At the risk of oversimplifying her story, Sara Bareilles is a singer/songwriter who wrote this song as a *middle finger* to anyone who wanted her to sell out. After reading the longer version of the story about the meaning of the song, I get the idea that the song is an anthem of self-protection and self-assuredness in response to a woman in the music industry who suggested she needed to do a certain thing (write a love song) to be successful. The most recent time I listened to the song, I noticed just how sure she was of herself and her ability to tell this group of experienced people what she was (well, wasn’t) willing to do. I consider her a successful artist and one of her songs, “Brave,” was on my 2020 Daily playlist that I tried to listen to as I started my days that year. She has sold over a million records and has been nominated for eight Grammys, winning one. I’d say she proved herself right and attained success her way.
The song randomly came to mind recently, and I listened and sang along as I always do, but this time the lyrics hit me in a different way. The song starts off with Sara stating that she’s drowning and being told to “breathe easy for a while” but that she and those guiding her know that’s impossible. In retrospect, that’s how I felt about my relationship with the church that raised me. We all knew that ridding oneself of same-sex attraction was a difficult, if not impossible task. It took me a little longer to get to that conclusion, but they believed it wholeheartedly. This was the way to live for God and no matter how impossible it was, it needed to be done.
I wish I had Sara’s confidence in herself when this self-discovery initially started. I didn’t. I wrote a metaphorical love song. I prayed the gay away because I thought it was necessary to rid myself of my gayness for my community (and God) to love me. While the psychological and mental impact of self-loathing for years is present, I feel more like Sara now than I did when the song was released. I’m no longer writing a love song just because that’s what the church, my old church, wants me to do. I even wrote to them to let them know about my newfound confidence, and my newfound assurance of God’s love for me and creating me the way I am.
At this point in my spiritual and mental growth and development, I know my home church, that still adamantly adheres to seeing my queerness as sinful and at odds with God, means well, but they made getting to the place where I do not see myself as at odds with my Creator very hard. I made it to a place where I see myself in alignment with the Divine though, and just like Sara, I won’t, well will no longer, write love songs to make it and have their approval. They told me to make it as a Christian I had to hate my Creator’s creation. I should ask God to change who I am and how I relate to others in order to be pleasing to God. I’m convinced that the only thing that needed changing was my mind. I’m grateful for the transformation. I’m grateful to be able to say that even if you leave/dump me (which you have), I’m confident enough in who I am and whose I am that it’s okay. I found new communities of faith to belong to, I found people who believe in the God I was introduced to in your care and also love me as God’s queer child.
My story doesn’t align perfectly with the story Sara told in “Love Song.” The song ended up being a hit. Her label loved it, it’s one of her most popular songs, and it became the single she needed. Even in the interview, she says she thought she would lose the support of some people close to her (a band she was touring with and her A&R guy), but she didn’t. In my mind, I have lost the support of the people for whom I was writing the love song. It hurt to do what they asked and still not get the success they promised. I realized there was something bigger than them, something bigger than me that would, and is, bringing me my success s now that I’ve said no more appeasing them. For that, I’m grateful. Who have you been writing love songs for? When will you believe in your worth, brilliance, intellect, etc. enough to let that be enough? Will you trust the Source (within and outside of you) will provide you with a path to the success you need/seek?