Straight out of college, I landed smack dab in the middle of a dream. Or so it seemed.
My first real job was working for a high-profile organization at their office in Los Angeles. I remember posting photos on social media of the beach, beautiful tourist spots, and the opportunities I had to occasionally attend award shows. For a self-admitted celebrity junkie, that part actually was a dream.
But what my friends didn’t see in those photos was the reality I was actually living. My job consumed me. I had virtually no social life. And I was fighting the urge not to get sucked into the culture I was surrounded by.
What I mean by this “culture” is the extreme value placed on appearance and belongings. Your size (preferably 0), clothes, the car you drive, and where you live matter. Really matter.
They define you.
In many ways, you must fight your true identity in order to fit in and be accepted by others. “Man looks on the outward appearance,” (1 Samuel 16:7) was never more real for me.
Now, there was plenty of good there, too. Grounded, godly people. Many good churches. It’s not that those things didn’t exist. They were just really hard to find.
What was not hard to find was beautiful people. Living in Hollywood meant I was surrounded by them and all the things they had. That’s why a song I came across by Ed Sheeran called “Beautiful People” really struck me.
This is my only fear, that we become
Beautiful people …
Prenups and broken homes
Surrounded, but still alone
His lyrics (full lyrics here) preach against the cornerstones of Hollywood culture. Cars, clothes, parties, and drugs we all know ultimately lead to nothing. Well, nothing other than loneliness, as he notes.
Could it be that Sheeran also recognizes what I did—the inner struggle not to become like everyone he’s surrounded by?
His mention of prenups and broken homes is even more poignant. It’s pretty rare, but very wise, for someone of his caliber to recognize the detriment of a broken home. Sheeran’s song is a stark contrast to what we often hear from other artists.
Take Ariana Grande, for example. If you haven’t heard her song, “7 rings,” well your kids probably have. It’s all about stuff—money and all the things it can buy.
I’d rather spoil all my friends with my riches
Think retail therapy my new addiction
Whoever said money can’t solve your problems
Must not have had enough money to solve ’em
From the lyrics of his song, Mr. Sheeran would probably disagree. Even though he’s on his way to becoming a billionaire by age 30. And I don’t know if Sheeran is aware or not, but Scripture is the origin of what he echoes to be true. The Bible is the primary source touting money can’t solve any problems.
We were made for more
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” This means regardless of someone’s spiritual status, it is built within them a longing for something deeper. A longing for something more.
Surrounded, but still alone
Let’s leave the party
That’s not who we are
In “Beautiful People,” Ed Sheeran identifies the need for relationship. He understands we were made for connection with others. And he understands the difference between superficial and authentic relationships.
At the very beginning of the Bible, God creates us with this desire when he gives Adam a mate. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). More specifically, He makes us to desire connection with Him.
Jeremiah 24:7 tells us, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.” Isn’t it amazing to think that God sets in the heart of everyone He created a longing for eternity and a longing for the most fulfilling thing in life ever—a relationship with Him?
Imagine if that verse would have said, “I will give them a heart to know money, that money is lord.”
Whether or not Sheeran recognizes this, his lyrics communicate that the things of this world will never satisfy. The Bible tells us that satisfaction comes only from Christ and seeking after Him. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
I don’t know Ed Sheeran, nor do I know any of the celebrities he’s surrounded by. But in a small way, I feel like I can sort of relate. I’ve lived among the beautiful people and fought the pull to follow in their footsteps. To seek the superficial.
I think he’s really on to something with this song. And we need more of his beautiful perspective.
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