If you want to know what a great pop love song should be, the perfect example just might be Billy Joel’s masterpiece, “Just the Way You Are.”
When you take each piece – well-crafted, accessible lyrics, smooth and singable melody, a simple central notion – it’s a great combination. When you add to that like icing on an idyllic cake one of the most gorgeous and exquisite saxophone solos ever by the legendary Phil Woods, it’s musical magic.
If you’re not familiar or need a refresher, give it a listen.
Mr. Joel has many examples of his lyrical and musical artistry. But this one is perhaps the most famous of them all. I have a theory about why that is the case.
Deep within our hearts, there is a desire to be known and loved for who we are and not just who we might someday become. For someone to love us unconditionally just as we are is perhaps our deepest need.
When he penned these words, it seems Billy Joel was locked in on the need of the woman he loved to be accepted without any expectation of improvement in her appearance, her habits, her performance as a wife, or whatever other area of perceived expectation. We should all be so attuned.
Think about these lyrics:
I said I love you and that’s forever And this I promise from the heart I could not love you any better I love you just the way you are
So why is this such a powerful message?
I believe it speaks to a need written deep upon our hearts to be loved unconditionally, sacrificially, and absolutely. It’s a love we were made to experience. In fact, it’s the love that motivated our creation in the first place.
I can say that with confidence because I have come to see the great Story that explains our existence and all of the innate needs. We have this need for this kind of love—a love that is not based upon our performance, our choices, our character, or anything other than the character of the One who loves us. We were made to know this love.
Of course, it seems so unusual, so unique, so impossible even. You and I both know that many people spend their entire lives looking for a love like that. But it’s been right there all along. The One who made us for Himself loved us so much that He came to be with us. He lay down His life for us. He conquered death for us.
And what does He ask from us in return?
Just accept this love and believe that He loves us just as we are.
But there’s more to this reality. God has invented this thing we call marriage to be a learning lab for this very love that He first gave us. He loved us just as we are and He gave us this unique kind of relationship in which to learn to do the same. We take a vow to love this person no matter what.
This kind of love—loving someone just the way they are—is also called grace. Marriage is the learning lab of grace. In the close quarters of sharing a home, a room, a bed, and everything else, we learn to love “even though.” We learn to let stuff go that doesn’t matter. We took a vow to love this person even if they never get better at stuff or improve their appearance or any other area of improvement.
We took a vow to love just like Jesus did.
So… this means that my beloved is mine to love and care for just as she is. Maybe you and I should go take our spouses by the hand and remind them.
“I love you just the way you are.”
(And don’t be afraid to sneak a little squeeze and a kiss while Phil Woods works his saxophone magic in the background.)