors American government, whether we’re studying the Roe versus Wade case, or we’re studying the high school coach who just brought his case to the Supreme Court because he was charged with coercing kids in a New Jersey school, whatever it is. And I get the good fortune of coaching and teaching at a private school.
Jesus is a center, I’m working from the overflow.
The scripture in Luke says if you continue to serve and give, your measure will be pressed down, smothered around and press down so that you can work from the overflow of that blessing.
My leadership style is one of passion, one of honesty, one of humility and one of hopefully bringing great joy to those that I’m around.
Paul: You’ve got me ready to come play for you.
Britt: Let’s go in. Come on out.
Paul: That’s awesome. Well, we’ve got time to one more question, and our audience always loves to hear if there’s any advice that you would give to them in light of their circumstances, in light of what you’ve been sharing here today. Obviously, I know one piece of advice would be to read The Oak Tree Source, and so I encourage all of our listeners and viewers to do that, but could you just give us from a coach, what is your coaching advice for this team today?
Britt: The key to all of it, Paul is this, if you want to live a life of substance and strength and have your presence grow strong and sturdy like an oak tree, go deep. That is my advice. Go deep into those places where you think you are weak. Go deep in evaluating and looking at those things that you’re afraid of. Because first, you’ll find out they’re not as scary as you think. And when you do the work, the work that makes life have substance, you’ll be so glad you did.
And like Paul said, go by The Oak Tree source today, you can buy it on Amazon, or you can buy it on my website, brittgusmus.com, but I can’t tell you enough the benefits of going deep inside to those things that keep you from the life that God meant for you.
Paul: Beautiful, what a wonderful story and what a journey you brought us on. Thank you for giving up so much precious time, time away from your family and your players and everyone else, and Britt we just appreciate you.
To our audience, thank you so much for joining us on this Third Thursday. It’s a pleasure to bring you our show tonight, please look forward to next month, and we’ll bring you another spectacular opportunity to hear about what Jesus is doing in this world and how you can be impacted.
Thank you so much for following us on social media, continue to look on our website for updates. We’ll look forward to seeing you again soon.
Godspeed and good night.