George Strait released the song “Love Without End, Amen” in April of 1990 as the lead single off his album Livin’ It Up. It tells the story of a parent’s love passed from father to son that mirrors God’s love for humankind.
The song went on to become a No. 1 hit. But before it did, it was just a prayer kicking around the back of songwriter Aaron Barker’s mind.
Here’s what had happened: Barker’s 16-year-old son had been driving his car some places he wasn’t supposed to go when he hit a curb and then hit a brand new Porsche. When Barker found out, he was pretty angry with his son. And he knew he had to discipline him.
But later that night, Barker second-guessed himself. Was he too hard on the kid? Not hard enough? So that’s when he got out his guitar, he told Bart Herbison for the Tennessean.
‘Love Without End, Amen’ Came About From a Parent’s Struggle
Barker’s son was born when Barker was just 17. When he saw his son in the hospital, Barker thought, “This’ll be great. We’ll grow up together.” Well, they couldn’t just be buds forever. Sometimes, his son needed a parent, not a friend. And the night when he hit that Porsche was one of those nights.
“It was bad,” Barker told the Tennessean. “That Porsche, the guy had just picked it up that day for his birthday. And he was great about it. He kind of laughed about it with me. But that was the night it really came to the reality that I had to be the dad. I couldn’t just be his friend.”
So Barker laid down the law with his son. So much so that afterwards, a fit of self-doubt seized him.
“I got on him pretty hard, and he finally went to bed,” Barker said. “It was a school night, and I did what I call ‘getting on my knees and playing.’”
Barker got out his guitar and started playing and praying, and musing on the boundlessness of a parent’s love. He wondered how it’s possible to be so angry at someone and still love them so much. “Where does that ability come from?” he asked himself.
The Song Was the Answer to Barker’s Prayer
As Barker strummed his guitar and picked out a melody and wondered, suddenly it hit him: the answer to his question. And it came in the form of “Love Without End, Amen.”
“This song was the answer to it,” Barker said. “It was: ‘That’s the way God loves us.’ And that’s why it’s in us all the time. We’re born with it.”
The realization that struck him next gave Barker the final verse of the song. He drew a connection from a father’s love for his son to divine mercy and God’s forgiveness of human beings.
“And then I thought, ‘How cool is that?’” Barker explained. “‘Maybe I can get away with some of the mistakes I’ve made, and still get in the gates,’ you know? When it’s all over?”
When Strait decided to record “Love Without End, Amen,” Barker was thrilled. The song reached millions of people. And Barker’s son understood what he was trying to say.
“He was at that age where he doesn’t show emotion a lot, but I knew he got it, just by his reaction, more than what he said,” Barker recalled.