My Comments on Fireproof

This is the post the just will not, well, post. I originally wrote it the day I saw Fireproof as a pre-screening at the NJ Firefighter’s Convention. I edited it several times, including after having a fight with my wife which caused me to re-write some parts of it. Now that Fireproof has been out for more than a week, and I have a few hours at home by myself, I’m trying to get it finished and posted in the hopes of posting before Fireproof was released, but that just didn’t happen. I have no idea why, other than I just got too busy with work and family and other interests to polish this blog post to the point where I felt comfortable putting it out for “the world”, which consists of anybody who haplessly stumbles by my blog. I’m not sure if I have any regular readers or not at this point.

Since originally writing this entry, several weeks have passed. I even read Kirk Cameron’s autobiography, “Still Growing”, which my wife pointed out to me at the library. I actually finished reading it this morning, and I can’t get the darn “Growing Pains” theme out of my head even though it’s been close to 2 decades since I last heard it. The autobiography does mention his role in Fireproof right at the end. In any case, with minor editing included today, here follows my original post, dated from Sep 13 & 14, 2008. I will make minor edits, but will not spend the time cleaning up the “today” and “yesterday” references.

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This weekend was the New Jersey Firefighters Convention in Wildwood, NJ. I’m not a firefighter, but my father in law is a lifetime member of the fire company and my wife has gone with her family every year of her life, except for the first couple of years when we met and were married.

Normally we come down Thursday morning. My father in law can get a two bedroom suite at the hotel because of his time in the fire company. Bear in mind that "suite" is the loosest definition of the word, as this is a shore vacation hotel. It’s decent for a couple of days though. We come down on Thursday and go home Sunday. The last couple of years I’ve had to come down on Friday, but my wife and kids came down ahead of me and I drove down with her sister after she worked the night shift.

Friday normally consists of going to the tents, where vendors set up displays and purchases can be made. I also get my collector’s beer cup with a couple of cold ones that feel good after being in the hot tents, especially when it’s overcast and humid. I can remember in 2005, while I was drinking my traditional 2-3 beers at the tents, Doug Forrester and some of his campaign staff walked right into the beer drinking section shaking hands. He didn’t approach me, nor did I solicit attention from him.

This year I didn’t get down to Wildwood until about dinnertime on Friday because I was needed at work. I ate and we spent our time on the boardwalk. Saturday morning my wife Caleb and I went to breakfast, then we went back to the room to get Joshua and head to the tents. I was looking for a new case for my Pocket PC, since the plastic belt clip that shipped with it broke. I didn’t find anything suitable. We of course take free samples as we walk through; normally pens and flash lights. This year we also got lanyards. One booth was set up by the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters. We took their free stuff too, but they had a poster for a pre-screening of Fireproof this afternoon. I’ve never been to a pre-screening of any movie, and I’ve heard from some blogs that Fireproof was good. When we got back to the room I asked my father in law if he’d be interested in seeing it and we decided (or my wife and her mom decided for us) to take the boys. All I told him is that it’s a movie about firefighters. I knew it was a "Christian" movie, but I didn’t know much about it other than Kirk Cameron plays a firefighter. I figured it had something to do with Christianity and fire fighting.

First comment: this movie is NOT good for taking small children. There are some action scenes, but not enough of it to keep their attention. The story is mostly told through interaction and dialogue between characters, and while it held my attention, my kids needed other distractions. I thought of offering Caleb the chance to play Jawbreaker on my Pocket PC, but then Joshua would want to play and after the last time in church, I’m not going through that again. Maybe I’ll post that later, but even though it came from a four years old’s mouth, I would classify it as mature content.

I should probably mention at this point that spoilers may be contained in this post. I am not a professional movie reviewer, and this is more a chronicling of my thoughts rather than a professional review.

The movie opens with a camera panning through what appears to be a little girls’s room. No character’s are shown, but the dialogue and the paraphernalia indicate that this girl is a firefighter’s daughter. They discuss when daddy is coming home, and not tonight because he’s working. She says that she wants to marry daddy, and the familiar discussion ensues. I can’t say I saw that scene directly connected to the story again. I assumed that Kirk Cameron’s character’s wife was that little girl, but no mention of her dad having been a firefighter is brought up. I hope I can discuss a movie that hasn’t been released yet. I didn’t sign an NDA or anything.

