Yesterday I had a long list of to-dos in preparing for a busy week of business travel ahead of me, but my day's plans were changed as I got a breaking news text that Whitney Houston's funeral was going to be broadcast live. I decided to tune in, just to say I saw some of it. Whitney hit the charts in the late 80s when I was in high school and college and we both are close in age. And so I did. And I went to church.
In the 4 hours of this funeral broadcast, I heard the gospel presented - in music and spoken word - and many of those closest to Whitney, shared personal stories of her life and faith. We all have heard the negative...the addiction, the loss of her voice and career because of her addictions. But I hadn't heard the stories from her family and close friends of her love for Jesus...until yesterday. Tyler Perry has only known her the last decade...probably the lowest points of her life. He testified of meeting with her and she'd share with him her struggles and before he could encourage her, she'd say "But the Lord is merciful..." Her bodyguard, who went with her everywhere, shared that she had a Bible, "raggedy" as he called it, that when you opened it up, the pages were loose and she'd marked it all up. But if they headed out on the road and she didn't have it, they'd go back. He said there were times that if she couldn't get that Bible in her bags, clothes would be removed to make room for it. No one truly knows where her stand was with the Lord, but many stood to testify yesterday that she had begun to turn her life around and get back on track. Sadly, maybe too late.
The question was posed to me today..."Do you think Whitney is in heaven or hell?" I try not to judge where anyone is once they die unless I know them personally enough to testify of their faith. And, the Scripture speaks of the thief on the cross that Jesus forgave and assured him he would be in paradise with Him that day. But if I have to choose, well, let the discussions begin.
As a girl, I think her downfall began from a choice she made. A choice to marry Bobby Brown. He wasn't the most optimal choice given his background, but the fame she had as she fell in love with him, probably thinking "oh he'll change" caused her to make a choice that changed her life...and not in a positive way. She began a road of addiction to drugs and the career that had so many more heights to achieve began to crumble. Bobby Brown isn't to blame for her sin - he's accountable only for himself - but because of that one choice, I believe she chose a road that wasn't the road God would want her to take. This is so powerful for me as I counsel girls (and remind myself) that marrying the man God has for you is so important. And that we not let the hearts and flowers pull at our heart stings away from what we know is right and true.
My friend, Alisa, wrote an amazing blog post on Whitney and her addiction. She points out that people with addictions get into a pit they can't get out - even when they know it causes more pain than pleasure. People with addictions are ruled by the addiction and not by the living God. This, sadly, is where I believe Whitney lived in recent years. Kevin Costner, her leading man in The Bodyguard, made a powerful statement in his words at her funeral. He encouraged all young girls with dreams, including her daughter Bobby Christina, that if Whitney was here, she would say "Pursue your dreams, but protect your bodies." If she had it to do over, she would.
So do I think Whitney is in heaven or hell? If I had to choose, I'd say heaven. If I had a famous life like her, I'm sure all the sin in my life would be the headlines, not the positive. Living in the spotlight of fame isn't easy. None of that excuses the sin in her life, but Psalm 130:3-4 says "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness." and my prayer that is in her final days, her heart was repentant and turned toward Christ. I heard testimony of that yesterday, which allows me to say I believe she may be in heaven. In either case, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached for 4 hours on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC yesterday, and I doubt that happens again until Jesus returns and takes reign over this fallen world.
One day I'll know if she's in Heaven. And if she is, I suspect she's singing Jesus Loves Me at the feet of her Savior.