If you’re like most of us at Gracepoint Berkeley church, you saw the movie I Can Only Imagine this past spring, and either cried a lot or cried a lot “inside.” I think I sat next to the person who wins the “Most Tears Shed” prize — you know who you are! 🙂
BUT did you know there’s a book? It came out a month before the movie, and I confess at first I was like…nah, even though I’m a sucker for memoirs. But I both read the book and listened to the audiobook (read by the author himself, which I always love) and recommend it for youth and adults alike! It is a quick read, written in a down-to-earth voice, but like the movie, it is a tear-jerker.
It is Millard’s fuller memoir and includes a lot more than what the movie could portray in 2 hours. It includes significant relationships in his life — for example, with his older brother (were you one of the people confused by the other guy in the family picture at the end of the movie?), as well as Kent, the friend from Glorietta Camp, who played a much more prominent role in his life than the movie was able to show.
And as can be expected, it goes into more depth of each person’s back story. Most notably, you get a fuller picture of Millard’s dad and how and why it is that he became the way he had been towards Bart and his brother. This book is excellent for developing empathy as you get a glimpse into each person’s story.
The movie played with the timeline of events, perhaps to create a more cohesive storyline, but Millard’s father fell ill while he was still in high school, so it was actually in his senior year that he was his father’s primary caretaker, and that they reconciled their relationship only to lose him so soon after.
I was reminded of this coming off of the Youth Ministry Training Retreat, where one of the big lessons we came away with was the power of listening and just being there and being with our youth, each of whom has a story, a world of struggles and realities beneath the surface. And actually, Millard’s youth group was instrumental in providing safety, stability, acceptance, and love amidst his tumultuous life. His youth group became a stable family for him, when he felt so unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. And they were there with him as he dealt with the loss of his father.
After reading the book, I felt like Millard was my friend. He was so vulnerable and real in sharing his struggles with self-worth and how he continues to build up his self-worth as a redeemed child of God. As I found out about his life story, I understood why MercyMe’s songs are often about these themes, and I could appreciate how his songs are born from the lessons and seasons of his own faith journey.
Anyway, wanted to add yet another book to your “to be read” list. This is a perfect one for bedtime reading, but be warned, you might stay up all night in order to finish!