Title: I Can Only Imagine
Author: Bart Millard (With Robert Noland)
You don’t have to be a Christian to have heard of the song “I Can Only Imagine,” sung by the group MercyMe. Back in the early 2000’s it was a quick hit in both the Christian and secular music worlds. Almost 20 years later the song is still well known to the world. But what’s the story behind the song? Speaking as someone who is very emotionally effected by music, I (along with many others), will take a song I’m hearing and find a way to personalize it and give it meaning for myself. For Bart (along with other artists), his music is a way for expressing the deepest parts of his life with the world. As fellow artist Amy Grant told him “Bart, you didn’t write this song in ten minutes. It took a lifetime.” (pg 146). Bart’s childhood was no fairy-tale to say the least. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother quickly remarried. For a time he and his older brother Stephen were bounced back-and-forth between their parents until their mother divorced again and moved away with another new husband. At that point the boys lived with their dad and only saw their mom a few times a year. Their father was a football star back in his days, but was bitter over losing his chances at “making it big.” He also suffered a head injury that many believed altered his ability to control his temper. Bart shares that his early days were full of many spankings that lead to whippings and beatings. His father’s temper terrified him. Never did Bart think that he could have a “normal” or even “good” relationship with his father, until his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the LORD slowly started to change his heart.
While there are a lot of movies “based on the book,” this book is very clearly “based on the movie.” Bart talks about the actors chosen to play both himself and his family in the film. He talks about how difficult it was to fit his entire life in a 2-hour time-slot. This book was written to fill in some of the gaps that the movie didn’t have the time to fill. It gave him the chance to talk more freely from a personal perspective instead of only seeing what happens on a screen.
I am always an advocate to “read the book before watching the movie,” and I continue that stance now. There is so much more that you can get out of a book than you can in a movie. This book was written with the actual intent to go along with the movie. For that reason I am actually attaching a YouTube link to watch the movie trailer.
Age Appropriateness: This is actually hard for me on this one. There is no drug content and only one instance of alcohol. There are relationships but no sexual content. There is one instance of the “D-” word. It’s generally clean with those regards but there is definitely a lot of reference to abuse. With that though, there is also healing for both involved. It’s such a powerful and relevant piece of redeeming love that as long as a child was at a reading level able to read it, I would recommend letting them. God can change people from the inside out, and I think that’s a necessary message for both young and old to see.