The direct storyline is already broken in my memory, so I’ll hit some high points that I remember. A scene early on shows Kirk Cameron’s character, Caleb Holt and his wife Catherine arguing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers sat outside my window writing down notes because short of the discussion on divorce, my wife and I have traded many variations on those arguments. Catherine alludes to him looking at pornography on the Internet. He says that she doesn’t respect him. A line I’ve used often is said by Caleb "I get respect everywhere I go except at home." I know that feeling well enough. Things reach a breaking point and divorce is brought up and agreed to.

The rest of the movie deals with the two characters and their interactions with others in their lives. The content is pretty much evangelical though it is fairly realistic. Kirk Cameron is an evangelist with Living Waters Ministries. They teach an evangelism method called "The Way of the Master," which deals with showing a person how he or she stands before God by using the Ten Commandments. An example is this: "Oh, so you think you’re a good person? Well, have you ever stolen anything?" The person pretty much must admit to this. We’ve all done something in our lives that would meet the definition of theft. "OK, so what does that make you? A thief, right?" Then the person is walked through adultery and murder, this time with the Sermon on the Mount definitions in effect. You can see an example in the movie Left Behind II, Tribulation Force. I know people who have gone through the training. I’ve watched the videos online for free. One scene in this movie shows a similar approach. I have no idea how effective this is in the real world. I must admit though that I have exactly zero known souls to my credit and I have probably driven more people away from Jesus than I’ll ever coax to Him. I’m just saying. Any discomfort that I have with this method could be attributed more to my own cowardice toward evangelism than to the effectiveness of the method.

The essence of this movie is about marriage. I must admit, most of the acting and situations and characters seemed real. It also showed the difficulty of making a marriage work without serving. At least one of the two MUST fight to make things work. A comment another firefighter made to Caleb is "Fireproof doesn’t mean that fire won’t come. It just means that when it does come, you can withstand it." That is obviously where the title came from.

This movie obviously had no sexual innuendo or profanity. I didn’t miss it. I’m no prude, but I’m honestly tired of movies and sitcoms that throw that stuff in just to have it there. If it serves a point, fine, but just because it’s on a major network at prime time doesn’t mean it adds anything useful to the show.

Although I did very much identify with the main character, Caleb, and his situations, I had the thought today while driving home from Wildwood and arguing with my wife that perhaps this movie was too much centered on the husband’s faults and failures. It was alluded to that his wife didn’t respect him and nagged him and neglected him in some marital intimacy areas, but it seemed to center more on his failures than hers. Perhaps it’s my own desires in play here, and from my own experience and comparing notes with other men, wives seem impervious to any suggestion that they may have done something wrong to contribute to marital problems anyway, so the portrayal in Fireproof could be accurate. Also, from the Christian perspective, it does show that when Christ begins working through one person, that can have an effect on the other person. It also does show that

The solution come through Caleb’s dad, who sends
him a “40 day journey” called “The Love Dare.” Each day for 40 days involved a brief reading and an assignment, ranging from “Don’t say anything negative to your partner no matter how badly you want to” to giving gifts or performing services. In the beginning, Caleb tries and fails. He complains to his dad, who tells him “It doesn’t sound like you’re giving this enough effort.” I’m paraphrasing as the exact line escapes me. As the days go on, his dad leads him to Christ, yet he still struggles. That’s realistic. I call the “come to Jesus and your life will get better and you’ll be rich” line Bait and Switch Evangelism. In this movie, it shows that it takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of prayer for healing to result. There is even a sequence to a song about “Waiting on you” which shows Caleb going about his routine of praying and working while his wife’s heart is affected.

I did enjoy Fireproof. I don’t like when movies, songs, books, or whatnot are made by Christians and it’s just assumed that we’ll like them just because Christians made them. Uh, no, just because a Christian made something does not mean the product is of acceptable quality. In this case, I was impressed by this low budget film with an evangelical message. I think talented people were involved and a good story came out of it. If you’re having trouble in your marriage, give this movie and some sort of “Love Dare” a try.

One thing that I’ll say helped me through some rough spots in my marriage is hearing from somewhere that couples with problems who stuck it out for 5 years reported a happier marriage. I also came to realize that it is totally unrealistic to expect to get along with somebody constantly. Just because you’re arguing doesn’t mean that you can’t work things out. Love is not a feeling, it’s not hormonal, it’s a choice.

One last thought that I had before I post this and go downstairs to face the “You spend too much time on that computer” is this: if you are at a spot in your marriage when you find yourself saying to your spouse “I’m sick of this!”, please, ask yourself if you’re sick enough of it to examine yourself and see what faults within you are contributing to whatever you claim to be sick of. Marriage takes two people to make work, but sometimes it takes one person to fight really hard to save it. Are you sick enough to be willing to fight?

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