In 2004 Bart Millard, frontman for the Christian band MercyMe and composer of the award-winning hit "I Can Only Imagine," received a life-changing diagnosis: "Your son has juvenile diabetes." Bart and Shannon, his wife of 10 years, face the daily challenge of helping six-year-old Sam cope with a strict regime of blood tests, shots, and diet, as well as parenting Gracie, three, and Charlie, two. MP talked with Bart and Shannon about the ways they stay connected with God and each other.
How has sam's illness impacted your marriage?
Shannon: There have been days when I've thought, What happened to us? Where have we gone? We deal with things differently. I'm the emotional one who hangs onto things. Bart is the "let's deal with it and move on" type. I shed tears over Sam's disease for a more prolonged period than he did, so seeing him move on created conflicts between us. We talked it through, and Bart said, "You're at a different place than I am, and that's okay because I can lead. I may have a bad day another day, and then you can lead."
Bart: Sam's diagnosis happened at the peak of MercyMe's career. People were admiring what I was doing and telling me, "You've got the coolest job in the world." But it was also the worst year of my life. I'd smile and say the right things at work, then go home and shut down. Meanwhile, Shannon kept saying, "You're finally home. Let's do something." I wanted to be there for her, but it was difficult.
What helped you pull together instead of apart?
Shannon: With what Bart does, it's difficult to stay in the same world. He has his job and he's away, and my job is here with the kids. That in itself has forced us to communicate better. And I think it helped prepare us for Sam's diagnosis.1