I didn't realize how quick I am to do that very thing until last Saturday night, when I heard about the untimely passing of Whitney Houston. I always liked Whitney but I was never a huge fan. I recognized that she had been blessed with a fabulous voice, but there was a time when you could not turn the radio on without hearing one of her songs, and I thought she suffered from a bad case of over-saturation. And then there was the messy marriage, the drugs, and the occasional public embarrassment. I got tired of Whitney and her problems and I filed her under "Fallen from Grace".
I"m embarrassed to admit that. No one is ever beyond redemption in the eyes of God, and they shouldn't be in my eyes either. God looks at my messiness, my mistakes, and my crummy attitude, and still, He sees me as His beloved child. His grace is never beyond my reach. No matter how many times I rebel against Him, He welcomes me with open arms. And so He welcomed Whitney last Saturday afternoon when she slipped from this life into the next.
Judging from the hullabaloo in New Jersey over Gov. Christie's decision to fly flags at half-mast this Saturday, there must be a lot of people who dismissed Whitney because of her public failings, just as I had. I understand those who are incensed that the flags are never lowered to half-staff for the funerals of New Jersey's servicemen and women who die in the line duty. I agree that flags should be lowered to honor the true heroes of this nation whenever one is buried to remind each of us to stop for a moment in gratitude for a life lost serving our country.
But I think it's also fair to lower the flags in New Jersey for a favorite daughter who did not choose to be idolized for it's not Whitney's fault that we choose the wrong people to be our heroes. Yes, she made bad choices, and she disappointed, but who among us has never made bad choices? Who among us has never rebelled against God? Who among us has never made mistakes? When Whitney was on top of her game, New Jersey was proud to claim her. They should be no less proud now. For she is a child of God, and she is loved by the Creator of the Universe. She is a reminder that lasting redemption is possible, but we will not experience the fullness of that redemption in this life.
Long before Whitney, another musician cried out the Lord, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant a willing spirit, to sustain me." Even as Whitney's life sank into the abyss, I'm sure God could see the exuberant joy of a young woman who loved Him with all of her heart. That girl was still inside the middle-age woman but most of us didn't see her anymore. Then this week, we saw all of the videos once again and were reminded of what had been. None showed her optimism and enthusiasm more than Whitney singing the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl.
I didn't see Whitney perform that night because I was stuck on an airplane at Hobby Airport in Houston for a few hours as fog rolled in, eventually cancelling the flight. I don't remember seeing the video before this past week. As I watch it, I am filled with conflicting emotions. I'm transported back to memories of how we felt as a nation as Desert Storm began and I'm carried away by the sense of patriotism that clearly filled the stadium. I am overwhelmed by a God who would give her such a phenomenal gift and at the same time give her a mother who would see to it that she knew Him. I see Whitney's youthful exuberance and it makes me smile for just a moment before I remember the sad ending to her life, and I begin to feel tears rolling down my cheeks. And I feel shame for ever filing Whitney under "Fallen from Grace", for she has been redeemed.
Until next time,
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned an fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 3:21-24