Whitney Houston was probably the first and likely the only pop star in the 80’s whom I listened to faithfully, knew the words to every song and loved like a sister. She was fresh, full of life, so amazingly talented and she was a Christian. I found her to be absolutely inspirational.
Hearing about her death last week was hard. I immediately thought of her mom and her daughter, as so many around the world did. But I never once doubted where she was. We may be humans here on earth but only because we are bound by our earthly bodies. The minute her heart stopped beating, her spirit was in the presence of Jesus. Of that I am sure. And I’ll tell you why. Whitney was a woman of faith, thrust into the spotlight, the limelight and the furious and fast paced world of fame and high expectations. Look back on any and all interviews that she has done over the past 30 years and you will see a recurring theme: grace and faith. No matter how high the highs were or how low the lows had taken her, she clung to her faith in God, her assurance of His will in her life and the knowledge of His redeeming love in spite of all of her mistakes and failures. Many before her and many after her have turned their backs on their church-based roots but Whitney never did. Even up until her last recorded “public show”(which was never intended to be a performance), she claimed the love of Jesus. Who does that? Someone who KNOWS in her heart and her spirit that her only solid foundation is in the loving arms of her Saviour, that’s who.
In the days since her passing, there has been a LOT of media coverage. Over-saturated coverage as is typical for a big-name star. The networks and news rags are all after one thing: ratings. Because well, ratings equals money. And this is a heartless, cruel business that is all about money. Whitney was a casualty of the greed of the business. She is not and was not the cause of it, nor is her death and the reasons behind her death her fault. However, that is how she is currently being portrayed: a drug addicted, spoiled starlit who brought this all on herself. I am asking you to look at it a different way. What if Whitney was your sister, your friend, your daughter?? What if you knew her better than anyone else? I’m going to make some assumptions here. And I hope that you will bear with me. I don’t claim to be a doctor, a music mogul or a lawyer. I haven’t sat down with Whitney or her family and I never will. I’m asking for you to lend me your thoughts and your common sense ponderings.
Whitney was a real person. A real young girl, who grew up in a singing family and had raw, natural talent. A talent so unique and special that she couldn’t keep it hidden. She sang in church and she used her gifts to praise the Lord. In her own words she knew that when she closed her eyes and sang , the Spirit of the Lord came into that church and people were affected. She only ever thought of being a back-up singer. But of course, she was far too big and talented for that. And so, a record producer heard her, fell in love , got dollar signs in his eyes and signed her. Her mom warned her about the business but she said, no one can prepare you for how hard it is. Maybe if she would have been a solo contemporary Christian artist it may have been a bit different, but not necessarily. That fact is, she was signed and signing as a performer is like signing your life away. You don’t own yourself anymore; the record company does. You don’t make decisions like “I’m taking this week off” or “I want to sleep in today”. No, artists have been sued for doing that. You are owned and you are enslaved to your label and your producer. I don’t think most of us can truly comprehend the magnitude of that sort of life change on a young 21 year old girl. The pressure must be overwhelming.
Suddenly, Whitney was forced into a life of concerts, bookings, publicity tours, studio work, vocal lessons and travel. Did she get to sleep in her own bed for more than a night or two those first few years? The pressure to perform at 100% all the time, every time must have caught up eventually. It does with most artists. And soon, doctors are called in to help with anxiety, fatigue, jet-lag, vocal strain. Medications are prescribed to sleep, to be alert, to feel energized…and money? Well, it’s flowing and there’s a pill for everything. It’s innocent at first. Like taking a Tylenol for a back ache. I will tell you this as someone who has suffered with chronic pain: one Tylenol here and there doesn’t cut it after a while. Soon you need more and more frequently too. You can see where this will lead. Soon, there needs to be more drugs, harder drugs, more prescriptions and the pressure only continues. Movies, media and the spotlight never fades.
I will stop there with the assumptions. I don’t know. You don’t know. But I can guess and I’ve seen and heard it all before. Unfortunately, even stars get the blues but for some reason they are held to such a high standard that they are not allowed to fail or to slip. And one bad photo?? It’s on the front page of every magazine with presumptuous headlines assuming the worst. I wonder what the headline might say on one of my “bad”days? I’ve gone to the grocery store looking like the hag from Hell on more than one occasion. I can only imagine what someone might assume from me. And they’d be wrong .
So, here we are, the night before her funeral. I love funerals. I really do. They calm all the stormy waters of looking perfect, feeling great and being pulled together. Emotions are raw and REAL. And that is what we all need now: a good dose of reality. We may never know what happened in that hotel room last Saturday. It doesn’t matter. A woman, a mother , a daughter went Home to be with Jesus. God knows the days of our lives; He has them numbered. He knows the choices we make , good and bad. He is fully aware that we are fallen and incapable of perfection but He’s okay with that because He died so that we wouldn’t have to. There is not one person in this world who can claim that they have it all together. There are millions of people who take antibiotics that weren’t prescribed for them, too many pain killers , drink too much and don’t eat right. The exception for us is that we don’t have cameras following us when we do slip and fall.
It is sad to me that so many people have taken to social media and TV saying that she failed. So many words like drug-addict, junkie and loser. It’s hurtful , you know? It really is. Because she represents what could be any one of us. And she didn’t fall flat on her face. She always got up. And she ALWAYS looked UP. She was honest about how hard she had worked to conquer the demons within her and she was honest about how easy it was to fail and fall into those bad habits again. But she finished every interview with a smile and a look towards Heaven. She knew her hope was in the Lord. And that is her legacy. For as much as we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, He is strongest in our weaknesses and that is what I see when I look at videos of Whitney Houston. God Bless her daughter and her family as they mourn. May they know and feel the resurrecting power of Jesus in these days and weeks ahead and may they be filled with peace knowing that their beloved Nippy is with her Saviour and Lord.
“Guide me thou O Great Jehovah, feed me till I want no more.”‘
And one of my favourites….I look to You: