Few books get to play a leading role in a movie, but The Love Dare did. It starred (in the hands of lead Kirk Cameron) in “Fireproof,” the 2008 film about a marriage in big trouble and the steps taken to renew it.
The Love Dare is a 40-day plan of action for improving marriage, whether the marriage is healthy and strong or hanging by a thread. On each of 40 days, this best-selling book dares a husband or wife to foster unconditional love in their marriage in a specific way.
For me, it was viewing the film that gave life to this book, bringing its overriding theme of marriage commitment to the fore. If you plan to read the book or follow its plan, I recommend renting “Fireproof” and viewing it as you start the book’s early chapters.
In the film, The Love Dare serves as a guide to a husband who desperately needs it. Seeing in the film how far off the mark this husband was at the outset helped me make sense of the “dares” presented in the book’s early chapters.
The book’s first dare is to “resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything.” Day 2 dares a spouse to “do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness.”
Doing anything like that was foreign to the husband in “Fireproof.” He was so angry at his wife that choosing to say nothing when he felt impatient was strange to him. He wanted not to do things for his wife, but to have her do things for him.
The authors of The Love Dare – Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick — are brothers who serve as associate pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The story and screenplay for “Fireproof” also are these brothers’ work.
Given the authors’ pastoral roles, it is no surprise that this book is much more a work of religion and faith than of psychology. Readers will not be surprised either that this book is anchored in its authors’ convictions about what the Bible is and its value as a guide. Scripture is quoted liberally throughout.
Catholic readers may find some language about God’s workings in life slightly unfamiliar – not quite the language of grace they more often hear. I was a little uncomfortable with faint generalizations in the book regarding what women are like, what men are like. And some readers undoubtedly will take issue with the notion that a husband is “the head of the house” – a notion somewhat balanced, nonetheless, by the book’s call for men to honor their wives and to recognize their lives’ depths of meaning. The book also dares each spouse to include the other in decision making.
But it’s not for nothing that we’ve been traveling the roads of ecumenism these many years. Catholics will find more in this book to agree with than not. The book’s focus on the permanence of marriage and its call for spouses to give their all to their marriage is clearly a shared interest of Catholics and Baptists. Praying for one’s spouse or for one’s marriage undoubtedly is considered wise across denominational lines.
The Kendrick brothers share this bit of wisdom: “Those who are fine with mediocre marriages can leave their love to chance and hope for the best. But if you are committed to giving your spouse the best love you possibly can, you need to shoot for love’s highest motivation. Love that has God as its primary focus is unlimited in the heights in can attain.”
This book dares husbands and wives to:
“Think of one area where your spouse has told you you’re expecting too much, and tell them you’re sorry for being so hard on them about it.”
“Remove anything that is hindering your relationship, any addiction or influence that’s stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse.”
“Spend time in personal prayer, then write a letter of commitment to your spouse.”
The authors describe marriage as “a unique friendship designed by God himself where two people live together in flawed imperfection,” which they deal with by encouraging, not discouraging each other.
The Love Dare outlines steps for “exploring and demonstrating genuine love even when your desire is dry and your motives are low.” Appropriately, this book of many dares concludes with this final dare:
“Your life together is before you. Dare to take hold of it, and never let go.”