Why You Should Watch “I Can Only Imagine”
As someone who grew up in an abusive home, I dreaded watching the movie, “I Can Only Imagine”. Just watching the trailer already made me cringe. I thought it would be riddled with violent scenes so I decided not to watch it. At home, perhaps but not at the big screen. But as fate would have it, my husband and I ended up watching it on one of our Fridate nights. It was the only movie worth watching so I was kind of left with no choice. Going to the movies was my idea after all.
The movie started with Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley) being interviewed on stage by a lady whose back was turned toward the camera. We could hear her voice but we could not see her face. I wondered why the mystery? (Her face would eventually be shown towards the latter part.) Then flashbacks of Bart’s childhood filled the screen. Every time Bart and his dad had an argument, I tried to look away, almost expecting a brutal if not bloody scene to follow. But it never came. Except for a couple of instances where Bart’s dad actually hit him, the movie was far from brutal. I did not cry either. Instead of feeling so heavy, I actually walked out of the cinema feeling invigorated, inspired and encouraged. I could not understand. Until we reached the car when it finally hit me.
Instead of showing Bart’s dad’s brutality play by play, the film showed it in words, through Bart’s retelling of what happened. Although Bart said, “My dad was a monster”, he did not stop there. He was quick to add, “but I saw God transform him.” And that, I believe, was what made the movie so powerful and effective. Instead of focusing on Bart’s dad’s dark past, the movie zoomed in on his transformation. As our pastor often said, it’s better not to talk about the past. The more you talk about it, the more you give power to it. Instead of dwelling on how bad Bart’s dad was, the movie centered on how Jesus changed his life. How he was once a man Bart hated but who became a man Bart loved, became his best friend and even someone Bart wanted to become. A true message of hope, a poignant display of God’s power.
The movie is also chock-full of laughter. Talk about the time Bart first saw Shannon’s (Bart’s love interest) love notes about him when they were only 10 years old. Or the time Shannon asked him later about it on a bridge, and Bart’s awkward denial. Or the time Bart first met Michael W. Smith. How he couldn’t stop blabbering. Or how he choked up when he first saw Amy Grant, his childhood idol. Once a talking machine, Bart suddenly became tongue-tied. Or the time Bart hang up on Amy Grant believing it was a prank call. Although the movie’s plot was meant to be painful and hard, it managed to downplay the harshness by injecting so much laughter throughout.
“I Can Only Imagine” wasn’t only about Bart, his life and Mercy Me’s #1 hit song either. The movie was also a beautiful love story, a journey of love, the kind that was against against all odds. A love that was lost in the past while trying to find its way to the future, something that resonates with so many out there. As I watched, I kept wondering, will Bart ever make it ‘home’? Will he ever realize in time what a precious gift Shannon was to him? Will Shannon have the patience to wait? Or will she give up and turn to another man? Or will Bart himself give up as he was repeatedly rejected and ignored?
As you might have already guessed, the movie was a story of forgiveness, of redemption. Seeing Bart go home to face his past, his nemesis – his dad, gave me goosebumps. I wondered what will happen. Will there be a violent confrontation? Or will they be able to talk in peace, like civilized people? Throughout the scenes, I could not help holding my breath; I could almost relate to Bart. You see, I too had a violent dad. But unlike Bart, I never had a ‘confrontation’ with my biological father. I never had a chance to ask him why. Why he did all the things he did, or said all the things he said. He passed away before we ever had a chance to have a heart to heart talk. So seeing Bart being given a chance that I never had was a great encouragement.
I know these frustrations and disappointments resonate with so many people too. We are in an era where almost half of families in churches are divided, divorce rate among Christians is at 38% compared to the general population. Many children are being abandoned, left to fend for themselves. Many are left fatherless or motherless, if not complete orphans. Some, if not most of them, grow up to become abusers themselves, they or get entangled in a web of abusive relationships. And the recurring saga continues. But thankfully, in Bart’s story, it wasn’t his case.
