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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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You Are What You Love?

‘Even if it’s a false God / we’d still worship this love’

If ever there was a lyric to sum up the attitude of today’s culture towards love, it would be this. Taylor Swift’s new album, Lover, is, she writes, a ‘love letter to love itself’. Spanning 18 songs, many different forms of love feature – friendship, family, break-ups… but nothing features as heavily as romantic love.

From the cheesy pop hit ‘Paper Rings’ – ‘I like shiny things / but I’d marry you with paper rings’ – to the schmaltzy title song ‘Lover’ – ‘Can I go where you go? / Can we always be this close forever and ever?’, romantic love is written about as, quite frankly, the pinnacle of life: ‘I once believed love would be black and white / but it’s golden.’

The final spoken lines of the album sum up her life philosophy and deepest desires best of all:

‘I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things I am afraid of, I’m afraid of
The things that haunt me in the middle of the night, I
I just think that you are what you love’

You are what you love. Perhaps this is the sought after identity of so many today. We do not want to be defined by our hatred, our fears, by what others think of us, or our past mistakes… we want to be defined by what we love. It seems like an easy answer, a simple solution, an obvious choice.

But even in this album, the fragility of an identity built on loving anything that can die or fade away is revealed. In ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’, a heart-breaking piece about her mother’s illness, she quietly sings ‘soon you’ll get better / because you have to’, asking the question that so many of us wrestle with when faced with a loved one’s mortality: ‘What am I supposed to do / if there’s no you?’

To define ourselves exclusively by the earthly things that we love is to worship a false god. It is to have our identity forever drifting, buffeted by relationships, and torn apart by death. Instead, perhaps, we should acknowledge the truth of Augustine’s ancient words: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.’

Nell Goddard


Nell Goddard


  1. Thanks Nell for this carefully guided reflection, I am prompted to check and challenge how I am influenced?. Let’s take courage and share Gods love for us whenever we can!

    By Graham Christopher  -  13 Sep 2019
  2. Thank you for these special words and thoughts.
    Thank you for all the past thoughts published. Always inspiring and touching.

    By Martina  -  13 Sep 2019
  3. We are screamed at daily to define ourselves by earthly values. Age is a great leveler. Hey but let’s not leave it so late. That still small voice is so much more audible now and the joy and revelation when you make time to hear it is incomparable and life changing.

    By Winifred Spyridaki  -  13 Sep 2019
  4. Very helpful piece, Nell, thank you. I especially like the last (summary) paragraph. It’s not that loving people, including romantically, is fluffy or fruitless or wrong or a waste of time – far from it, it is part of God’s law. It is just not sustainable long-term without a deeper understanding of God is love, God as love, God as the source of love… and the only one to worship.

    By Jeremy Clare  -  13 Sep 2019
  5. If Taylor Swift is anything to go by, people are soooooo needy!

    By Alfred  -  13 Sep 2019
  6. Yes this resonates with me . But equally i get her impulse to be equated with good things . Maybe in the latter half of life ,as i am ,we also realise that love of things can be all of life ,not averting any of it ,because we are not made of sunshine without the shade to delineate it. This isn’t to decry anything , its just celebrating the whole caboodle .

    By Sally Kirk  -  13 Sep 2019
  7. Good thoughtful post, thanks

    By Claire Goodman  -  13 Sep 2019
  8. Amen! Sister!

    By Gary Stacey  -  13 Sep 2019
  9. great thought, thanks

    By Bruce Gulland  -  13 Sep 2019
  10. What a beautifully written and simple reflection on how the world today see’s love, and desires those things that can only be truly fulfilled in Christ. A touching piece, especially those reflections on personal loss. How people can cope in any way through the grieving process without the hope that loved ones are with our Heavenly Father, well, I can’t imagine. Thank you for writing and sharing.

    By Matt Wood  -  13 Sep 2019
  11. Well said.
    Right up there with the prophet Habakkuk.

    By Rev Stephen Bazlinton  -  13 Sep 2019
  12. I wonder whether dismantling worldly value systems can be tougher if you haven’t been brought up as a Christian?

    Very well written as always

    By Angela Somerton  -  13 Sep 2019
  13. Thank you again Nell..for being so relevant and helpful for our Christian life..

    By Iris White  -  13 Sep 2019
  14. I am glad to find this. Thank you

    By Ausi Nchimbi  -  13 Mar 2023

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