This is how I saw them coming up with the title: Somewhere in rural Georgia director Alex Kendrick heard a preacher say, “Folks, you need to affair-proof your marriage.” He misheard the preacher, and thus an idea was born.
I’m a sucker for these Sherwood Studios movies in a way that surprises me, but shouldn’t. I know I’m a little behind in seeing Fireproof. The Love Dare books have faded from the front shelves. Sherwood pictures has risen as an independent film company with an explicitly Christian agenda, each of their movies being on a higher budget, and a less cheesy script. The movies are maturing, and though we can roll our eyes at the bad dialogue and acting, the messages that come across are still relevant and wholesome. But just because your wedding vows may have been cheezy doesn’t mean they weren’t endearing and shouldn’t ring true throughout your marriage.
In the film, it’s no secret: Being a firefighter is a metaphor for marriage. Just like the other Sherwood films, what seems like talking points and quotes from a sermon become a rather surprisingly entertaining story on film. And to space out the drama, corny comic relief in the form of banter between chubby goobers, and a really mean hot sauce prank.
The link between marriage and fire fighting is this key point: “Don’t leave your partner, especially in a fire.”
We follow the story of Caleb (I know, right?) and Catherine. Caleb is a firefighter who thinks that because he saves lives for a living that makes him enough of a hero to be respected by his wife at home by default, while Catherine struggles to stay in love with a man who demands respect but shows no love. Meanwhile, there’s a flirtatious doctor who’s been paying attention to her, and he’s got a computer full of virtual women.
It’s a morality tale, all right. But even if you have an allergy to stories that preach, you can’t discount the message. You might cringe at the silly proverbs (“A woman’s like a rose, you gotta water her and she’ll bloom, don’t and she’ll wilt”), but can you disagree with them? And so, a battle between spouses who don’t understand the love languages of respect and sensitivity leads to a tumultuous marriage on the verge of divorce.
Kirk Cameron is the star power in the film, and he’s hard to take seriously after his joke of a series: Left Behind, which preached a heretically bizarre message that the end of the world would be accompanied by a sci-fi-esque parade of events apparently coded into the Revelation of John (a book actually written to prepare Christians for a holocaust-esque political persecution and reveal that Jesus was the reason it would all be with it). Anyway…
So Kirk Cameron can still act, and let’s pretend he’s not as weird as Tom Cruise, who can also still act. And even though there are plenty of people who can’t act, and the film won’t make much sense to non-Christians, to devout Christians it is a timely message about the meaning of marriage.
And now my sermon. I’ve come to see too many of my friends getting divorced, calling it quits, giving up, desecrating a holy union they promised to take seriously and keep, for better or for worse. We should never act like it’s only “the world” who gets divorced here and there. I know of a guy who goes recruiting for a Christian college tossing out lies about the alleged “high rate” of people who get married out of the school and stay married. The truth is that it’s not that much better than the rest of America. I hope this gentleman stops lying and starts telling the truth about “marriage factory” schools.
I won’t be soft about it. I’m tired of seeing it happen. And I’m tired of the excuses. “She cheated on me.” “He’s just a jerk.” “We got married too early, didn’t know what we were doing (so apparently that means it didn’t count and we can call it quits because we never truly got married in the first place).” “I just need my space and freedom.”
I’m tired of the excuses for infidelity. “She doesn’t give it to me when I want.” “I met someone who loves me more and cares for me more and doesn’t judge me.” “Well, in my defense, he was looking at porn, so that means he cheated on me first because the Bible says that if you look upon a woman lustfully you’ve committed adultery in your heart, which means I had every right to do what I did (even though I have a history of openly and shamelessly proclaiming my lust for other men in front of other people, meaning that by my own standard I am a hypocrite).”
It’s weak. Fidelity is disappearing. At least, I’m reaching the point in my life where I start to see marriages crumble around me–the 2-year mark, the 6-year mark, whatever. But for Christians, it’s not just about expecting fidelity. It’s also about forgiving infidelity. It’s about desiring to win back your spouse, not looking for an excuse to quit. Especially if you have children.
I’m tired of seeing it.
And I’m tired of people poisoning their family with it, and acting like it isn’t hurting anybody else.
Well if you can’t tell, I’ve been personally hurt by people close to me who aren’t doing a thing to heal their marriage, and have nothing but sorry excuses for it. But I won’t air my dirty laundry. I’m not naming names or slamming any individuals publicly for private and personal grievances. But when you enter infidelity, when you break your marriage, you hurt everyone close to you, so we have a right to preach. We have a right to proclaim our anger at trends of unrighteousness, and having those trends hit us close to home doesn’t disqualify us from proclaiming truth in love. I’m tired of seeing them fall out of love, and hurting those they love as a result.
My marriage is not always sweet. My wife and I have arguments. We don’t have nonstop days of wine and roses. Having a child has tested us. And our love is not a magic formula. The movie Fireproof is not a magic formula, either. If you don’t want your marriage to heal, you’ll roll your eyes through the entire thing and find an excuse not to hear the message coming through. The 40 days Love Dare isn’t a magic formula either. The Bible isn’t even a magic formula, because if you don’t really want to heal, it won’t make you heal.
I do hope you see the movie, because for many couples out there, even ones with healthy marriages, it will be a help and an inspiration. Stop flaming your marriage and make it flame retardant. Because the fires come. Being fireproof isn’t about preventing fires and bailing when one appears. It’s about fortifying your marriage to survive any fire, and to fight the fire together. Ok, I’ve exhausted the metaphor.
I want to see more “fireproof” marriages. Please inspire me.