I’ve hesitated to write about this because I don’t want to be too pop-culture-minded or manipulative of real grief or anything, but I can’t stop thinking about it since I heard the news last night. I was sad to hear last night that Whitney Houston has died. Such a voice! And yet, such a troubled life it seems by all accounts from the outside looking in as I am. What girl growing up in the ’80’s, as I did, didn’t try to belt out songs like Whitney Houston and sing along as her songs played on the radio at top volume while holding a hairbrush microphone in her bedroom? Okay, maybe that was just me, but I’ll own up to my fair share of coveting that voice back in my youth.
I can’t really say I was a fan of Whitney Houston, exactly, never actually went to any concerts, or that it has rocked my world to hear this news, but I would be lying to say that I don’t feel a certain sadness at hearing of her passing at only 48. Fan or not, I feel like a part of the background music of my youth has been silenced, and that makes me sad. For most of my youth, Whitney’s music was playing on the radio, at dances, at friends’ houses, in the car, on the TV.....like I said, a large part of the background soundtrack of my youth. And I liked many of those songs, songs that even today evoke certain moods and memories that, for better or worse, are part of my growing up and coming of age.
Whitney Houston’s death makes me sad, too, because I can’t avoid thinking about and mourning over the troubled public spiral this beautiful woman took as documented on the pages of the tabloids and news over the years. Big fan or not, it breaks my heart to see so many of the ‘beautiful people’ who, by the world’s standards, have ‘arrived’ and have experienced great success in their careers and ‘have it all’ but seem so very broken in real life, amid all the glitter and trappings of fame.
When someone like this dies, because she was relatively young, and it is shocking and all over the news, and in this case she was only 8 years older than I am and so much a part of the soundtrack of my youth, it causes me to stop and ponder eternity - and the fleeting nature of life. I wouldn’t presume to know the state of Whitney Houston’s soul. I do, very much, hope that she knew the gospel and was reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ before she died. I hope so. From the outside looking in, I am sad that the legacy she will be remembered for isn’t only her beautiful voice, but the troubling aspects of her life as well. What I can say is that it makes me heavy-hearted looking from the outside in to any public life when there is little evidence in that public life of fruit that would lend confidence to hope. But only God can judge the state of her heart and whether she had embraced the gospel and repented of her sin and placed her trust in Christ before she stepped into eternity and the book of her life on earth was closed at the young age of 48 yesterday afternoon.
What I do know, however, is that such a public and high profile death ought to serve to remind us how short a vapor this life is, how short and fleeting life is, and that we all will step into eternity one day. None of us is promised tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation. The book will close on my life on earth one day, just as surely as it has now on hers. All of us are only a breath, only a heartbeat away from eternity. The question is, have you examined your own heart, have you considered the word of God and considered the fact that we all will stand before God? Are you ready? Is your soul reconciled to God? When our time comes, will our loved ones be able to say RIP (rest in peace) with confidence because we have solidly and vocally and truthfully placed our hope in the One, true Savior, Jesus - the only one who can guarantee rest for our souls when we face the Creator, the Judge of all the Earth? Or will their wistful, “Now she’s at peace,” be based on some wishful, sentimental, hopeful thinking without solid rock truth at the bottom of it? It is a fearful thing to think of stepping into eternity never having repented of sin and without hope, separated from Christ, unreconciled to God, with the weight of our sin upon us. Would that our loved ones' hope be based in the confidence that we are present with our Lord because we trusted Him wholeheartedly in life. Would that it be based in the confidence that we have trusted the gospel, that we in life repented of our sin and rested our hope and confidence in the Savior, Jesus Christ, who died to pay our sin debt in our place and now stands as our advocate, having reconciled us to God. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. To as many as believed, He gave the power to be called the children of God.
For me, when my friends and family look from the outside in at my life, my heart’s desire is that they see that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, and I wanted them to know Him. That is the legacy I want to leave behind. And that is the life I want to live now, today, as long as God gives me breath. May I live a life ever seeking His honor, His glory, and ever seeking to use the blessings He has richly showered on me to bring Him honor and point others to the Savior. That is how I want to live and die - for His glory and to His praise. May I remember that this life is but a moment, and live that moment well in service to the King.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” James 4:13-15
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3