Brantley Gilbert and Fatherhood
Fatherhood is a common theme in country music. Countless songs have been written expressing gratitude from artists towards their fathers. Brantley Gilbert’s new song, “Man Who Hung the Moon,” is instead written from the perspective of a father talking to a newborn child. In it, Gilbert expresses a wise awareness of the awesome responsibility of fatherhood and a profound understanding of its purpose.
The song begins at the birth of Gilbert’s son. The first line “I lost my breath when I saw you take your first,” places the listener in the delivery room as his son comes into the world. He is taken aback by the beauty and significance of that moment. He then sings about the esteem that his young son will have for him, “Your gonna think I hung the moon, gonna think I made the sky, that the sun rises and sets in my eyes.” This is followed by a tender description of his son running into his arms when he arrives home.
Without saying so explicitly, Gilbert illustrates the responsibility that each father has. He is correct that his son will admire him in that way. He will be his young son’s hero and the one he looks toward to understand what it means to be a man. This makes his conduct as a father critically important. He realizes that his son’s esteem for him will inevitably exceed his capacity as a man. Since he did not, in fact, hang the moon, Gilbert is bound to disappoint his son’s expectations.
This realization transitions seamlessly into the most profound part of the song. Recognizing his own limitations as a father, Gilbert says “You’ll need more than me/You’re gonna hit your knees/If I’ve done my job right, you’ll know where to find/The man who really hung the moon, who really made the sky.” Gilbert understands his primary purpose as a father to be showing his son how to find God. This is consistent with what the Church has traditionally taught about the role of parents. Parents are able to evangelize in ways that are impossible for any one else to replicate. No one else has that kind of enormous influence at such a young age.
Gilbert’s song focuses specifically on the relationship between father and son. It is not insignificant that the first person of the Trinity reveals Himself to us as our Father. This means that an earthly father should reveal to his children our relationship to our heavenly Father. If our earthly fathers treat their wives and children with self-sacrificial love, even imperfectly, they make it easier for those children to believe in a heavenly father who is able to do those things perfectly.
This is a massive responsibility to entrust to fallible humans but it is one that each man who fathers a child undertakes, whether he knows it or not. The fact that Gilbert realizes this responsibility puts him in a much better position to fulfill it well.