Archive for January, 2010

MOVIE: FIREPROOF – Fighting Fires with Love

“I just want out,” the woman says, shaking. Her husband continues to yell into her tear-streaked face. Though he masks it with his rage, he’s just as hurt by her as she is by him, and he’s tired of the struggle. Tired of the rejection. Tired of the endless fight.

The man is Captain Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron), a well-respected firefighter who regularly puts his life on the line to save others, in the film, “Fireproof”. The woman is his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), who has come to the sad decision that their marriage is over. She’s tired of his cheating on her through pornography, and tired of his selfishness. Caleb is equally tired of Catherine’s nagging, pettiness, and lack of respect for him.

They’re tired of trying to make it work, and they’re giving up.

But when Caleb complains to his father about his wife’s issues, John (Harris Malcolm) challenges his son to fight. “Is there anything in you that wants to save your marriage?” he asks. When Caleb admits that he wants to stay married, though he considers it impossible, John asks Caleb to do something for him: to commit himself to applying the marriage principles of a book called The Love Dare for forty days.

Caleb agrees to try it, though he sees little point. Still, he works through the book, one day at a time. Each day, he finds instruction to do things for his wife. To help more with chores and do special things that show her love, regardless of whether she reciprocates. Caleb starts out with a sense of hope. But after a week of Catherine ignoring, misunderstanding, or even criticizing his efforts as a manipulative ploy, he’s ready to give up once again.

Caleb insists to his father that it’s impossible to keep loving someone who keeps rejecting him, over and over. Until John points to the example of Christ, who continues to love Caleb despite his ongoing rejection of him. Seeing how he has always refused Christ’s love, Caleb soon decides to let Christ change his heart. He soon realizes that all of his attempts to show love to his wife had remained self-centered, because he had always expected a reward. To expect any response at all meant that he had acted out of manipulation, not genuine love, which seeks nothing in return for its actions.

The old saying, “Fight fire with fire”, comes from the firefighting technique of putting out a large forest fire by burning away whatever lies in its path, to eliminate its fuel.

Unfortunately, many people interpret this rare technique as a way of living life, and even a way of functioning in their marriage. Fighting back with everything they’ve got against anyone who crosses them, even their loved ones.

When my wife and I got married, a few people made jokes to us about having a “ball and chain”, getting “tied down”, and that I should enjoy my “last day” before the wedding. Too many people view marriage as a battle for independence. They try to pursue their individual dreams, keeping separate bank accounts and struggling to preserve their regular “night out” with friends to do things that they want to keep hidden from their spouse.

That’s no way to run a marriage. Nicki and I agreed early on that we could never treat our marriage as if we were at war, constantly trying to outmaneuver each other. Today, people are sometimes surprised to learn that we’ve been married twelve years but still seem just as in love as newlyweds. The simple fact is that we decided to stay married. Sometimes that meant holding our tongues instead of making an argument worse. Or doing something special for one another, just to remind them that we care. Or sacrificing our personal preferences in order to do something the other one wanted to do.

We simply decided to keep loving one another. We didn’t wait for warm, loving feelings to inspire us to love. We simply chose to love, even when we didn’t always feel like it. Real love requires action, not feelings.

Years ago, a woman learned that a friend’s parents were getting divorced, after staying together for decades. She wondered why people would do such a thing. I told her the single reason that people get divorced. Marriage is a commitment that two people make to walk together. When one of those people decides that something else is more important than continuing to walk together, they divorce. Those who stay married are those who push other things aside in order to keep walking down a path with the one they love.

In the film, Caleb finds new strength and passion for continuing through The Love Dare challenge. Unable to free himself from his pornographic addiction, he reads a page in The Love Dare that warns him against distractions that will hinder his marriage. He then discovers that he’s not only distracted by pornography, but also by computer pictures of the boat he’s been saving up to buy someday, despite Catherine’s views on how they should use the money.

Caleb removes his computer from the house entirely, eliminating both distractions at once. On the desk where his computer sat, he places a vase full of roses with a note for Catherine: I love you more!

Meanwhile, Catherine finds solace in the sympathy of girlfriends, and the attention of a doctor at the hospital where she works. Dr. Gavin Keller (Perry Revell) is handsome, attentive, and most of all, caring. He takes interest in the things Catherine talks about, instead of shooting her down the way Caleb does. Having given up on her marriage, Catherine can’t see that Caleb’s efforts to love her are sincere.

Not until she must stay home sick, and Caleb chooses to stay and take care of her. To love her, seeking nothing in return.

Catherine starts taking him seriously, but she’s still not convinced. Until she learns that he also sacrificed his personal savings – the savings for his dream boat – to contribute to her ailing mother’s medical needs. She finds him at the fire station.

“If I haven’t told you that you’re a good man … you are,” she tells him. “And if I haven’t told you that I’ve forgiven you, I have. And if I haven’t told you that I love you … I do.”

The couple re-unites, and holds a marriage ceremony to renew their vows to one another.

Getting married is a decision.

So is staying married.

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Sunday, January 31st, 2010