It was an afternoon in May when the phone rang. On the other end was my husband, Ted, who told me that he could get tickets to an advance screening of Sherwood Baptist Church’s third film, Fireproof. The problem: The showing was that night, giving me little time to find a babysitter.
Yet where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Ted had seen a rough version of the film two months earlier. He’d come home excited, sharing with me the movie’s premise—a firefighter who finds himself fighting for his dying marriage. He confessed that just as when he watched Facing the Giants—Sherwood’s second film—he’d found himself moved to tears. That, paired with the fact that I had interviewed the film’s leading man, Kirk Cameron, a few years back and found him refreshingly genuine, fueled my desire to see this movie at the theater.
Fortunately, just as opportunity presented itself, so did a last-minute babysitter. As a result, off to the theater Ted and I went.
I’m happy to say, all the effort of finding a sitter was worth it.
Fireproof is the story of Captain Caleb Holt, played by Cameron, best-known for his role as Mike Seaver on the sitcom Growing Pains. Caleb is a dedicated firefighter who lives by the motto, "Never leave your partner behind." Unfortunately, he doesn’t apply this dedication to his relationship with his wife, Catherine. After only seven years of marriage, he and Catherine find themselves in constant conflict. Much of it stemming from Caleb’s addiction to pornography; an addiction that’s left him self-focused and left Catherine feeling inadequate.
When the couple moves toward divorce, Caleb’s dad steps in, challenging his son to fight for his marriage. He gives Caleb a book called The Love Dare, a 40-day experiment that once saved their marriage. Caleb reluctantly agrees to give it a try. As he does, he faces frustration and rejection. It’s not an easy road.
Fireproof, like its predecessor Facing the Giants, is not a perfect film. Its $500,000 budget—small by Hollywood standards—is most evident in its casting. While Cameron continues to prove he’s a professional, many of the other volunteer cast members are obviously still learning the craft. Yet that’s where expectations come into play. When I sat down for the film, I expected that the overall acting probably wouldn’t "wow" me. Instead, I was prepared to lose myself in the story as I did with Facing the Giants. Because of this attitude, I found my heart moved and my tear ducts put to work.
The powerful, redemptive story is the film’s greatest strength. While it’s not flawless—those who have walked through pornography addictions may find Caleb’s release from it too simplistic—this film has the potential to spark healing between husbands and wives, especially in a Christian culture where no-fault divorce is becoming more common.
Through Caleb’s transformation, audiences are reminded of the power of gentleness in relationships. Caleb grows from a man who angrily yells at Catherine to a man who tenderly cares for her when she’s sick. Her response? Well, you’ll have to see the movie to find out if his love is at last reciprocated.
The restoration of marriages, whether the struggle is due to pornography or the sharing of household responsibilities, is exactly what the filmmakers and cast hope Fireproof will point viewers toward. Jim McBride, Sherwood’s executive pastor and an executive producer on the film, shares, "Our hope and prayer is that people will be touched by the story of Caleb and Catherine and commit to fireproofing their marriages—no matter what state those marriages are currently in."
In a recent interview with Christian Cinema.com, Cameron talked about what resonated personally with him in the film, reflecting on a scene where his character Caleb’s father tells him he needs to put more love into his Love Dare efforts. Cameron’s comments sum up the heart of this film well. He said:
I think that’s an easy way out that a lot of people take in marriages. They think, "I’m going to do a couple of little nice nights this year, and she should just say ‘Thank you.’ That should make up for the last ten years of my disrespect and inattentiveness."
It’s not until you understand that your marriage is a school that you enter into, and you don’t walk out of it until you die to yourself and learn to love somebody else…. And that’s what Christ did to win His bride. We love them because He first loved us and sacrificed Himself to bring us to Him. We were in a pretty hostile state with the Lord before we came to Him.
And I think that’s really what the movie is all about. It’s explaining that so that people have a picture of marriage that’s a much higher, glorious, grander view of what marriage is. Then show people how they get there. It’s little baby steps in that direction, lining up and doing things according to the word of God, no matter how you feel.
Fireproof may not win any awards outside Christian circles, but I believe it may help transform some marriages for the better. A reward far more lasting than any Oscar.