Shia LaBeouf is just 23 years old and the most successful movie star of his generation.
His first movie was Disney’s Holes, which Steven Spielberg saw with his kids. We call that a big break, because within a couple of years, Spielberg cast LaBeouf in the young adult thriller Disturbia, in the action flick Transformers and then as Indiana Jones’ son in last summer’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In a couple of weeks, LaBeouf’s latest film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, will open. It is expected to be a blockbuster and push his career box office earnings over the $3 billion mark.
Did I mention that he’s 23?
So, he’s young, rich, famous, successful, financially secure and independent—all the things most people pursue in life, and work for decades to approach. But is Shia happy or satisfied with the life he has?
In a recent Parade magazine interview, a remarkably honest and transparent LaBeouf peels back the layers and reveals his heart. Just listen:
“Sometimes I feel I’m living a meaningless life, and I get frightened. I know I’m one of the luckiest dudes in America right now. I have a great house. My parents don’t have to work. I’ve got money. I’m famous. But it could all change, man. It could all go away. You never know….
“….I don’t handle fame well. Most actors on most days don’t think they’re worthy. I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it, and I’d be on my way.”
Do you feel the ache in those words? There’s a deep sadness. A creeping fear. A search for something else. An unnamed longing. A suspicion that everything he is building his life on is a vapor that will drift away.
How do you get that world-weary that young? The heartache is unrelenting.
Is it the pressure of the acting profession? Shia says “The good actors are all screwed up. They’re all in pain. It’s a profession of bottom-feeders and heartbroken people.”
Is it the result of growing up in a dysfunctional family with addictions aplenty? Is it a pattern of painful relationships, including one still-tender breakup?
“Why did the love of my life and I break up? Man, I have no idea. What was that about? I have no answers to anything. None. Why am I an alcoholic? I haven’t a …clue! What is life about? I don’t know.”
Does he know anything for sure? “ What I know is, I screw up, and I know I’m working on myself to be a better person…the best I can do is learn from my mistakes and move forward.”
I hear that and I want to whisper what Jesus said one time to another guy trying to do his best: ‘You are not far from the Kingdom.” Shia Labeouf is frantically searching for something to fill the hole in His soul, to soothe the ache in his heart, to explain the mess he’s made of things, to replace his sadness with joy, to fix what is broken, to answer His questions, to still the battle inside and to assure him that he is loved beyond his performance.
He needs satisfaction, forgiveness, joy, healing, truth, peace and grace.
He needs Jesus.
Shia is not the best Shia can do; Jesus is the best Shia can do.
Why? Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). Jesus satisfies the deepest longings of a soul, the way water satisfies a thirsty man. (John 4:13-14) Jesus is the healer of the broken (Mark 2:40-42), the truth that sets us free from the prisons we’ve constructed. (John 8:58, 14:6), and the rest our weary souls need, even if we can’t describe. (Matt.11:28-30). And mostly, Jesus loves Shia Lebeouf with a love that is willing to die to he can have His life and experience all the rest. (Rom.5:8).
Jesus is the ultimate transformer, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; all things are made new.” (2 Cor.5:17)
Shia’s just like a bunch of the rest of us — just more articulate and willing to open a vein and bleed for the world to see. He’s close because he’s so willing to be honest that he’s screwed up, knows he’s fallen and that what he longs for is God-sized. We’re all there.
I hope an authentic Christ-follower will cross his path, listen well, love him with grace and genuinely engage his heart with the gospel. Cheesy, bumper sticker sloganeering will not help.
On the other hand, the gospel applied from a friend could transform the 23-year-old Transformers star forever.