Recently I watched the movie Fireproof. It’s about a married couple going through a really tough time.
The son (the man in the marriage) takes advice from his dad (who has also had tough times in marriage) to take a “Love Dare,” basically a 40-day challenge to change his thinking about his marriage vows (made before God and witnesses), and also his thinking about love itself. I was reminded by a line by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck who said (and I’m recalling by memory here) that love is the decision to love especially when the feeling of love is lacking. So many people today associate love with a feeling; and when the nice fuzzies are gone, they think they have fallen “out” of love. But make no mistake about it. We choose to be in love; and we choose to not be in love. Love includes taking responsibility for our actions for good or ill.
Part of why I like the movie is that it demonstrates a few things: one is that love is hard work. Most things that are worthwhile in life are hard work. Sometimes they aren’t; but most times they are. And that is why those things are also really the sources of the greatest joy — because they are contoured by the investment of sweat. Marriage is one of those things, especially in an age that I would call “disposable happy”–i.e. just how we dispose of paper plates when they are no longer personally useful; we are easily convinced that we can dispose of people (even in marriages and other vow/covenant relationships) when they are no longer personally useful. This isn’t to say that sometimes terrible hurt and abuse happen and staying in that environment is good, because it isn’t; but this movie poses a valuable alternative narrative to the “disposable happy” mindset.
Second, it centres on the healing power of God in Jesus. The main character (played by Kirk Cameron) finds the cross pretty much offensive (just as everyone does until they realize how much they need it). He thinks he is doing great as a firefighter and on top of everything in life (except his marriage) until he realizes that he can never live up to God’s commands (as shared with very tenderly by his dad). Only then does he start to realize his own failures and how Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was done for him–something he could never do for himself. Jesus took on his sin and made him righteous before God. (In theology we call this the ‘grand switch.’) This was not the man’s own doing, but God’s love. The man realizes that just as he thinks his wife has been spitting in his face, so has he been spitting in God’s face all these years. He starts to see love differently. The whole love-because-you-are-loved and love-boldly-without-thinking-you’ll-get-something-back way of thinking catches on with him; and he starts to reevaluate his life and his marriage. That’s the turning point.
Lastly, it has awesome music!
After I perform a marriage ceremony I usually write them a letter afterwards encouraging them to take milestone dates (like a year anniversary, then two, etc.) and sit down together and re-read their wedding vows. “I so-and-so take you so-and-so to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse…” Look them up. And if you’re married, make this a habit. I am a part of a tribe of people who think what you say matters. Some say that actions speak louder than words. But I think that integrity has to do with your words matching your actions. It goes both ways. Words matter. They reflect belief and intent. From there flows action rooted in love and in Jesus. So if you are married, go over your vows once in a while. See if you’re living them. As a character says in the movie, many people say “for better, for worse” but they usually just mean “for better.” And get down on your knees together. The world and culture in which we live does not help marriage or committed relationships. Marriage needs strong men and women. Love does too. It takes work, but it is also the source of some of life’s most incredible, rewarding joy.
Thanks Fireproof for providing some good food for thought in a “disposable happy” culture!