The man Rod Hairston is today is, by his own admission, a far cry from the man he almost became. When his mother discovered she was pregnant with her second child at age 16, she was told by a friend she should abort the baby. But Rod’s mother emphatically said no because, she said, “he is going to be a mouthpiece for God.”
Raised in housing projects, Rod watched men physically and verbally abuse women day after day. And it made a deep impression on him.
“I watched men all around me treat women with disdain — even in my own family,” says Rod. “I made a promise to myself early in life that I would never leave my wife and family because I understood the pain of having an absent father. I never even met my father until I was 24 years old. When I was a child, I became very protective of my mother. I share in my book, Cover Her, how I made a pipe with some black tape and gave it to her and said, ‘if anybody breaks in, you use this.’ She still has it to this day.”
Rod’s mother made the courageous decision to raise her two boys alone, eventually graduating from high school, and later embarking on a successful real estate career for herself. Rod’s grandfather was his greatest influence, but after his death when Rod was only eight years old, Rod began to question what death and life truly meant. After watching the ball drop on television one New Year’s Eve, Rod made the decision that the next Sunday he would give his life to Jesus at the tender age of 11.
As his teen years began, Rod fell into bad patterns of drug use, drinking, and casual sexual encounters, mimicking family relatives who he watched do the same. But at 17, he rededicated his life to Christ, and later found Godly mentors in college that helped him find his ultimate calling as a minister. He recommitted himself to a life of sexual purity, praying a very specific prayer.
“I said, ‘God, I don’t want a wife until I become the man you want me to be.’” says Rod. “I even broke off a relationship that was taking me in the wrong direction, and just waited on God. I was planning on attending a Why Wait? Conference with Josh McDowell, and I felt God saying, ‘You have permission to date platonically.’ It was there that I met my wife. She was incredibly warm and caring. I asked her out and she actually had to ask permission from her leader to go out with me! It was the best date I ever had, and she has been my wife for over 28 years today.”
Rod began serving with Campus Crusades for Christ and Athletes in Action, honing his speaking skills and learning from mentors like Charles Gilmer and James White. He was asked by a friend who was chaplain for the Carolina Panthers if he might be interested in ministering to professional football players. Eventually, he started working with the Baltimore Ravens, holding chapels every week and putting together bible studies for the players, coaches, and team management. He eventually became the first salaried full-time chaplain in the NFL.
“The NFL teaches men how to be athletically excellent,” says Rod, “but I tried to teach the men to look at themselves holistically, as not just physical, but emotional, relational, rational, and spiritual beings. Few people know that 75% of men leave the NFL bankrupt and divorced. The average player is in the NFL for only three years. I wanted these athletes to understand that physical talent was not enough; that when their talent is gone, so are the accolades. I wanted to give them purpose beyond football so that they could build quality lives with their families well beyond their NFL careers.”
With his latest book, Cover Him: Caring for the Hidden Needs, Thoughts, and Feelings of the Man You Love, Rod hopes that he can offer women some important insights into the inner world of men. He even offered his own mother some advice after she remarried once her boys were grown.
“My mom had not been married for so long, she needed a little coaching now and then,” laughs Rod. “So I would say, ‘Mom, you can’t talk to him like that. Talk to him like this.’ She would listen and take it to heart. But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Well, at least she still has that pipe.’”