Lee and Leslie Strobel have revealed that scenes depicting their marriage in the upcoming "The Case for Christ" film were so realistic, they were brought to tears.
"It was really hard [watching the film] in the fact that it dredged up old feelings and emotions and things that I'd put behind me," Leslie Strobel told The Gospel Herald during a sit-down interview in Orlando, Florida. "Having said that, it's humbling and an honor that it's being used in a way that can hopefully help people that are in a similar situation. But it was very difficult, and it still is emotional to watch the movie."
She added with a laugh, "I've screened the movie eight times to try and cry myself out. Didn't work."
"The Case for Christ" film, based on the book of the same name, follows self-proclaimed atheist Lee Strobel and his journey into the historical evidence surrounding Jesus.
After Leslie's conversion to Christianity, Lee Strobel, at the time an investigative journalist with the Chicago Tribune, sets out to disprove Christianity - a religion he finds both frightening and implausible.
However, following an intense investigation lasting nearly two years and his wife's tireless prayers, Lee Strobel is overwhelmed by the evidence pointing to "the truth of Jesus Christ" and accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior.
The film, which hits theaters April 7, documents in great detail the strain Lee's resistance to Christianity and alcoholism took on the couple's marriage. These scenes, Lee Strobel admitted, are difficult for him to watch.
"I wasn't proud of my behavior back before I was a Christian," he told GH. "I was a narcissistic, hedonistic, heavily drinking, self-destructive, self-absorbed person. So, nobody wants that portrayed in a movie. But, for the greater good of this message of redemption and transformation to get out, it's worth telling."
Leslie Strobel shared with GH that her husband's antagonism toward Christianity was both frustrating and baffling, as he was eager to discuss anything - except her newfound faith.
"Here he was, open to everything as a journalist; he was always open to new ideas, covering any kind of story," she recalled. "Before I became a believer, he'd talk about anything. But Christianity - he just had his mind shut down on that. So, I would just try my best to not let that get to me, and I just tried to see him through God's eyes. I knew the value that he had and I also knew, and friends would often say this to me, that if Lee ever becomes a Christian, watch out. He's gonna be significant."
As she struggled to deal with her husband's ever-growing anger, Leslie revealed that she began praying Ezekiel 36:26 over him, which reads:
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart, I will put a new spirit within you, and I will take your heart of stone, and turn it into a heart of flesh."
"I started praying that for him, and you can't pray for someone daily...all throughout your day, without having your heart just melt for them," she said.
One of the most powerful moments in the film occurs when Leslie tells Lee that because of her newfound faith, her love for him is deeper than ever before. She told GH that once she became a believer, her worldview entirely changed - and people became more significant.
"I realized what God did for me in dying on the cross for me," she said. "He's done that for everybody, and He wants them all to be willing to submit to His love. I wanted Lee to submit to that love and grace, and it was just my constant prayer that he would."
"I did love him more," she added. "I loved him so much - we met at 14; we kind of grew up together. But once I became a believer, I just loved him in ways I couldn't communicate."
Both Lee and Leslie said they hope the film encourages couples who may be in a similar situation to realize that God's grace can touch the heart of even the most hardened atheist.
"We were driving 100 miles an hour toward a cliff - a self-destructive cliff - in our marriage," Lee said. "God was able to take control of the car, turn it around, and take us on a new path that's been full of adventure and joy and wonder and surprises ever since."
"The Case for Christ" is written by Brian Bird and stars Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen.