Munger Monday: Relationships

During college, I watched the movie Princess Cut for the first time. The film brought me to tears and has been an instrumental influence in the way I think about romantic relationships. Since that time, the film has grown into a trilogy series, and Princess Cut 3 premiered this year on Valentine’s Day. In 2021, I had the opportunity to review Princess Cut 2, and I reached out to director Paul Munger to request an interview. The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to interview Paul, and his wife Sheilah, co-creators of the trilogy.

Now, as we celebrate the release of Princess Cut 3 on DVD, it is my privilege to share a three-part feature based on my interview with the Mungers. Last week, we learned about the film’s themes and inspiration. This week’s article will focus on relationships: Paul and Sheilah’s relationship with Jesus, each other, and their family. Next week, we’ll step onto the film set with the co-creators.

Relating with Jesus

“I first met Jesus when I was seven years old,” Paul recalls. “Though raised in a Christian family, it wasn’t until after I had stolen something at a church picnic in order to win a  prize that I really felt guilt. My mother told me how I had broken God’s law, then tenderly guided  me to the Savior, and I trusted in Christ that very night.”

Sheilah, likewise, committed her life to the Lord at a young age. After miraculously surviving being hit by a van, she “came to Christ with the profound sense of gratefulness to Him for sparing [her] life and allowing [her] to continue without serious physical limitations.”  

After hearing Sheilah’s miraculous testimony, I requested some photos from her childhood. Sheilah kindly shared some adorable family photos.

“Jesus Christ is everything to me,” Paul says. “Knowing that He has loved me from eternity past and  that it was His joy to lay down His life to pay for my sins – Wow! It’s such a mind-blowing and  life-changing truth. I delight in reading His Word because the Scriptures are entirely about His  glorious Person and Work.”

Sheilah met Paul in college, where her attendance, in itself, was a miracle. “In high school, experiences at home were affecting me spiritually,” Sheilah explains. “My boyfriend at the time was also dealing with a molestation of himself and his brother.  I was getting the fallout from that and became the unintentional target of the emotional glut from all of their issues.  I also found it too stressful and it was ruining my desires and dreams.”

In response to the trauma, Sheilah left home– and the many opportunities awaiting her in her senior year of high school– and set out for Bob Jones University, where her older sibling already attended. Sheilah knew it was God’s will, because her parents, shockingly, agreed to let her leave home a year early. “I showed up on campus having arrived before the acceptance letter,” Sheilah says, “as a 16 year old.”

Relating as a Couple

The couple met at Bob Jones University’s Day of Prayer. “I was not interested in dating and didn’t hold marriage in the highest of viewpoints then,” Sheilah notes. Being extremely busy with multiple jobs plus 18 to 20 units a semester, Sheilah didn’t have a ton of time for a relationship, anyway. So it came as a surprise to her when Paul caught up to her in the bookstore one day, suggesting they “catch up on old times.” Unsure what Paul meant by that, given their lack of history together, Sheilah “didn’t think much of it.”

But, when her society president asked her to perform a skit with her date for an upcoming dating event, Sheilah decided to invite Paul. “I couldn’t think of anyone else who would willingly make a fool of himself in front of my whole society,” she explains. “When I finally got up the courage to ask, he said he would if I went with him to his event for his society.”

In the interest of wisdom (and to avoid the hassle of finding a chaperone), Paul and Sheilah practiced the skit in a surprising public setting: the soccer field bleachers, during game time. “We kept doing things together and somehow our friendship caught fire,” Sheilah says. Paul agrees, echoing: “over time, our friendship caught fire.”

In the midst of the friendship, Sheilah began to admire the way Paul imitated Christ in his actions. “I was taking a Bible class where we were learning the Hebrew words for love,” Sheilah says. “As I did stuff with Paul, I realized he was modeling each one even though we weren’t together. I was blown away by this Christ-like leadership and the remarkable Christian walk of my friend.”

I was blown away by this Christ-like leadership and the remarkable Christian walk of my friend.

SHEILAH MUNGER

That Christmas, she presented Paul with a heartfelt gift: a list of the Hebrew words for love, with tangible examples of the ways that Paul had demonstrated each type of love. “I revealed to him that because he had shown this love of my Heavenly Father to me, I had grown to love him and reconsider my position of marriage,” Sheilah says.

