My heart is aching over the loss of Whitney Houston and all those who aren’t able to fully embrace how loved they are. Instead they go looking for love in all the wrong places, often with disastrous results.
I guess what makes me both sad and hopeful about Whitney is that from the time she was a little girl she knew the love of God—the beautiful, unconditional love that will sustain us through anything. Even as an adult she comforted a concerned interviewer with the statement that she knew God loved her, and everything would be OK. This makes me sad because she knew the truth, and was led away from it anyway. It makes me hopeful because I believe that in the eternal sense, everything is OK with her. All is well with her soul.
So how did she manage to take her eyes off of the one true Source of love and fall into the trap of dependence on worthless substitutes? No one knows the whole story, but at least one telling chapter is her relationship with Bobby Brown. Like so many women before her, and I fear so many yet to come, it seems she was attracted to the bad boy in him and joined in the destructive habits he brought to the relationship. Smart women, dumb choices. We see it again and again, and it’s never pretty.
If only she could have stayed true to her “first love,” the God who created her and blessed her with a world-class talent. A dear friend recently loaned me the book The Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen. In it, this well-loved Catholic priest and well-read author writes a letter to a young Jewish friend who asks him to share what it means to have a spiritual life in a secular world.
“First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive,” Nouwen writes. “The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.’”
Evidently, Whitney Houston allowed the destructive forces of this world to temporarily win. But one of the most powerful songs she sang, “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, ironically tells the rest of the story. We can take comfort in knowing that because God said that to her, she now adds her amazing voice to heaven’s chorus of praise. The greatest love—the one true love—is hers at last.