During and after his high school years, my son went through a rebellious phase in which he and I didn’t get along very well. But one Saturday, we worked on a household project together and I asked Abe if we could listen to his music. I wanted to know what music was meaningful to him, thinking it might provide some insight into his thoughts.One of the groups Abe liked was Alice in Chains, so we listened to the album Jar of Flies. I was surprised at how good the group was—I had wrongly assumed that grunge music artists simply scream and lack any real musical talent. One stanza in the title song brought me to tears:
“You’re my friend
I will defend
And if we change
Well, I love you anyway”
Astonishing! For me, this is the most important concept of any relationship. My marriage vows said “for better or for worse, in sickness or in health”—in other words, if we change I will love you anyway; if we change I will be there for you. The same goes for a father-son relationship. I needed to be with Abe and for him no matter how much or in what direction he changed.
Silently, as we worked at our project and listened to the music, my anxious and impatient heart relaxed and changed toward my son. I was reminded of this passage that had been meaningful for me in Soren Kierkegaard’s writings:
“If, then, you will become perfect in love, strive to fulfill this duty, in loving to love the person one sees, to love him just as you see him, with all his imperfections and weaknesses, love him as you see him when he is utterly changed, when he no longer loves you, when he perhaps turns indifferent away or turns to love someone else, love him as you see him when he betrays and denies you.”
What is true love? Love that lasts, love that stays the same even when the other person changes. This is love that meets St. Paul’s criteria: “Love never fails.”
Is there any music that has changed your ability to love?
Don Simpson is a certified spiritual director in Colorado Springs and is senior editor at NavPress. He is coauthor with Dallas Willard of Revolution of Character (NavPress, 2005). He also participated in launching Discipleship Journal and The Small Group Letter, and was cofounder of Helmers & Howard, Publishers.