Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Hollywood Ending?

As many of you know, I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Life Coaching. I am finishing up a course on interpersonal communication, and one of our recent assignments was to watch the movie Fireproof.

Perhaps you are familiar with the Kendrick Brothers movies. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of their movies and look forward to seeing the next one. However, I must admit that all of the movies seem to have the Hollywood ending where relationships are reconciled and everything works out well.

That’s not the life I have experienced.

If you haven’t seen the movie Fireproof, I encourage you to watch it. Kirk Cameron plays a fireman named Caleb. Caleb and his wife are in a downward spiral in their marriage. They can’t speak a word to one another without it turning into a fight. Caleb is caught up in his own desires, is absorbed in porn, and can’t see the hurt he is causing his wife, Katherine.

But Kat isn’t innocent. She frequently complains to her friends about the mistreatment and finds herself seeking solace in a charming doctor at the hospital where she works. It starts with unplanned lunches but builds into an emotional affair.

It appears there is no hope for Kat and Caleb until Caleb’s dad challenges him to spend 40 days trying to rekindle his relationship with his wife. Somewhere along the journey, Caleb’s heart softens and he gives his life to God.

And, eventually, Kat forsakes the doctor and falls madly in love with Caleb again.

If only we all got the Hollywood ending

I actually watched this movie for the first time back in 2008. It was shortly after I learned of my husband’s affair, and I was desperately trying to save my marriage. The movie inspired me to try my own love dare. I prayed desperately for my marriage. I sought to use positive communication techniques. I did everything I could to save my marriage…just like Caleb.

But my husband’s heart never softened, and he never surrendered to Christ.

As I reflected on this movie yet again, I was struck with the differences between Hollywood and real life. Here are a few things to consider when watching the movie.

It takes two to save a marriage, but it only takes one to destroy it.

One of the biggest misconceptions this movie feeds is that there are always two people at fault within a failed marriage. I firmly believe we must always be willing to examine ourselves and accept responsibility for our wrongdoings, but often there is a victim within a marriage.

In the movie, Kat was so hurt that she began to seek solace in another man. But what if Caleb had been the one to get caught up in an affair while Kat was the one trying to save her marriage? What if Caleb continued his abusive ways while Kat was faithfully loving and serving?

That’s the story of many marriages today—including my first marriage. There’s a faithful wife fighting to save her marriage and a husband who is drowning in addiction. There’s a husband beating down the doors of heaven to save his marriage while his wife continues her deceitful and abusive ways. There’s a loving wife striving to fulfill all her husband’s needs while he is out giving himself to another woman.

I know there are marriages that are lost because both spouses are caught up in this life and neglect their marriage. But there are equally as many—or even more—where one spouse is fighting with everything and the other is simply walking his or her own way.

Communication is essential to a good marriage, but the love dare doesn’t always work.

I see marriage retreats that focus on improving communication and learning one another’s love languages.

And they are great…for marriages with two healthy people who are both ready to take their marriage to the next level.

But…Christian marriages are not failing today because we can’t agree on how to raise the kids or how to budget. Christian marriages aren’t failing today because we aren’t communicating well. Christian marriages aren’t failing today because of the ordinary stresses of this life.

Christian marriages are failing today because there’s an epidemic of adultery and addiction and abuse.

Christian marriages are failing today because one or both spouses fail to fully surrender to the Savior. Christian marriages are failing today because of an epidemic of undiagnosed mental illness such as narcissism. Christian marriages are failing today because hearts are too hardened to let the love of God—or a spouse—penetrate it.

No person is outside God’s reach, but sometimes hearts are too hardened to surrender.

I know God is able to change even the most hardened heart, the sickest addict, the most abusive narcissist. I know He can. But sometimes hearts have become so hardened that they simply refuse to let go of the pain and let God heal them.

Galatians 5:19-21 clearly shows us the type of life that results from living our own way instead of God’s way:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (The Message)

Oh, doesn’t that describe so many people today? Doesn’t it describe so many spouses? I know it described my first marriage. And it described the marriage portrayed in Fireproof before they gave their hearts to Christ.

I wish we could reach every heart for Christ. I wish we as Christians were so loving that every single person could see the love of Christ through us, His followers. I wish we could stop fighting—with one another and over stupid, irrelevant issues—so we could see every individual on the face of the earth experience the life-changing power of the Father.

But we live in a fallen, sinful world…not Hollywood. We live in a place where evil sometimes triumphs. We live in a world where people are caught up in their own selfish pursuits rather than looking out for the good of others. One day it will all be set right, but it won’t be until after Christ returns.

Sometimes people simply don’t surrender and it leads to failed marriage.

For a healthy marriage, Fireproof is an incredible reminder of the importance of making our spouse our top priority right behind God. But not every marriage gets the Hollywood ending portrayed in the movie. Too often, we find a partner does get left behind.

For those of you who didn't get the Hollywood ending, God is still in control. He is still fighting for you even when your marriage fails. He still has great plans for you even when your partner leaves you behind. He still has a beautiful life for you even when it seems your life is helplessly broken.

God is the one partner who will never leave you behind. Cling to Him.