Paul also gave Sheilah a Christmas card, but with a decidedly more platonic emphasis. “It had a big dog and a little dog on the front and opened to say, ‘Buddies for life,'” Sheilah recalls. “I felt like an idiot to have made such a mistake in judgment of the direction of the relationship.” But, Paul agreed to pray about the relationship over the holiday break.

After spending some time in prayer, Paul approached Sheilah with his resolution: the two needed to be on the same page, spiritually, if they were to pursue the possibility of marriage. Although they were both attending a Bible college, Paul felt that it was important to make sure they shared a common foundation and understanding in the faith. Paul introduced Sheilah to doctrinal truths that she hadn’t been taught before. “It was overwhelming at first,” Sheilah acknowledges, “and humbling that God loves me and set His love on me regardless of how I messed up… This view of our God is what drew me to Paul.  I loved His Savior, and he loves Him too, so we came together in time to a deep mutual love and relationship to each other.”

Relating with Family

“Marriage is hard, there’s no way around it,” Paul says. “But it’s also so very rewarding.” Pointing to the Ephesians 5 verse about the profound mystery of marriage, Paul notes, “it is a great mystery because it points to Christ’s relationship to the Church. As Jesus gave His life for the church, so I try to show my  care and affection for Sheilah through servant leadership, whether that’s offering to do the  dishes, lead in family devotions, or simply listen as she shares the burdens of her heart.” Likewise, Sheilah “in return shows respect towards me and is busy about our shared vision for the home,” Paul adds.

“Paul was the first Christian I met that would read his Bible for pleasure, and not just study,” Sheilah remarks. “He reads his Bible each morning and we share what we are each learning and studying.” Although she’s not a morning person like Paul, SheiIah says that she “deeply benefit[s] from reading a verse and meditating on it in a daily devotional.” She also keeps a 3×5 flipbook of memory verses in the cupboard.

The parents of nine children, Paul and Sheilah also seek to model a loving, Christ-centered relationship, to their family. “One of the words we try to emphasize and put into practice through word and deed is ‘love,'” Paul says. “Every choice  we make — words spoken to a younger sister, attitude displayed towards a difficult math test, laying down Legos to help Mom make dinner — they’re each an opportunity to model Christian love towards others.” 

Every choice we make… [is] an opportunity to model Christian love towards others.

PAUL MUNGER

Mom and Dad also emphasize the importance of regular spiritual rhythms. “We try to stress the importance of Bible memory,” Sheilah says. “We teach them the question-answer format from the Westminster Catechism and give them time before school for their devotions.” Plus, the family gathers to sing a hymn from the hymn book, each evening. “We’ve been going through them one by one,” Sheilah says.

Dating and Courtship

In Princess Cut, Grace feels like her heart “has been tossed around like a football,” in the midst of painful dating relationships. She turns to her parents for godly council and commits herself afresh to the Lord. This time, she’s determined “not to move forward without her dad’s blessing.”

Paul, like Grace in the movie, became fed up with dating after some negative experiences. “At college, I was called the Dating Machine,” he recalls. “After many failed attempts, I was nearly ready to  give up on that form of finding a mate altogether, but didn’t quite know why.”

The Mungers’ wedding day

As a husband and father, Paul began investigating love and marriage through a Scriptural lens. “Dating  just wasn’t lining up with the Biblical data,” he notes. “This more modern approach to finding a mate is very self-centered, often short-lived — usually with devastating consequences.” Courtship, however, made more sense to him. “The  courtship model of the past seemed much more the ideal with its purposeful, steady, and honorable interactions that involved the parents and community,” Paul says.

Sheilah adds, ” I’ve taken [courtship] to mean seeking the Lord’s will for a life partner and seeking out the head [of the house].” Assuming there are “no bars to proceeding, blessing is granted and the headship transfers at the climax or end goal of the relationship, marriage.” On the other hand, if there is a reason that the couple shouldn’t get married, they will still be able to “part amicably.”

Even so, Paul and Sheilah aren’t married (pun intended) to the words “dating” or “courtship.” “Nowadays, folks get the two confused and hold varying definitions of both courting and dating,” Sheilah observes. “We do stress that boys should not seek to garner the affections of a girl without speaking to the father/ head and girls should not allow their affections to be sought until the father gives approval under his guidance.” 

Paul’s conclusion? “What it ultimately boils down to is this,” he says. “People can get hung up debating the terms, but [they pertain to] how you define love and what that looks like in actual relationships with the opposite gender.”

And, Paul adds, that’s precisely what the Princess Cut film “set out to explore from various vantage points.”

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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