Integrating fatherhood and career: An interview with Luke Spehar

Women are always faced with the question of whether they can be both a mother and pursue a career using the gifts God has given them. While our culture often doesn’t address the other side of the coin, men face the same challenge. Yet their fatherhood lived out in light of their careers is a gift to their families, the Church and the world.

Meet Luke Spehar, a Minneapolis native who started writing his own music at the age of sixteen. After Luke released his third album in 2015, he married his wife, Elizabeth, and they toured the country as newlyweds. This was the adventure that inspired his fourth album, “The Pilgrim,” which celebrates the beauty of music, marriage and fatherhood. He now lives in Saint Paul with his wife and their three daughters.

I recently spoke with Luke while he and his family traveled to Colorado for a gig. Read on to hear about their life on the road, and how marriage and children can go hand in hand with your dreams.

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Radiant: As an acoustic guitarist and songwriter, what role do you see music having in the spiritual life?

Luke Spehar: Before I knew what I was really doing, I was playing long, long hours into the night with my guitar. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that whole time I was praying. Music has a way of going where words can’t. I was expressing the yearnings of my heart that words weren’t able to get to. There is something deeply connected in music to the spiritual realm. Maybe that is why St. Augustine says “those who sing pray twice.” Music expresses the heart when words alone don’t suffice.

Luke Spehar and familyRadiant: How has music had an impact on your family?

Luke: Pulling out my guitar and playing a song while my girls sing along has been amazing. While they haven’t had any formal training yet, they make up their own songs, bang away at the piano, and enjoy trying out our ukulele and mandolin. We’re excited about getting them in front of teachers! At bedtime we can put my albums on Spotify and let the girls go to bed with Dad’s music. That has been a real blessing.

Radiant: Your album “The Pilgrim” celebrates the beauty and adventure of music, marriage and fatherhood. What inspired you to write an album on this, and what will people hear in these songs?

Luke: The album is inspired by several dimensions including the pilgrimage I made on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I also really identify with the idea of us being pilgrims traveling toward heaven. This album is about my life’s pilgrimage to God the Father, who is Love. Along that journey there have been many twists and turns. One adventure amid the journey was getting married and from that marriage having children, which this album reflects.

I wrote “Love Songs & Lullabies” and “Time With You” for my wife when I was discerning whether or not I was called to marriage. Before meeting Elizabeth, I thought my life’s call was just to be a musician. Yet when I was with her, I knew God would make a way if it was meant to be, even though I didn’t know how it would work. Our seasons in life didn’t seem to be compatible. She was running professionally, and I was traveling as an independent musician. When I entrusted to God my desires, he really gave me the freedom to step into our relationship more fully. “Time With You” is a meditation on how once you are married you begin building the “we,” a union which is protected by your vows.

“The Farmer” is about a boy watching a man working, and how he is learning through watching and listening: “From a distance, the boy looked on, learning more than he knew, He listened close as the teacher taught, and just like the seeds, He grew.” This speaks to the experience of marriage when you both really have to work hard, and also to the experience of fatherhood, which I am modeling and hopefully leading my children toward the Lord.

Radiant: Tell me a little bit about your latest album, “Solace,” and how it was shaped by the pandemic.

Luke: When 2020 hit, we were all navigating the pandemic, and I was recognizing how music really reconnects us to long-lasting, deeper truths and gives us solace and peace. Music grounds us. Then, during the last presidential election, America was really shaken up. It was a watershed moment for me. We needed music that would settle us down and point us to more beautiful things. I wanted to do an album with hymns, which have soothed me in turbulent times. “Solace” is a collection of 11 cover songs that are different hymns or worship songs that have really comforted me during times of trouble or turmoil.

Radiant: What does being on the road look like with your family?

Luke: God really answered my prayer about “how is this going to look?” I was afraid that after I got married, music would just fade away and people wouldn’t accommodate what we needed financially. The opposite happened. We got booked way more after we got married, and I often travel with my whole family. The generosity we receive when we play for various churches is pretty overwhelming; families are willing to host us for the night or the church books us a night in a hotel. There is a difference between a family vacation and a family trip, and it is definitely a work trip when we are on the road together, but we are making irreplaceable memories. Life on the road definitely has its challenges, but the good outweighs the challenges.

Radiant: How have you found your vocation to marriage and fatherhood to be compatible with your dreams?

Luke: In our story and this ministry, I really think that my wife, Elizabeth, is the real hero in our work together. She has her master’s degree and was teaching math at a public school [and] about to be tenured. Yet she resigned from her job in order to jump into the van and do this ministry together. Sometimes our wild ideas take a lot of courage, but they also can turn out to be better than what we thought we wanted. You can do these things as a married woman and a mom. It takes a lot of faith and it takes a lot of courage, but you don’t need to feel that your dreams will vanish when you become a mom. Babies change your life, but Elizabeth has shown me that that doesn’t mean they have to completely derail the dreams that the Lord has put in your heart. It just might take creativity to express those dreams.

It’s a very real dynamic with Elizabeth and I, and we often talk about “is this working? What do we need to shift to make this work better?” It’s okay for women to make their hearts known. Be emboldened and encouraged to share your needs and dreams too. I love that we have that aspect in our relationship.

Elizabeth talks about how it can be a temptation to think that your family has to look a certain way. One thing that we’ve really realized is that as long as Elizabeth and I have a strong marriage, our kids will be okay. There are a lot of different ways to live out your “normal,” even if it may be unconventional. Marriage and family can look very different for individuals, but it can also be very healthy, as long as you are keeping the Lord in the middle of it.

Radiant: How can your fans reach out to you for bookings?

Luke: As the country opens up, we are really excited to be able to get out and do more performances. We are really grateful to all of our fans who initiate events simply by reaching out to us to bring us in. This is a great blessing to us. We are gladly taking inquiries and can’t wait to be traveling again!

If you’d like to book a performance by Luke Spehar, visit his booking page here.

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