This Valentine’s Day post comes courtesy of my wife, Kelly. For complete lyrics go here.

“Love Song”, written by Sara Bareilles, is commonly mistaken for an angry love song about a demanding ex-boyfriend. This is not so. It is, instead, the product of her record label wanting her to change her image and write a “marketable love song”. Says Bareilles about the process, “They had encouraged me to keep writing, and I just wasn’t having any luck, and I was turning in the beginnings of ideas and snippets of moments of a song, and I was just getting a really sort of blasé reaction to everything. I started to get really insecure about it, and then I got really pissed off at myself for caring what anybody thought.”

Angry that her label has asked her to change (“they all say things you want to hear “) and wanting them to love her the way she writes (“I’m trying to let you hear me as I am”), Sara describes a heavy heart and a deep frustration towards the demands to write a love song for a label that hasn’t given much interest in her previous writing.

Though her label “meant well”, their demands were counterproductive. Sara is instead saying to them love me for who and what I am and a love song will flow naturally. She sings, “I’ll walk the seven seas when I believe that there’s a reason to write you a love song,” but the demand of a song brings “blank stares at blank pages”. The result, while a great song, is a defiance of what the label asked for and a plea to take her as she is- “I believe there’s a way you can love me because I say I won’t write you a love song”.

“Love Song” is a great demonstration of how we crumble under the pressure to perform. As Christians, we are often held to a “higher standard” by people inside and outside of the church and certain expectations are demanded. While those who impose expectations on us mean well, they often lead to feelings of fear and judgment and result in defiance or resentment when we cannot meet them. Just as Sara struggled to write about love with corporate executives breathing down her neck, so we, under the weight of expectation, cannot produce sincere love. Thankfully, in Christ, we have a God who loves us first, without conditions of eventual change. Only through this Love can any good come out of us.