While this open letter is addressed to Katy Perry the intended audience is much larger. Silly us if we feel like the issues one person might face is entirely specific to them. So, with all of those questions looming, here is my open letter.
Dear Katy Perry,
First and foremost I’d like to tell you how grateful I am. I love music. The arts. I really do. And it’s clear you’ve been given a gift. I think you’d agree that you’ve been blessed with a great voice and the passion to sing. I’m grateful that you’re using that gift while far too many of us sit on the gifts and abilities we’ve been given, refusing to share them with the world.
I’m grateful that you dream big dreams. Dreaming is something many of us don’t know how to do well. We silently wish for an orchard but ask God for a single apple. For whatever reason we’ve decided that our dreams are unattainable. You’ve been able to push past that false notion and the opportunities that have opened up because of your courage have been incredible. And it does take courage to do what you’re doing. I’m sure you’ve been afraid many times over the course of your journey for one reason or another. I’m grateful you’ve decided not to let fear keep you from what you love doing.
I’m grateful for the doors that have opened up to you. Because you’ve dreamed big and had the courage to pursue those dreams, the influence you’ve attained has been amazing. You have a platform from which to sow into the lives of many. It’s an honor and a privilege. While I can’t say all of your lyrics and showmanship are appropriate for my daughter, I’m grateful you and other’s like you reflect the artistic and creative nature of God in some ways that can inspire her.
So, I’m grateful Katy Perry. But there are also some things that I’m sorry for. And some things that make me sad.
I’m sorry for the way you’ve been treated by many in the evangelical community. Christians. And the offenses probably didn’t start after you decided to pursue the secular market but before, during, and continuing after. Historically we’ve (myself included) done a poor job of loving. The greatest commandment, the whole of scripture and the gospel can be summed up in love and we’ve failed time and time again.
A good friend of mine said that everyone wants to be the watchmen on the wall charged with keeping the Christians safe from whatever evil has been deemed evil. He said the wall is too crowded. I’d add that we need most of them down on the street loving like Jesus. Maybe all of them.
I’m sorry for the way you’ve been let down by those closest to you. The ones you didn’t think ever would. Unfortunately that’s just the world we live in. We wound each other and it hurts. The deepest wounds are the ones from those closest to us and I’m sorry for any wounds you’ve experienced over the course of your life.
I’m sorry for what happened with your marriage. I know nothing about your situation. But I do know from experience that marital pain is some of the most traumatic pain we can experience.
One of the most tragic things that happens from life experience is that we misunderstand God. I’m still discovering how the true nature of God is different than what my own life experience told me it was. I experienced the world and it colored my image of God. I think you’re in the same boat. To what extent I’m not sure. But I’m convinced people run from God because they’ve misunderstood who he is.
You see, we were not meant to understand God through the lens of people and their actions, church, world events, Old Testament scripture, and personal experience. We were meant to understand God through the lens of Jesus. What we believe about God must be in line with Jesus. If it’s not then we should let it go. My life changed when I looked at Jesus to tell me who God is and I think it could for you as well. Love is not an ideal. It’s not an abstract idea or theory or feeling. It’s a person. It’s Jesus. And God is love.
So, I’m sorry for the ways you’ve misunderstood who God is just like the rest of us. And I’m sorry you’ve felt like you had to do life without him because of it. That in order to be who you wanted to be, to have the success you wanted meant leaving him behind.
I’m grieved for the emptiness you’ve experienced as a result. I don’t know you but I know that a life without Jesus is one desperate for distractions. Something to take away the hollow feeling, the depression. I’ve felt it like so many others. Instead of living we live only for those distractions. It’s exhausting.
A God that looks like Jesus is one that wants us to be successful with the gifts and abilities he’s given us. He smiles at the sound of your voice and desperately wanted to work with you to make you successful. That’s what love does, elevates others. It may not have looked like what you thought success should be but you could’ve had (and still can have) success and abundant life instead of success and emptiness.
And that leads me into what I hope for you and others like you. To illustrate I’ll share a vision/picture the Lord gave me while spending time with him before writing this letter.
Jesus showed me a field of flowers. The colors were a marvelous variety but dull. The petals drooped towards the ground. The Lord looked at me and said, “Just one breath from my mouth and all of these petals will reach up towards the sky.” He smiled. “More specifically, they will reach up to me.”
He looked down at a flower with a fond expression on his face. “Just one touch and what’s been crushed becomes something full and bursting with life. Eye’s focused on the ground suddenly lift to the heavens. Despair transforms into hope.” Jesus looked at me again. There was sorrow in his eyes. “And here I stand. Day after day, year after year asking every single one if I can breath on them, if I can touch them. But they must decide to let me touch them, to change them, to lift their heads.” He smiles. “They are still such a pleasing aroma to me even in this state.”
Jesus bends to a knee and touches one of the flowers. “Ah, here is one crying out for me.” There are tears on his cheeks as he delicately handles the flower. It instantly straightens and blooms into something brand new. The fragrance fills the field. Jesus looks at me with a wide grin, his cheeks still wet. “This is what I see and what I hope for.” He motions towards the flower that just came alive. “This is what makes my heart rejoice. I will leave fields full of blossoming and thriving flowers to find the one that is lost and waiting for my touch. This is what I came for.”
Katy Perry, my hope and prayer is that you come to understand by experience the great and mighty love of God. That the eyes of your heart will be flooded with light and that you will receive full and intimate revelation of the heart and love of the Father.
Jesse and Kara Birkey