Earlier this month, I was driving the winding road known as Lincoln Drive here in Philadelphia when Whitney Houston’s song “I didn’t know my own strength” came on the radio and I began to ponder this woman. Now Whitney and I are not friends nor have I ever known her (except in my head at 12 when I use to sing “The Greatest Love of All” and “Saving All my Love” so feverishly that you would have thought I had millions of loves and had lost them all on the same day). Yet, for some reason while driving down a road I’d driven a thousand times, I began to think about Whitney and her story. Her life, particularly her recent comeback, seemed to take over my brain.
Recently, speculators have made some harsh judgments regarding the quality of her voice on this newest record. Some have said that her voice is not the same as it was during her “heyday” and others have made veiled comments; insinuating that her admitted past drug abuse had taken away the awesome range and rich tone that she once had.
And if I’m honest, I found myself wondering the same thing. You see, as much as I love these new songs, the same question kept popping into my mind every time I’d see her perform. Where were the notes that she hit when she sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl? What about the way she pierced our hearts on the Bodyguard Soundtrack?
Bottom Line, I wondered, had Whitney Houston lost her gift?
Then, of course, I was checked rather quickly by God (SO not the best feeling in the world).
This is what I heard: How are you (or anyone else, for that matter) any different from Whitney?
How is Whitney Houston any different from any one of us who have found ourselves caught up in our sin, only to find out that the very gift that God had given us had been diminished by our own actions? You see the trick of the enemy is his ability to convince us that somehow our sins (the hidden stuff that doesn’t get shown on National Television) are somehow less damaging and therefore not as bad as Whitney’s. He keeps us pointing the finger outward so that we never take a moment to see the reflection of ourselves shining brightly from those stars we so love to talk about.
satan comes to Kill, Steal, and Destroy (John 10:10). He wants your gift. For Whitney, it was her voice. For me, it is my mind and my pen. For you, it is [fill in the blank]. He wants it because he knows that it is our gift that God will often use to accomplish His purpose on Earth. To build His Kingdom. It is through the use of our gifts that He receives glory. So satan is literally hell bent on getting us to forgo our gifts in favor of some temporal pleasure; our inability to resist him (James 4:7)
For example, I am a writer. God uses my writing to inspire, educate, enlighten, and bless people whether I’m writing a business plan as a consultant, a Christian fiction novel, or a scholarly paper. However, when I find myself deeply beset by sin (not our daily shortcomings but more of a dwelling in sin; an unwillingness to relinquish or repent from it) then my writing fails me. I still write. Some people still even like it. But as a Kingdom scribe, I am ineffective. My work doesn’t accomplish what it was intended to… it falls short of the glory of God in the same ways that I have fallen short of His Glory through my sinful behavior (Romans 3:23).
So before I could think of all the ways that Whitney Houston’s situation was different from mine or yours, I realized that it really wasn’t. She is no different than any of us who have fallen away from what we know to be true and right and as a result, our gifts, the thing that God has given us to use, has been rendered temporarily ineffective.
But did you see that? Read that last line up above. What word glares back at you?
Yes! Me, too! Temporarily.
I serve a God of healing and restoration. His grace is oh so sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9)…and for Whitney.
How do I know? Well, I recently watched Whitney perform on the American Music Awards and while there was still that different quality to her voice, something absolutely amazing happened. As she sang, it seemed like her voice began to get stronger and stronger until she ended the song so powerfully that my eyes welled with tears. My soul just leaped because I felt like I was watching a woman having her gift restored right in front of me. And, in a way, her voice was better now. The superficiality of “pop” was gone. There was a deep, roughness that said, “Yes, I’ve been broken. But in my brokenness, God can still use me.”
With every note that Whitney sang, every time she shared her testimony through song, I believe that the Lord was slowly but surely processing her sin and was giving her BACK her gift.
Can we praise God for restoration? Can we praise God for the fact that He loves us so much that even when we fall away from Him, if we come back humble and sincere, with a repentant heart, He will not only give back to us the gifts that were lost but he will make it stronger, more powerful, and more of a blessing then it ever was before?
So I say to Whitney and all the rest of us who are “recovering” from something…if you continue on this path of righteousness (and that is key) then as the bible says, your LATTER days will most certainly be GREATER than your FORMER days (Haggai 2:9).