Category: Reviews Written by James Peel
Last night I watched the encore presentation of Focus on the Family's film Irreplaceable at a theater in Dallas. The movie was released in theaters for a one night showing on May 6. I missed this date, because at that moment, I was arriving in Israel. Thankfully, due to its initial success, a second opportunity was created to see the family-focused film nation-wide.
My expectations were not high. I have often left Christian produced films disappointed. The documentary begins by introducing Tim, a husband, father of five, New Zealander and Focus on the Family employee who sets out to discover why families, the central building blocks of society, are crumbling and what he can do to fix it. Tim starts his international journey to interview experts to support Focus on the Family's premise that "If we devalue sexuality, we devalue marriage. If we devalue marriage, we devalue parenting. If we devalue parenting, we devalue children. If we devalue children..."
Eric Metaxas, Michael Medved and others explain to Tim that casual sex, divorce, cohabitation, the commodification of children, abortion, and widespread fatherlessness have all been significant factors in modern struggles of the family. At this point, I'll introduce my initial concern. While I whole-heartedly agree with the conclusions presented, no opposing views were given which made the movie begin to feel a bit like a pep-rally for conservative Christian thought. Preaching to the choir, if you will.
It's at this point our narrator, Tim, takes an interesting turn. He realizes that instead of hearing the opinions of scholars, he should be seeking out people's stories, and he begins to tell us his own story of his father who went to prison for embezzlement and was an on-again-off-alcoholic who was emotionally distant to his family and was always trying to redeem himself in the public eye. After a number of interviews with prison inmates discussing the father and families, and a sweet elderly man who left his wife and family for another woman, and then seeing the error of his ways rejoined his family, Tim has his lightbulb moment. This is the highlight of the film for me. He asks, "What is the problem with the family?" His answer, "I am."
This is where my expectations were shattered. I anticipated hearing that the traditional family is irreplaceable and it must be fought for on a societal level. While that seems to be a noble cause, the film's actual point is that you are irreplaceable.
At the close of the documentary, the lesson that Tim wants the audience to see is that "it's better to be a redeemed family than a perfect one." He shows us this by forgiving and reconnecting with his estranged father.
Last week when I was on the southern steps ascending to the Temple Mount, I was reminded of the season of my life when a mentor helped me learn to spend intimate time with God through memorizing and praying the Psalms of Ascent. That mentor is irreplaceable in my story, as is my own father, mother and family. Thank those who have been irreplaceable in your life today.
How can you initiate redemption in your own family?