It is way too easy to condemn pop culture and its flawed icons. That's why so many church leaders do it often and with great flair. But what would happen if we represented Christ by showing compassion for the broken people who comprise pop culture? Could we possibly change the world by loving instead of judging? By expressing care instead of condemnation?
One such icon has been in my prayers lately, and it is to her I offer these words (reprinted from my column in the current issue of Collide Magazine)...
Open Letter to Britney Spears
I wish I had a few minutes to talk to you. I wish it were possible for me to send you a letter and be assured that you would get it. If I had just a few minutes of your time, there are two words I would want you to hear and believe: You matter.
Your life has value. You are not defined by what you do or don’t do. Your value is not determined by what you own. You are more than all of that. You are a precious child of God who has a purpose for living and hope for the future. You matter.
I realize you don’t believe that right now. You feel utter despair and deep loneliness. As I write this, you are being held against your will at the UCLA Medical Center for psychiatric evaluation. I would guess you are feeling as hopeless as you’ve ever felt. You want so much to be a mommy again and hold Sean and Jayden close to your side, but the world around you won’t allow it. I cannot imagine the pressure you are under. You grew into your fame while still a child. You were reduced by the world to nothing more than a product to be touched, squeezed, used and discarded. When you were at your best, everyone wanted to be associated with you. But when your marriage collapsed and your aunt died, your personal life started to fall apart. And many people—including some of your friends—ran away as fast as they could. Others hung around like vultures to see if they could profit from your fall.
Now you probably have a hard time figuring out who your true friends are. You must suspect everyone around you. Do they want something? Perhaps they want your money. Perhaps they want to write a book about you. Perhaps they want to be famous. But where are the people who truly love you? Where are the friends who will be with you and listen to you without expecting anything in return? You thought Dr. Phil might be that person and invited him to the hospital. But he left your room, held a news conference and planned a television special about your demise. That probably felt like a kick in the gut. Britney – I will say it again: You matter.
I’ve never met you. I’ve only seen you through the lens of a camera. But when I look at you, I don’t see what the media sees. I don’t see what many journalists see. I see a little girl who wants so much to be loved. I see a girl who has tried everything to be what the world wants, but hasn’t been able to please anyone. I see eyes that are sometimes bright with passion, but often revealing a girl who is sad and lonely.
And I also see hope in you. I know you can be the woman you want to be. You can be a great mom for your kids. You can be a role model for millions of girls around the world who are troubled but rarely see an example of someone who emerges from a hard place to live with strength. You can be an awesome sister for Jamie Lynn as she goes through her pregnancy and the pressures that come with being a mom at such a young age. You can be a woman whose beauty isn’t based only on her body, but on an inner strength that comes from a strong faith.
Last year I wrote out a prayer for you, and it remains my prayer today:
Oh God, bring someone into Britney's life that will speak truth into her; someone that will love her for who she is, not for what she has or how she looks; someone who will lift her up toward you; someone who will give her hope and purpose for living. I pray this not so that Christians' around the world can claim her as their most recent poster-child (oh God, please no!), but so that she will understand how precious she is to You and how her life matters.
I wish I could somehow sneak you past the paparazzi and across state lines to a community of faith where you would be loved; where you could heal; and where you would find true acceptance and freedom to be who God has made you to be.
I’m guessing that won’t happen. So I’ll keep praying for you. Because you matter. You matter to me. You matter to thousands of people of faith just like me who are cheering for your return to health. And you matter to God.