One of my favorite love letters ever came, not on Valentine’s Day, but just in time to catch my heart by surprise! My grandson, James, who calls me “Oma,” was 5 years old when he asked his mom for an envelope. Sure…why do you want an envelope? “To write Oma a love letter!” I didn’t know about this until it came in the mail. I’d like to read it to you, if you have time! And you DO have time. 5 year old love letters aren’t very long. My name and address were printed on the envelope and inside, the penciled letter read, “Dear Oma, This is a love letter.” Love, James
This week we’ve been delivered a lot of love notes at best, love topics at least. From Valentine’s Day love to the Grammy’s with their love songs about love gone wrong and love that’s good, to Whitney Houston’s tragic death and the playing and replaying of her hit, “I will always love you!” This church choir child came from a privileged heritage that included famous soul singers like her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother Aretha Franklin. Whitney was 11 when she sang in her New Jersey church's junior gospel choir. After being discovered and nurtured by Clive Davis, she went on to win diamond, multi-platinum, platinum and gold for her incredible voice. 140 million albums, sold worldwide. She sang the song in her heart to the world that fell in love with her. But along the way, something changed her tune, altered the key in which she lived her life and nothing was ever the same. The beauty and grace of her notes and her face had a different place toward the end of her “space,” called 48 years.
Her music lives on, as does her inspiration. I take to heart other lessons from her life as well. In her 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney openly confessed her dilemma, especially concerning drugs and a difficult marriage. "When it gets to the point where you're sitting in your home and you're just trying to cover what you don't want people to know. It's painful," she said. "And then you want more, just so that you don't let anybody see you cry."
Whitney Houston revealed that"amazingly," through it all, she continued to read the Bible. "I knew God was there. I knew the light was there and I was just trying to get back to it." She also told Winfrey that her ex-husband "was my drug...that's what my high was. Him." How easy it is for us to put someone or some THING on a pedestal and do what they do, let ourselves be enticed, even when we know God warns us to “have no other gods before Me.”
One of the many messages in this highly talented woman’s life is to be careful with whom we spend time and with whom we fall in love. When the Bible teaches to “guard your heart,” that includes falling in love wisely, because when you fall in love you give you heart to the object of your love. Pedro Arrupe, born in Spain, served the Lord as a missionary for much of his incredibly dedicated life (1907-1991). He described this love, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
“I will always love you”..is the way we all WANT to be loved. But there’s only One Who loves perfectly like that. We leave Whitney’s eternal destiny in the Hands of a loving God whose mercy and grace will be celebrated in her memorial service for family and friends, right where she first fell in love with Jesus.
Part of the take away for me is that it’s not only about how she died, how we die, when and where. It’s “Where do we go from there?” How did we live for Christ, IN Christ, with Christ? How did we respond to His promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age? Dolly Parton wrote “I will always love you” to a business partner she was leaving. Jesus says, “I will always love you” to you and to me. The music stopped in Whitney’s case. But the beat goes on because God says through Christ, “I will always love you.” Some kinda love! What’s your response?