The Love Dare's Alex Kendrick on Christian Marriage and Movie Making
- 2009 17 Oct
As the Family Editor for Crosswalk.com, I receive a lot of books about marriage from publishers all over the United States. If you could see my desk right now, you'd probably feel overwhelmed with the stacks of marital advice waiting to make it onto your bookshelf! Occasionally, a book rises to the top of the pile and has a much more powerful impact than even the authors themselves anticipated. This is what happened with #1 New York Times Best Seller The Love Dare (Broadman & Holman, 2008) by Alex and Stephen Kendrick.
Written in conjunction with, and featured in, the hit movie Fireproof, The Love Dare offers husbands and wives a 40-day scripture-based challenge designed to help couples better understand godly love and put it into practice. In the fictional Fireproof, Kirk Cameron plays a fire chief with a crumbling marriage. Not willing to watch his son head for divorce court, Cameron's on-screen father hands him a copy of the Kendricks' The Love Dare which ultimately helps the couple overcome their difficulties.
With over 3 million copies of The Love Dare now in print, Fireproof's message of hope is playing out in homes all over the nation -- some are even referring to its widespread impact as a marriage movement. This past summer, Alex sat down with me to discuss both the production of Fireproof and the success of The Love Dare. Check out what he has to say…
CW: So, how does it feel to be part of a "marriage movement?"
AK: It's something we prayed for, and we looked at that process of dying to what we thought would be effective and spending what we call "seasoned prayer." At the end of that season, the Lord gave the idea for the plot of Fireproof and The Love Dare at the same time. Of course, The Love Dare is part of the plot for the movie, but writing the book and just praying through that, researching for it, and reviewing and getting testimonies for it, and then watching it, it's just very exciting.
I'm not shocked at what God does, because He is God of the Impossible. I'm still a little bit shocked that He uses us. I have a good marriage, but my wife sometimes looks at me and says, "I know you research, I know you study, I know you pray, I know you write, but when I see the impact, it's like it's not really us." It's like the authors are out there somewhere. The moviemakers are out there somewhere. It's not really us. So, it's been very exciting, kind of surreal.
CW: Do you have any particular stories of marriages being saved from exposure to the book or movie?
AK: Oh, wow. I will give you my favorites. The couple that got divorced -- they both lived in Middle America -- I'm not sure what state. He went to the West Coast, I believe in California, and she went to the East Coast. Thanksgiving 2008, when "Fireproof" was in theaters, when they came home to visit friends and family, their friends invited them to go see [it]. They went with their friends and then found themselves in the same theatre. Both broke down and wept after the screening and have ended up reconciling and getting remarried.
There is another one where a man stood up after a screening of the movie and said out loud, "I'm Kay Lapolt, and my marriage is dying. Would someone please come pray for me?" Several Christians that were in the audience grouped around him and prayed for him.
There was another one. This is probably my favorite. A man, who was married, was seeing a mistress in a nearby town. His wife did not know. One weekend, he took that mistress to see Fireproof thinking it was an action movie.
CW: Oh, wow…
AK: They sat in the theatre and, halfway through the movie, she turns to him and says, "I'm very uncomfortable right now." He has too much pride to get up and walk her out. So, they remained there watching the rest of the movie. The Lord convicted him so much that when they walked out of the theatre, he turned to her and said, "We have to stop this." It upset her. I believe she said something to the effect of "I'll [tell] your wife." He says, "I'm going to tell her anyway." He went home and he told his wife that he had been having an affair. You can imagine her response, but they ended up going to counseling. He broke off the relationship with the mistress, and they have renewed their vows.
AK: So, you hear stories like that, and you think wow. You know, all we did was pray and then study biblical principles. We did not create anything. We just basically pulled together these biblical principles of marriage and formatted them in an idea called The Love Dare. So, God gets all the credit.
CW: So, what do you think is different about this book versus all the other marital help books out there?
AK: Two things: I think that we are reminding people of how relevant Scripture is to their lives and to their marriage. The other thing is, I think, God; He does something that is unexplainable. He put his favor on this project. We gave it to Him. We sought Him. We operate with the statement,"Our greatest asset is the favor of God." So, there can be no higher priority to seek than that… So, the effectiveness of these, I'm not smart enough to have come up with all that, and my brother, Stephen, he's not smart enough either.
CW: That's fantastic. Could we talk a little bit about the content of the book?
AK: Absolutely, yeah.
CW: So, a couple concepts jumped out at me as I read. One is your definition of a covenant versus a contract. Could you talk a little bit about that for our readers?
AK: Well, you know, a contract is based on mistrust. You have to fix your name on a contract, because you do not fully trust the other person, and they do not fully trust you. So, a marriage that is based on that mindset is already in trouble. You're going into this assuming that at some point the other person could do something that negates your trust in them.
Now, granted, we're all human, but to base a marriage on a covenant means that you fully are willing to put trust in [the other person] recognizing you are human, but you're doing so to honor God. Since God loved us when we did not deserve it, how can I tell my wife I only love her when she deserves it? That's hypocritical. So, I am so grateful for God's love for me, and he says that husbands are to be an example of Christ to the Church. So, in my marriage, if I'm an example of Christ to my wife just like Christ is to the Church, then I have to love her unconditionally. The only way I can do that is to tap into God's love.
So, when I think of covenant versus contract, a covenant is open ended, it is long term, it is based on trust. I'm not signing something waiting for you to fail or break your end of the deal. I am giving you my word as a man, as a Christian, as a husband, that says I will love you for the rest of my life.
