American has mourned the death of Whitney Houston this past week.
In high school, I enjoyed Houston's music. I well remember in 1988 purchasing a single LP record (yes, record) of Houston's single One Moment in Time. I must have played that song 100+ times. The song became the theme song of the 1988 summer Olympics, and she performed it live that year at The Grammy's. Later, she recorded Dolly Parton's song I Will Always Love You, making it the most selling female single song in history. It became Whitney's signature song. Later, the soundtrack for The Preacher's Wife became the largest selling gospel album of all time. In 2009 the Guinness Book of World Records called her the most awarded female artist of all time.
I still enjoy occasionally listening to some of Houston's hits (though I am more aware of the words of the lyrics!) like Houston's Where Do Broken Hearts Go?, Didn't We Almost Have it All?, and I Believe in You and Me.
Few performers in our age have the raw talent of Whitney Houston. Many singers sound good on a recording but just ok in person. Some depend on external props to keep the crowd's attention. All Whitney needed was her talent. Her incredibly versatile voice and her commanding presence allowed her to hold crowds of 1000's spellbound, hanging on to her next words. While much modern singing does not showcase the diverse capabilities of the instrument of the voice, Houston mastered her voice and made it her pulpit, her billboard, her fireworks show. Surely, America, pop music, and the world lost a great talent this past week.
However, Houston's life did not equal her talent. She was a big example of someone whose character was not able to match up to her abilities. Following her meteor-like rise to fame in the late 1980's and 1990's, her life became crippled with drug and alcohol abuse and poor personal choices. She married an abusive man and eventually her child's life went down the all-too familiar path of dysfunction marked by so many "celebrities." She seems to have been distracted by the incredible amount of money she made and the overwhelming fan support she received world-wide.
The last days of her life reveal the devastation of drugs, alcohol, and poor personal choices on a person's life.
As I grew older and analyzed her lyrics, I discovered a telling truth. Houston sang about the gospel of self-sufficiency. Her songs reveal a life that believed that ultimately, she could only depend upon herself. The grand imperative of humanity is found in both the Old and New Testaments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). This love, according to Jesus, would be expressed through a life that obeys the Scriptures (John 14:21; Deut. 6:6-9). Houston's message, sadly, seems to be the antithesis. She proclaimed that she had discovered the greatest love of all - loving oneself.
I believe her life now testifies the destruction that occurs when one loves self more than God, when one loves the attractions of the world more than the values set forth by the Bible, and when one pursues riches and fame more than seeking to instill godly qualities in the lives of one's family, friends, and spheres of influence.
Here is yet another example of our world putting on a pedestal a person whose life is not worthy of imitating. Another example of a shallow life. In the end, the riches, the fame, and even the talent don't really matter. What is left at the end of life is the relationship we had with God, our family, and our friends, and how much our lives were brought in line with God's Word. The world celebrates talent; God's Word, however, praises men and women of "noble character" (Prov. 31:10). No, it won't make you rich in money, but "you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:4). Riches last for a season; character will be rewarded for eternity.
John Quincy Adams, in a letter to his daughter about the kind of man she should marry, once wrote the following:
"Daughter! Get you and honest man for a husband and keep him honest. No matter whether he is rich, provided he be independent. Regard the honor and moral character of the man, more than all other circumstances. Think of no greatness but that of the soul, no other riches but those of the heart."
Colonel Sanders once said, "There’s no need to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do any business from there." How true.
The Lord Jesus said it even better: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
Her songs and singing were awesome. Her life was erratic and self-destructive.
Adrian Rogers once said, "No matter how wise or capable you are, before you leave the harbor, you'd better make sure the Captain is on board."
I can't speak of whether or not Houston ever had a relationship with Christ. That alone now determines her eternal destiny.