I Can Only Imagine

Sometimes a powerful movie comes along that blows me away with its compelling story. I Can Only Imagine, the story of Bart Millard lead singer of Christian band Mercy Me, is that kind of movie. As I sit riveted to the screen, a flood of varying emotions cascade over me. Watching Bart’s story I am taken back years in my past and through his story I now view that past with new eyes.

Bart’s story is one I can relate to on many levels. Having lived with abuse as he did, I know how devastating that can be on the psyche. As I watch the father in the movie degrade his son and tell him he is worthless and won’t amount to anything, I’m ready to throw something at the screen. His father’s comments about his worthlessness come back to haunt adult Bart and threaten his success. Self-doubt is a powerful tool of the enemy and in the early days of Mercy Me’s musical journey, Bart is showing the impact those earlier words have on him.

My heart goes out in empathy to this young man, trying to make his way, when his father doesn’t believe in him. It is highly difficult when our own family members strew about the seeds of doubt and worthlessness and Bart has to fight to put it in the past.

The movie causes me to rethink my own position in that regard. Years of battering do take their toll, but it is my choice how I let that impact my today. Going from being regularly told you aren’t good enough to having a healthy outlook on life takes some doing. However God is there to aid in the transformation. It is only through His grace that I, or anyone else, can overcome these challenging aspects of life to become whole and well once again. Thankfully, I don’t hear those horrible messages of worthlessness anymore. I am becoming much more adept at seeing myself as God’ child with all the value that brings.

A wise person confronts Bart about what he is running from, which is his father. He encourages the young songwriter to write about it and let the pain be his inspiration. Only then can he write music that will have a depth to it that will cause listeners to take heed. At first it is difficult for Bart to consider this advice. But his change in his approach turns their music from good to great and songs like “I Can Only Imagine” have reached millions with the Gospel message.

While being drawn into Bart’s story as it unfolds onscreen, I am convicted to take stock of my own. What have I been running from? How do I make meaning of life now and use the pain of my past to inspire others? What words does God want me to share – that only I can share because of my unique set of experiences?

I am grateful for a wonderful husband who spent considerable time with me as I processed all the emotions that the movie dredged up. He helped me see how I have let “image” get in the way of truly expressing myself. Rather than being true to myself, I have put on a “mask” – almost perpetually actually – to hide what has been really going on in my life. I died a bit inside as I worked so diligently to present a persona of a calm and together person when what I wanted to do was shout to the world about the pain I was experiencing.

While that is changing with the healthy relationship I have now, I have a ways to go to leave poor old habits behind. This morning, as I continued to search my heart for the God-pleasing course of action I should take, He led me to His Word in 2 Timothy: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” (vs. 7 NIV) I am blown away – here is my answer, in words that mirror both the movie’s message and the words of my husband. I am not supposed to hide beside some façade, but instead go boldly forth – true to myself and true to my God.

Timothy struggled with self-doubt but Paul reaffirms him in his calling and Timothy is encouraged to make use of the power of the Gospel. Timothy’s strength is to be drawn from the Lord and that definitely applies to us as well. In this hurting world, the message, of God’s infinite love for us and His provision of salvation for us through Jesus Christ, needs to be shared. There is no room for being faint-hearted.

As I ponder all these thought I know that now is the time to be bold…to speak about God’s impact on my life, not just when things are fine but in those days when life is bleak and hope is hard to grasp. I didn’t survive all those years of pain to be stopped now. God has a message for me to deliver and I am His instrument. He does NOT give a spirit of timidity. God gives me His power to overcome whatever this world has to throw at me. I don’t have to go it alone.

This movie is a powerful account of God working in a young man’s life, but it also is a story about redemption and the power of God’s Word to change lives. It is a movie worth seeing for encouragement in the faith and to see God’s mighty hand at work. You will never look at life the same.





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