Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” is the number two song in America at the moment. The English singer-songwriter has a folksy sound to most of his music. The lyrics can be reviewed here.
Sheeran begins by singing, “When your legs don’t work like they used to before / And I can’t sweep you off of your feet / Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love? / Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?” Sheeran is asking his girl if she’ll remember him when she’s old, if she’ll still be in love with him. Will she love him forever? It’s a question we need to wrestle with ourselves when we enter into a marriage. The point of a marriage is permanence (Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:6). So, you want the relationship to continue on forever, the love to continue on forever. Now, what is interesting to note is – Sheeran isn’t married. He’s a relatively young man and while I married at 24, most people today are not. I’m the odd one out married “young” by today’s standards. But, herein lies the question – from what perspective is Sheeran coming? Is he talking of a marriage relationship or a long-term non-marriage relationship? Let’s continue to the next part of the lyrics.
Sheeran continues, “And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70 / And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23 / And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways / Maybe just the touch of a hand / Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day / And I just wanna tell you I am.” His love is forever. His love will never waver, never falter. Now, in a way – that’s what marriage is – a lifetime commitment. In many ways, it’s similar in content to Justin Timberlake’s “Not a Bad Thing.” In that piece, I wrote:
Note he’s looking for a lifetime commitment. That’s what marriage is – a lifetime commitment (Matthew 19:5-6, 1 Corinthians 7:39). As I said in my piece on “All of Me” – “Marriage is when two people become one before the Lord. It is a holy covenant between two people and God. In so doing, they give themselves to each other much as Legend said in his song. They pledge their lives to each other to love, cherish, and to love each other in the faith (i.e. help them grow spiritually).” It’s true with this song as well – seeking marriage, seeking a bride, seeking a good thing.
To the woman he’s seeking to be his bride he’s promising to be truthful (Proverbs 12:22, Colossians 3:9) and to build her up/strengthen her (Proverbs 27:17, Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Peter 3:7). This would map out the kind of love Paul discusses a man should show his bride in Ephesians 5:25-29. Husbands are meant to lay down their lives giving their all for their wives, rebuilding them and strengthening them. They are worth it – God gave that woman to you.
In the case of a marriage, what Sheeran is describing is perfectly Biblical. It’s a love that is continuous and never failing. While it may seem a bit superficial in it’s lack of discussion of the important sacrificial aspects of love which Timberlake spoke to in more detail, it is a lifetime commitment of love. But, Sheeran is not married. So, once again – what perspective is he coming from for this relationship described in the song. In an interview with 3News in New Zealand he referred to this song as, “[I]t’s the one I’d pinned as the ‘walking down the aisle’ song.” In essence – it’s a song about a new marriage relationship. With that context of the piece it changes my frame of reference. This is not being applied to his current relationship, it’s meant to be applied to a marriage relationship, potentially being played or performed at a wedding.
Can the unmarried have good insight into marriage? Yes, of course. Read through the letters of Paul and you see a man who, at is traditionally viewed as unmarried and spoke about the benefits of remaining unmarried, talking about marriage (examples: 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Ephesians 5:25-30) and love (example: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). So, can the unmarried Sheeran provide us some insight into romantic love? Yes, yes he can.
In the second verse, Sheeran sings, “When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades / And the crowds don’t remember my name / When my hands don’t play the strings the same way / I know you will still love me the same / ‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen / And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory / I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways / Maybe it’s all part of a plan / Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes / Hoping that you’ll understand” While much of this is more flowery language stating the same ideas as the first verse – there’s an interesting note toward the end of this line. Sheeran says, “Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes / Hoping that you’ll understand.” What does this mean in the context of the song? It means that the individuals in this relationship are imperfect (Romans 3:23). That is true.
In the chorus, Sheeran sings, “So honey now / Take me into your loving arms / Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars / Place your head on my beating heart / I’m thinking out loud / That maybe we found love right where we are.” As this is a down the aisle song, per Sheeran’s own words – this really fits this into a context of a wedding. Taking each other as one, an important kiss, a head on ones chest perhaps during a first dance. These all fit into a wedding motif.
In the end, the song does resemble a romantic love relationship, a marriage relationship. And that – is something I’d be happy seeing more of in music today instead of the usual hook up culture promotions.