God's Expansive Love, in Theaters This Weekend

The Story Behind the Blockbuster Song “I Can Only Imagine” Makes It to the Big Screen

(photo: Register Files)

Arthur Millard's abusive temperament had two causes: his disappointment at life's turn of events (he had been forced to leave college and give up a promising football career to support his family); and an on-the-job brain injury which left him in a coma for a week, ultimately rendering him unable to control his emotional outbursts. Arthur turned his unhappiness toward his son, subjecting Brad to painful beatings and incessant humiliation and criticism.

The moral of Bart Millard's painful story and his autobiographical song is that God is powerful, and redemption is possible – even in the most extreme cases. On the surface, Arthur was a lost cause, a gravely wounded man who was determined to push others away. But when he contracted a life-threatening illness and came face to face  with his own mortality, Arthur found his way back to God and eventually sought reunion with the son he had abused. Brad, for his part, was at first unyielding and, distrustful of his father; but he too was granted the unmitigated grace of forgiveness and enjoyed a quiet fellowship with Arthur in the last years of his life. “I think when my dad died, he definitely still had some regrets,” reflects Millard. “Until he couldn't talk to me any more, he always said he was so sorry for the things he did...” Brad said, “He went from being a monster, to being my best friend, the man I wanted to be.”

A new person in Christ, Brad was reconciled with his girlfriend Shannon (played by Madeline Carroll in the film) – who later became his wife.

“I Can Only Imagine” is a heartwarming story of God's power and love, and shows that no one is beyond the miracle of redemption. The film opens in theaters across America on March 16, with stars Dennis Quaid (as the tortured father, Arthur), J. Michael Finley (as Bart Millard), Madeline Carroll (as Bart's girlfriend Shannon). Country music star Trace Adkins plays Brickell, Bart's manager; and Oscar- and Emmy award-winning Hollywood icon Cloris Leachman is Memaw, Bart's devoted grandmother.

Because of its theme of abuse, the film is not appropriate for small children and is rated PG-13. For everyone else, I recommend “I Can Only Imagine” as an inspirational Lenten film about the transformative power of God.