According to my dictionary, a routine is a set of “commonplace tasks as must be done regularly or at specified intervals.” In this sense, routines can be good, helping us to organize our time and accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
The dictionary also states that a routine is “unvarying, unimaginative, a rote procedure.” In this sense, routines can be bad, especially to relationships. In a marriage, a bad routine can move individuals to disengage from their spouse and fill their days with mindless, heartless actions.
In the film Fireproof, destructive routines have crept into the marriage of Catherine and Caleb Holt.
Catherine (Erin Bethea) is the PR director of a local hospital, a position in which she excels. She promotes the hospital’s services in TV interviews and has developed good working relationships with the physicians. One physician in particular—Dr. Anderson, a tall man with a pleasant smile—has caught her eye. They begin to spend time together, talking at work and eating lunch together.
At home, however, it’s a much different situation.
Caleb (Kirk Cameron) is the captain of a local fire station, a position in which he excels. He bravely fights fires and rescues helpless individuals. He teaches his men important lessons in fire safety and camaraderie. Through his work, he gets a great deal of respect from his men and the city.
At home, however, it’s a much different situation.
Catherine and Caleb often go long periods without speaking. Tension fills the air, a pot of anger and mistrust that constantly simmers. When it finally boils over, fights fill the air with angry, hateful words.
In Caleb’s mind, his wife does not appreciate how hard he works to pay for the house and their cars. She doesn’t keep food in the fridge or clean clothes in his closet. She does not give him the respect he deserves.
In Catherine’s mind, she can’t understand how he has changed so much since they got married. He doesn’t help around the house or do any of the shopping, even though he has a couple days off. He just sits at the computer and spends hours looking at Internet porn sites or dreaming about buying a big boat.
Even though there was romance at the beginning of their marriage, the couple’s work, ambition, lust, material goods and attention from other people have slowly sucked the romance and love out of their relationship.
A song in the film’s soundtrack illustrates this point clearly. It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray and thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day…it’s a slow fade. (“Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns)
Just when their marriage appears irrevocably broken, Caleb’s father asks him to wait 40 days before signing the divorce papers. He sends his son a book called the “Love Dare.”
Caleb agrees to take the “Love Dare” and follow its instructions, which include routine-breaking actions like:
Day 1: Say nothing negative to your spouse
Day 2: In addition to saying nothing negative, do an unexpected act of kindness
Day 3: In addition to the above, buy something for your spouse
Day 4: Call to ask your spouse how the day is going and offer to do something for him/her
Day 16: Pray for your spouse
Day 17: Really listen to your spouse
Day 18: Study your spouse; continue to learn about him/her
Day 23: Watch out for parasites to your marriage – people, things or addictions that may provide temporary pleasure but will destroy your heart.
Halfway through the book, their relationship is still floundering. Caleb’s father knows from experience that it is hard, but he challenges Caleb to put his whole heart into his efforts.
“But Dad, how can I love someone unconditionally without any love in return?”
His father gently tells Caleb that the answer can be found in knowing Jesus, who loves us all unconditionally, without any expectation of a response or love in return. In Him, Caleb can find the love he needs to truly love his spouse.
The film has received glowing endorsements from Catholic clergy and lay ministers, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville. “Fireproof is an excellent film that makes marriage commitment real and attainable with Christ’s grace,” states the Archbishop in promotional materials for the film.
The creators have also set up a website where couples can find materials to help strengthen their marriage. Look for them at www.fireproofmymarriage.com.
At Mass last weekend we sang “I Will Choose Christ,” a song written by Tom Booth. One verse struck me as particularly relevant to our response to the “Love Dare:”
Christ my teacher and healer, teach my heart and heal my soul. And as I walk this road with you, teach me to love. I will choose Christ, I will choose love, I choose to serve. I give my heart, I give my life, I give my all to you. I give my all to you.
First published in the October 31, 2008 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2008 Christopher Fenoglio
P.S. Chris and his loving wife Linda will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary next May.