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I Can Only ImagineMercyMe’s hit song ‘I Can Only Imagine’ has inspired millions of hearts all over the world since its release in 1999. Incredibly, the song was written in mere minutes by MercyMe lead singer, Bart Millard. Now the popular song is coming to the big screen with viewers getting a close look at the true story behind the song.

Stop and grab some tissues.

Although he found faith at a young age, life wasn’t easy for Bart. He leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as escapes from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father.

“I lived with my father, who was abusive, and it wasn’t until he came out with cancer my freshman year of high school that his life turned around,” Millard said. “He kind of fell in love with Christ and he went from the monster of the guy to the guy I wanted to be like when I grew up.”

Millard lived with his mother at first. But, after his mother decided to move out of town with her third husband, Millard and his older brother moved in with their dad when Millard was in third grade.
At first, spankings were only a few pops on the bottom. But punishment became longer and more intense. As a boy, Millard endured three or four beatings a week. Millard, only 8 or 9 at the time was terrified.

One particular abusive episode stood out to him. His father ambushed him and grabbed the boy with one arm, wailing away with the other with a growing rage he had never seen before.
“He beat me like a dog on a leash,” Millard said. “When I made eye contact with him, I thought: He’s going to kill me.”

After that, Bart missed two days of school – it hurt too much for him to put on clothes.

Millard often felt like his dad was taking out anger and frustration that had nothing to do with his children’s behavior. But something happened that Bart could have never forecasted.

His father had a complete transformation of heart as a result of accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Bart’s father often fell asleep reading the Bible, no longer deriding his son’s involvement in church, even shocking his son one night by asking him, ‘Can I pray for you?’ This sent Bart’s faith into overdrive.

‘If the Gospel could change that guy,’ Millard figured, “the Gospel could change anybody.”
Millard and his father became friends, chatting for two hours each night as the teen administered a treatment through his dad’s IV. They talked about what would happen after he died, who Millard should or shouldn’t be dating, among other things.

Eventually the physical scars faded and Bart found peace with his father shortly before he died.
It was faith that saved their family, Bart said.

It was his father’s death that launched Millard’s musical success. ‘I Can Only Imagine’ was a song Bart wrote about his father dying.

When his father passed in 1991, Bart got mad at God.

“I finally got the dad I wanted, and he left.”

At the gravesite, Bart’s grandmother, a woman of faith said, ‘I can only imagine what Bub’s seeing now.’

The phrase really resonated with him so much so that he became obsessed with the phrase, writing it everywhere he could until he finally put words to songwriting paper. And the rest was history.
The film stars award-winning actor Dennis Quaid (‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ ‘The Rookie,’ ‘Soul Surfer’) as Bart’s father; Oscar winner Cloris Leachman as Bart’s grandmother (“The Iron Giant”); platinum-selling country music legend Trace Adkins as Bart’s manager and will introduce Broadway’s J. Michael Finley (‘Les Miserables’) as Bart’s father.

Quaid explained that the movie highlights the power of a changed heart. “It’s very uplifting, about how can really have a complete change in one’s heart and how much you can move the earth with that,” he said.

Members of MercyMe are also thrilled about the release of the upcoming faith-based film. Bart shared that this project has been in the making for years.

“I was first approached over five years ago. No turning back now,” Bart said.

“I Can Only Imagine” is in theaters March 16th.

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