What Katy Perry taught my kids about Jesus
While driving in the car with my three boys buckled up in the back seat, my son Cal asked, “Mom, will you scan back to the last song?”
“Sure babe,” I replied and asked him to let me know when to stop.
“Right there mom, that song.”
Katy Perry was singing “Unconditionally.” I’d never heard it before, but I was diggin’ it.
A few moments later, Cal asked another question.
“Mom, what does unconditionally mean?”
My first reaction, which (thankfully) I didn’t let roll off my tongue, was, “What?” As a mom whose greatest desire is to teach my boys about the wholehearted and unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ, I was shocked that my son didn’t know what this word meant. He’s nine. We speak about unconditional love all the time.
“Well baby,” I smiled at him through the rearview mirror and said, “I think you already know what it means.”
“I do?” Cal asked.
“Yep, you do.” And I reminded Cal of the little game we made up many years ago that we play at bedtime. It’s called “I love you this much.”
After the boys are all tucked into bed, I ask them “How much do I love you?”
In response they always flash their big beautiful smiles, stretch their arms out as wide as they can, and simultaneously shout, “This much!”
My next question is always, “And does my love for you ever change?”
And again, they smile and boldly exclaim, “Nope, it never changes!” because they have come to learn that on their best and worst days of behavior, my love for them is constant, it is unconditional. Even my discipline is out of my love for them, just as God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:6)
On the days when they obey me (almost) perfectly and on the days when they obey me (completely) imperfectly, my love for them will never change. There is nothing they can do to make me love them any less and there is nothing they can do to make me love them any more, …… just as there is nothing they, or we, can do to diminish or increase God’s love for and acceptance of us in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:38-39 (NLV)
For I know that nothing can keep us from the love of God. Death cannot! Life cannot! Angels cannot! Leaders cannot! Any other power cannot! Hard things now or in the future cannot! The world above or the world below cannot! Any other living thing cannot keep us away from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Christ, we are fully known, fully loved, and fully accepted. UNCONDITIONALLY.
And when we allow this kind of unconditional love and acceptance to infuse our parenting, we reflect the heart of Jesus toward our children. This unconditional love of Jesus does not say, “Stop sinning, clean yourself up, then come to me and I will love you.” No, Jesus, in his unconditional love, died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).
As we listened to the song together, I was struck by the gospel message buried in her words. I don’t know the lens from which Katy Perry wrote this song but I can tell you there is a whole lot of Jesus going on in there. Read just a few of the lines I pulled from her song:
All your insecurities . All the dirty laundry. Never made me blink one time.
I will love you unconditionally.
There is no fear now. Let go and just be free.
I will love you unconditionally.
So come just as you are to me . Know that you are all worthy.
I'll take your bad days with your good. Walk through the storm I would.
I do it all because I love you. I love you. l love you.
When the song was over, I turned the radio down and told Cal (and Brennan, and Owen) something I’m not sure I’ve ever made perfectly clear to them.
I said, “Daddy and I tell you all the time that we love you unconditionally. But you know what, mommy and daddy are human. We are fallen. So as MUCH as we love you, we will never be able to love you perfectly. We will mess up. We will make mistakes. We will do our very best to make you feel loved and accepted in your success and in your failure.
But we will mess up sometimes. And we will need you to forgive us sometimes.
What I want you to never forget is that Jesus is the ONLY one who can love you perfectly, wholeheartedly, unconditionally. Only Jesus is capable of really, truly, loving you that way. And I’ll I can do is pray that Jesus will let His wild love for you pour through me, to give you just a glimpse of what it feels like to be known, loved, and accepted by Jesus. Unconditionally.”
The boys seemed to be listening to me but I can’t guarantee they weren’t daydreaming about football and ice cream and grasshoppers while I was talking, as evidenced by Cal’s request when I was done giving them the glorious gospel - “Okay mom, can you turn the radio back up?”
But I’m hoping the next time "Unconditionally" comes on the radio, Katy Perry’s words will now remind my precious boys of the gospel - God’s wholehearted and unconditional love for them, not because of anything they do or don’t do, but because of everything Jesus has already done for them.