CCM: As Christians, it seems we find it natural to view God as our father, but discovering Him as our friend—as this personal God—is much more complicated. Do you feel like helping others put “skin” on God has been a part of why you write songs?
AP: George MacDonald wrote, “A poet is someone who is glad about something and wants other people to be glad about it, too.” Sometimes a songwriter is someone who feels captured by the wonder of something and wants somebody else to be captured by it, too. An encounter with Jesus is the deepest version of that. I had an encounter with love, and with beauty, and truth, and that person has a name and I want you to know that name, too.
It wasn’t until I heard Rich talk about God as a person that I believed that it could be true. I’m so frightened of being known. One of the main things that keeps coming up in my life and music is this fear that once people really know me they won’t like me anymore. Or worse, they might despise me. I project that fear on to God, and on to Jesus, so my tendency to hide from Him is a habit that I’m constantly trying to push back. Going to church is a way for me to fight that habit—to go to a place where I’m known, and can go to the table every Sunday and be assured that the One who knows me best loves me most.
I was in college when I heard [Rich’s] “The Love of God.” When the chorus ends with, “In the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God,” I just wept because I couldn’t believe it. Is that really who He is? Does He really love me that way? So as a songwriter, one of my highest callings would be to make Jesus known, and one of the ways I do that is by telling my story about who He is in my life.
CCM: We live in a divided culture. We are so strained by social issues, by politics and platforms—is the solution really as simple as love?
AP: It’s not a question of our love, but of God’s love for us. Brennan Manning said, “I am now utterly convinced that on Judgment Day Jesus is going to ask each of us one question, and only one question, ‘Did you believe that I loved you?’”
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