The John Legend Effect: All of Me
My favourite John Legend song is still ‘Ordinary People’. Something about that delicious piano and the undeniably insane voice of John Legend gets me every time, even if it is 10 years old. But his 2013 song ‘All Of Me’ did something totally unprecedented to the whole world. In amongst the electro beats and poppy tunes of Pharrell Williams getting as ‘Happy’ as humanly possible and Iggy Azalea being ‘Fancy’ and making sure the whole world knew it, everyone stopped for a minute and fell completely in love with the simple piano ballad coming through their car stereo.
I have a little theory about the insane success of this song. In the midst of a music culture that is all about what you can get, John Legend decided to talk about what love really is: giving. ‘All Of Me’ is about his now wife, and how he longs to give himself to her – and not just part of himself. Not just his good moments, or his piano skillz or his crazy vocal range, but all of himself. And more than that, he longs to receive all of her, all her curves and all her edges. It’s an incredible expression of the truth of what love is in a beautiful song. How can that not catch our hearts?
What John Legend doesn’t really go into is what giving all of yourself looks like practically, but the story behind the song gives us an indication. Legend married his wife in September 2013, not long after the release of the album. That’s how he gave all of himself to her: in marriage. Marriage is designed to be a full and reciprocal gift of self between the spouses. It’s the fullest expression of love.
There is one other act that is designed to express this kind of total gift of self: sex.
Historically, sex has been tied to marriage, but these days our culture separates them. It only makes sense however, that as they signify the same thing, they are inextricably linked. The problem is that the world doesn’t seem to think that a total gift of our bodies in the sexual act represents the total gift of our souls. Our Christian understanding says something different: that our bodies and our souls are intertwined in such a way that they can’t be separated – in fact, that the separation of body and soul is actually what we call death. Basically, what we speak with our bodies signifies what we speak with our hearts. In this light, it makes sense that the proper place for sex is marriage.
This is not a restriction. This is a freedom! Freedom to love in the way that we are designed to love, to give ourselves in the way that our hearts long to give, and to receive another in the same beautiful way. Anything else is a counterfeit, a fake, a pretension. It’s saying one thing with our bodies but another with our hearts. It’s giving our bodies, but holding back our hearts. That’s not a total, full self-gift.
God’s love is total. He holds nothing back from us. In dying for us, he demonstrated what it is to give everything. Jesus’ death was final. It was everything He could possibly give to us: Himself. God is perfect Goodness, perfect Truth, perfect Love, and so much more. And all of this He gave to us, 100%, holding nothing back, on the Cross. This is the love we are given. And so this is the love we are called to live.
So obviously I’m not expecting y’all to run out and get married right now, at 16. That would be crazy. How do we love fully now? Wait for it…
No, really. That’s it.
Wait for it.
Wait for the love that sets your heart on fire, that makes you want to give everything. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t give part of your heart away early. Trust me, it’s not worth it. Wait for the day that you can stand before another and say ‘I give myself fully to you’, and mean it.
(I’m not going to pretend that’s as easy as it sounds. It’s not. Stay tuned for more posts on how to live a life that leads to the most beautiful love you could possibly imagine.)