If we have that mindset, then performance does not play a key in how strong the marriage is. I love my wife because I choose to love her and then the fact that she is sweet and beautiful and loving back is just extra. The characteristics of why I love my wife are not based on her beauty or that she's a good cook or a good wife and mother, because those things could change. My love for my wife is based on God's love for me and my choice to love her. All those other things are icing on the cake.
CW: It's sort of like, "I give me to you… "
AK: That's right…
CW: The two persons completely as total packages. Something else that really sort of stuck out to me about your book - Our culture talks a lot about following your heart. I really liked that you used the phrase "leading your heart." Could you expand that difference between the two for our audience?
AK: Well, we all know the Mickey Mouse Company, which I enjoy. In every third movie, the message is "follow your heart, follow your heart, follow your heart." I understand what they mean, but that in it of itself is a very humanistic approach, a very humanistic worldview. Scripture says that the heart is deceitful above all else. If I follow my heart, because I have a simple nature, when I'm not operating in the grace of Jesus Christ, then I will end up doing foolish things and simple things. So, I cannot follow my heart. If I am following my heart, then someone or something else is leading it.
AK: So, I have to lead my heart. Scripture says to guard your heart above all else. So, I have to lead my heart. So much in Scripture is given to us by the Lord, and the Lord says, "Choose you this day who you will serve." Well, that is a choice I have to make. So, that is aiming at the target that I want my heart to follow. Then, Scripture also says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart is also." So, wherever I invest my time and my money and my energy into, my heart will follow. So, as I invest in my marriage and my wife and to my children, my heart follows those things. [As Christians] we do not believe in following our heart. We believe in leading our heart.
Now, granted, some people may say, "Well, Alex, if the Lord puts desires in your heart, are you not supposed to follow them?" The answer is yes, but the reason that works is as I'm following the Lord, I will end up following those things. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Well, you start off in delighting. You don't start off with your desires. So, if I'm delighting in God, I will want what He wants. So, I lead my heart to love the Lord. I will lead my heart to love my spouse, and my heart follows. So, therefore, when I ask God [to] brand my wife Christina's name on my heart such that I would guard it and never allow any other circumstance to take away from our marriage, I'm leading my heart to that covenant relationship, to that covenant mindset. Yeah, that's very important to us. That's actually one of the pillars of the book.
CW: At a wedding I recently attended, the deacon referred to marriage as "God's school of love." It sounds consistent with what you guys are saying.
AK: Ah, that's interesting. That's very interesting… God's school of love… there is some truth to that. Off the top of my head, I can see how as we study Scripture, and as we study our spouse, we learn that there are easy reasons to love, and there are hard reasons to love. Those take study and application. So, I think that there is some truth to that, to say that this is God's school of love -- marriage. And, of course, marriage is also a picture of Christ and the Church. So, I think that's actually very insightful.
CW: So, what single most important piece of advice would you give to a struggling couple reading right now?
AK: Just one?
AK: Wow. There's a lot. I will say this - the wisest thing you can do is to establish your relationship with God first. The source of our love for our spouse is intended to come from God. So, as I seek a relationship with God, as I grow closer to him, I grow closer to my wife, because I understand how to love, what love is meant to look like. So, if you are looking to your spouse to fulfill your happiness, that's never going happen. It's hit and miss. Sometimes you will think [you're] doing great. Sometimes you're not. Obviously, the Lord is meant to be the main point of satisfaction in your life. If you're not satisfied with God, you are not going to be satisfied with your spouse. So, I would say you have to resolve to seek your relationship with God first and then your spouse. That sounds very basic.
CW: Well, it's basic, but it takes time and practice sometimes to figure that out.
CW: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers that we haven't covered?
AK: We are excited, because after the response to the The Love Dare, there were so many couples that would say, "All right, we did the 40 days, and we could certainly do the 40 days again, but just do another tool to go further using these same principles." So, Stephen and I are working on a follow-up book that is a devotional over 365 days using the principles of The Love Dare. In this book, we will give weekly dares, because 365 dares is a little overwhelming. So, we are doing 52, but you will see the principles from The Love Dare in this one, but one page a day. It's for couples to read and go through and apply together. We are very excited about it. So, we are halfway through writing that right now. Just like The Love Dare, the Lord works on us as we are writing it and works on our own marriages. So, it's exciting.
That will come out Christmas I think: The Love Dare Day by Day.
CW: Fantastic. Now, I'm going to ask you, but you don't have to answer. Do you guys have any more movies on the way?
AK: We do, we do. Well, we are not quite ready to reveal that yet.
AK: As a matter of fact, a week ago, we were in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the pastor and executive pastor and Stephen and I went up there just to pray, seek the Lord, and I had a thing that I've been praying through for a while, and I presented it, and everybody was thumbs up on it. So, as we prayed, we all felt at peace about it. So, Stephen and I will write the script this fall and go into production next year. We are very excited about that. We feel again like it's totally directed, the theme and the plot, by the Lord.
We do not make movies for entertainment. We hope that they are entertaining. That's not the reason we make them. We want to make movies to change culture and to draw people to a relationship with the Lord. We are very excited about doing that. We are finishing up this book, and then we are going into the fourth movie. Then, we actually have another book - The Love Dare for Parents - that will come out a year and a half from now.
CW: That's wonderful! It's been geat talking with you.
For more information on The Love Dare visit TheLoveDareBook.com.