I Can Only Imagine, Bart Millard and the Power of Disappointment

Posted: March 26, 2018 in Storytelling, Thoughts on art ministry and life

Let’s start this off right. Please do not misread the title. I was not disappointed with I Can Only Imagine the movie. It’s amazing. Nor was I disappointed with the song. The first time I heard it, it turned me into a blubbering mess. I’m also not disappointed with Bart Millard, who I am convinced is in the stratosphere of Christian songwriters. No we’ll get to the power of disappointment in a moment.

There have been times in the past where I have gone to see a Christian movie in the theaters (because if we want people and more importantly studios to keep making Christian movies, we have to spend our money and support them in the theaters and not just wait for video or Netflix) and walked away thinking that was pretty good for a Christian movie. I Can Only Imagine is not like that. I Can Only Imagine is just a straight up good, possibly great, movie. It is brilliant. While it is decidedly Christian in content, I am pretty convinced that like the song that inspired it this will appeal to a much wider audience. There is some fantastic storytelling here. I realize the odds are extremely small of this happening, but if there are any Academy Award voters reading this post, Dennis Quaid’s performance in this movie is worthy of a nomination. Yes, he is that good! If you have not seen I Can Only Imagine yet, trust me, you need to and you won’t be disappointed.

So let’s get to the power of disappointment. There is a very poignant scene in the movie where Bart and the rest of Mercy Me get a showcase for the CMA week. This is a big deal and their agent got five major labels to come and see them. Bart clearly believes this will be their big break. Backstage after the show the band waits for word. Bart clearly feels like he can’t wait any longer for them to make a decision and finally, despite the protests of the rest of the band, goes out and interrupts the meeting. He begs the label execs to tell him what they think. And they tell him he’s not good enough. This scene is brilliantly shot. For every negative comment he hears from a label exec, he flashes back to his mean, nasty, cruel father telling him he’ll never measure up, that this is all a big pipe dream. He leaves the room crushed, defeated and determined to quit. Instead he decides to deal with his past. He goes back to confront his father. I don’t want to go too much further because that could be a spoiler. Suffice it to say the meeting is one more crushing disappointment in what was by all accounts a hard life.

Disappointments are a funny thing. Had Bart gotten a record deal that night, most of the good things in his life would never have happened, and he definitely would never have ended up writing I Can Only Imagine, a song that has now been declared the number one Christian song of all time and a song that has been used to give help and hope, not to mention brought joy to millions of people all over the world.

The creative life is full of disappointment, rejection and yes sometimes all out failure. It’s in those moments when we need to trust God to be bigger, hold on to Him, sometimes deal with our issues and keep moving forward. Remember the Bible says in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

What will happen if you can face disappointment and move forward in Him?

I can only imagine.

Here’s the song that inspired it all in case you’re one of the three people left who haven’t heard it, or if maybe you just need a reminder.

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