Tim Keller paraphrased and quoted a columnist back in the 1980’s who knew quite a few celebrities personally. According to Keller, the columnist said:
“I knew them when they were working behind the counter the cosmetic counter at Macy’s, and I knew them when they were bouncers at the village clubs, and all that, and then they became famous, and they became movie stars, and then they became more unhappy then they were before.
“That giant thing they were striving for, that ‘fame thing’ that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them personal fulfillment and with ‘ha ha happiness’, it had happened and nothing changed. They were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.
“If God really wants to play a rotten practical joke on us, He grants your deepest wish and then giggles merrily as you suddenly realize you want to kill yourself.”
This is quite the candid, though skeptical, observation. It’s as if the columnist wanted the celebrities to find a slice of heaven in their stars because that would mean the same heaven was possible for the columnist.
But, alas, no. It is a cruel joke. The thing we want to be our nirvana turns out to lack the substance we want it to have. If the celebrities that everyone yearns to be have been “there” and found it wanting, what hope is there for the rest of us?!
What, then is the answer? We yearn for Eden, but the things we desperately believe will take us there leave us disappointed and wanting. We believe in the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness we seek alludes us – even as we reach to close our hands around it.
The columnist impliedly blamed God for the joke, but Scripture tells us the human condition is no joke. The real problem with the human condition is that God made us for Himself. Thus, nothing else will satisfy us.
The desire for more is the thing that causes us to seek, but what we really seek is Him. When we follow after other things, instead of Him, we find them empty. Thus, when we turn to God and find that He is our fulfillment, we know that we have found what we were looking for.
I write this on the heels of an article in which I reflected on celebrity Christianity. More accurately, celebrities who have recently become Christians. In the article, I also reflected on “celebrity” Christians, people who were thrust into the Christian limelight at an early age, before a firm foundation of spiritual growth and relationship with God was established.
And I wonder how those celebrities turning to Christianity will fair in the future. They are used to the warm (and sometimes harsh) light of public celebrity. That is where they live, but what they need is the nutrient rich soil of God’s word, prayer, relationship to God, fellowship and all the things God must do in us in the dark recesses of our hearts, well out of the light of public life.
Like the rich young ruler who was searching, but found it too difficult to leave behind all his wealth to which he had become accustomed, celebrity, fame, and fortune may be difficult to give up. Even though it doesn’t satisfy the deepest longings of the soul, it is still everything most people think we want, and we can be stubborn in seeking what we want.
Riches, and celebrity, and comfort, and recognition become a trap. We are lured in. Our own desires propel us hard in the direction of the sunlight. We strain our whole lives with all our effort. All our thoughts, hopes, and dreams carry us along, and the things we gain along the way, even if they turn to dust in our hands, are difficult to give up…. If it was all we wanted.