And that is why “I Can Only Imagine” is also a very awe-inspiring story. Not only did we see God’s transforming power in Bart’s own life and his dad’s, we also saw how Bart faced and overcame numerous challenges and disappointments throughout his singing career. We saw how Bart was shut down by ‘record label’ gurus. Bart was even told he wasn’t good enough, destructive words that have haunted probably every human being. We saw how they told Bart to give up, go home and find a job. But thankfully, in his moment of weakness, just when Bart was ready to throw in the towel, words of wisdom from someone who cared enough, changed his life forever.
If you’re in a similar situation and somebody told you that you’re not good enough or that you’ll never make something of yourself, please stop. Pray. Shut those words out. Those are egregious lies from the enemy. No one has any right to tell you that. Just imagine this. What if Bart believed the same lies from the enemy? We probably would never have been blessed and touched by his amazing song, “I Can Only Imagine’ and his band MercyMe’s succeeding powerful songs. If you’re surrounded by negative people right now, I pray that you would find someone, just that one person, who would believe in you and spur you on. Find that someone and go on from there.
Personally, the one that really resonated with me was the fact that the movie was a story of transparency. When Bart’s future manager told him that he thought Bart wasn’t being authentic with his songs, I felt like the manager was also talking about me. As a blogger, my biggest struggle is being an open book, of sharing my life story. It’s hard for me to let ‘the whole world’ know. Yes, I did and I do in some ways but there’s always something holding me back. But I realized that I was afraid of being judged, of being rejected, of being laughed at or mocked. But then now, the more I think about it, the more I realize, what’s more important? The people who will mock or the people who will be blessed, encouraged and are so desperate to know that they are not alone? After all, the only ones who will laugh are those who are miserable, jealous and insecure. Like Bart, I now want to use my past to reach out, to encourage someone who’s had a difficult childhood. Or someone who’s struggling with singleness and/or loneliness as I have before I got married.
So from now on, I will do my best to share more and reach out more. I will not be afraid to show the ‘cracks in my life’. I want to be authentic to you, my readers. So if you feel that you’re someone who needs to watch the movie “I Can Only Imagine”, please go. Don’t hesitate. Or check the DVD link below. If you’re someone who’s had a difficult childhood and are still suffering from it, please reach out to me or to someone. Don’t be afraid to open up. Stop wearing your masks. If you’re someone who’s struggling with singleness and loneliness, please don’t do life alone. Find genuine and caring friends. Join a local Christian church. That’s the best and only way to cultivate deep and meaningful friendships. If you’re someone who’s already given up on God or Jesus, don’t worry. They have not given up on you. Remember, God will never leave you nor forsake you.
If you’re someone struggling with any of the above and would like me to talk about my own experiences, please comment or send me a private message. I would love to hear from you. I want to let you know that you are not alone. Jesus is and will always be there for you. You are never alone. You are worth it. You are special. You are beautiful. You are good-looking. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. I know us Filipinos (and I noticed among Black communities too), we’re so good at downplaying and criticizing each other. Even our parents love to call us names. What we don’t realize is that words are powerful, they can either make or break us. Unlike physical bruises that can heal, words can stay with us for life. So please be mindful of your words. Instead of tearing someone up, how about exercising a little restraint? A little control? If so, I can only imagine what a better world it will be.
Purchase the “I Can Only Imagine” DVD through the link below. Hover over the title (I Can Only Imagine, DVD) to check the link. Disclaimer: Good Social will receive a modest commission from all purchases from this page. This will help me sustain this site. Thank you.)
I Can Only Imagine, DVD
By Provident Music Distribution
Revealing the true story behind MercyMe’s smash hit song, I Can Only Imagine details lead singer Bart Millard’s abusive upbringing and path to reconciliation and forgiveness. This touching story of hope and redemption stars J. Michael Finley, Dennis Quaid, Madeline Carroll, Priscilla Shirer, Cloris Leachman, and country singer Trace Adkins. Rated PG. Approx . 110 minutes.