I Can Only Imagine

July 4, 2022

By Nicole


A few years ago I watched a movie that left me a tearful emotional mess. It was the story of a young boy, abused by his father who went on to become a worldwide known Christian singer. His name is Bart Millard. The movie is “I Can Only Imagine”.

If you’ve followed Contemporary Christian music for any length of time, then you know Bart is the lead vocalist for the popular group, “Mercy Me”.

You know what I love more than people with platforms sharing the message of Christ unabashedly to the world? People with platforms who have a powerful, authentic, spiritual encounter, sharing their message to the world. People like Bart Millard. 

*Spoiler Alert*

The movie peels back the layers of abuse, childhood trauma, unhealthy parenting and so much more. The emotional (and sometimes physical) wrestling between Bart and his father is clearly shown in each scene actor-father and son are in.

I cringe when dad strikes him over the head with a dish. I sadden when dad smothers out the dreams of 10-year-old Bart after he creates a masterpiece out of rubbish. And I grieve when dad is beating the life out of Bart’s mother in the other room, then stands boldly in Bart’s doorway with a belt in his hand, prepared to unleash further brutality on his only son.

All these things happen in Bart’s journey to manhood and sabotages his self-value and chance at a healthy romantic relationship (or at least tries to). But Bart stumbles upon the gift of song and becomes enraptured in music, reconnecting with this childhood love he had forgotten he ever had.

Eventually Bart takes the leap of faith to pursue his dream, leaving his abusive father behind. But that journey to pursue his passion only leads him back to his father who, unbeknownst to him, is dying. When returning home Bart witnesses the transformative blood of Christ who has somehow been able to mold this vicious “monster” into a gentle, loving soul. By God’s immeasurable grace Bart is able to spend the last of his father’s life rebuilding their relationship and creating happy memories to overlay their traumatic history.

Once again I am in tears watching this film. I thought I could handle it this time. I thought that the reason I was so emotional the first time I had watched it was because my own mother had just passed and I was still raw with grief.

I saw then the parallels of my story with Bart’s. I saw that we had these unhealthy difficult relationships with our parents (although thankfully I was not physically abused) and that God gave us this short period of time before the end of their lives to heal and reconnect. I saw that our parents shared a heart of repentance and all of a sudden the rocky parts between us and them were now smooth. There was an actual friendship where previously there was discord. 

I told my friend, “I feel like 30 years of trauma was healed overnight”. Days later my mom was gone. 

Bart writes in his journal, “How is it that I am just now getting the father I always wanted and he is leaving me?”

I felt that same way. Except I didn’t know she was leaving, so I felt it after the fact.

This time around watching the film I realized it wasn’t just the similarity I shared with Bart and his journey of healing from his dying father that resonated with me. It was also the calling to be an artist. It was the pursuit of a dream as a writer. Bart’s father helped to fund that dream. My mother too has helped me fund my dream.

Bart’s father set it up so that he would get a steady stream of life insurance payments after his death. The last check Bart received came right before his first hit “I Can Only Imagine” blew up. Wow. God’s immaculate timing.

That song was birthed out of so much. Bart was criticized prior to its creation that his music was “not there yet”. He was told to give up music by his idol, singer Amy Grant. He was told to let go of his dream. 

[Tweet “It is nothing short of a miracle when God turns ashes into beauty.”]

The source of Bart’s pain became the message of his purpose and the onset of his dream to manifest destiny. But his music and his writing could not have reached so many had he not been vulnerable enough to tap into his story and tell it through song.

I can only imagine.

I can only imagine where my writing will take me. I can only imagine God plans to use all of the difficult parts of this life to shed hope and light and encouragement to others. I can only imagine.

Can you?

1 Cor 2:9-10

 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit…

What are those gifts hidden in the secrets of your heart you feel afraid to unleash? What are the traumas and hardships and hurts that you have experienced healing in? Those are the areas you are equipped to help others in.

Just imagine.

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