The dadcraft Life: Cory Martin and the Forced Selflessness of Fatherhood

  by Andrew Wolgemuth

The dadcraft Life: Cory Martin  

Tell us about your family.

I’ve been married to Shannan for seventeen years, and all four of our children have come by adoption. Calvin’s adoption was international; he’s now eleven and in the sixth grade. Ruby was a domestic adoption; she’s nine and in the fourth grade. Silas was international; he’s eight and in second grade. We broke birth order when we adopted Robert; he was seventeen, and we met him in our community.

What have you learned through adoption?

Adoption is a good thing, but it involves a lot of sacrifice. There’s the home study, the classes and preparation … the stuff you can plan for. Beyond that, there’s also heartbreak, even in the adoption of infants. You can intellectually know everything about adoption and the challenges that adopted kids face, but then it hits with your own kids … it’s tough. There’s a separate, un-fulfillable, nothing-we-can-do sort of hurt that adopted kids face. The kid wrestles with it; the parent wrestles with it.  

Adoption requires that we show a lot of grace – to our kids, to the birth families, etc.

Adoption is a great, central analogy and frequent occurrence in the Bible. Being an adoptive family has given us a new, bigger appreciation of this. And it’s helped us understand that we’re adopted into God’s family and all that that means.

What have you learned about being a dad from your role as a jail chaplain? [Cory leads the Jail Ministry of Elkhart County]

The more you know the people in the jail, the less you think of them as “criminal” (or another tag) and the more you see them as people. I realize that if I had been raised similarly, I would likely make many of the same life decisions as them. The reality is that the lines dividing us are pretty thin. We [the chaplains and volunteers] are journeying with them as they move from clearly messed up lives to being brand new creations. They’re not projects to be fixed … and it’s good when I remember that this is true for my kids too.

Working at the jail also frequently reinforces the importance of my role as a dad. When I ask a guy in jail, “Tell me about your dad,” I almost always hear one or more of the following three answers: I don’t know him. He’s dead. Or, he’s in jail. The importance of a father figure is clear, and I’m reminded that being a dad to Robert, Calvin, Ruby, and Silas is a big responsibility.

We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?

This might be an odd answer, but having kids exposes and brings to the surface your faults.

Your life is never the same when you have kids. Among other changes, you have less time for yourself. Parenthood exposed my selfishness, and it’s helped me because it’s made me less selfish … more selfless.

We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?

I asked Silas, “What do you think I’m best at?” He replied, “Cuddling!” That’s not a bad answer!

I also hope that I’m good at encouraging my kids in their interests. Whether it’s Taekwondo, tennis, or chess (not necessarily activities that I’m naturally interested in), I want to encourage Robert, Calvin, Simon, and Ruby to pursue what they love and do their best regardless of whether or not that nets them trophies or makes them best in their pursuit. I don’t want to push them in directions they don’t want to go, and I want them to enjoy what they do.

We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?

A lot of things. I had an ideal childhood through high school and even college, and dad was integral to that. Perhaps his most significant trait is his consistency with everything. He worked the same job for 40 years, leaving for work every day before I woke up, he was home after I returned from school each day, and he was at church every week. He’s one of the most reliable, dependable people that I know. My mom is similar in her dependability, but there’s something special about a man seeing this trait in his dad.

We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?

Robert and I connect best while working on his car or my car. Neither of us are great mechanics so it’s a good opportunity to learn together and laugh at our mistakes.

Calvin and I enjoy fishing together and taking pictures. We are both budding photographers.

Ruby’s love language is silliness. We crack ourselves up being crazy and doing ridiculous things together.

Silas is very mechanically oriented so we really enjoy building things together and experimenting with electricity (we try to keep it safe!) and contraptions.


It sounds like Cory and Ruby might want to give a “burp lunch” a try.

Cory’s comment above about selflessness that fatherhood encourages reminds us of the internal struggle that this causes. Erik’s thoughts about falling short provides encouragement on that front.

As you likely know, we learn a lot from the wisdom of other dads; other dadcraft interviews are available here.