I'm not sure. But I can't escape the notion in my own mind that the really tragic aspect of Whitney Houston is not her early death but her heart-breaking life. If anything, 11 February 2012 brought at least one tragic story to a close, and perhaps the world has one less truly unhappy person this morning. Ms. Houston certainly doesn't need my pity, and so I won't be so bold as to offer it. But I do pray that, at the end of her life, she still knew something of the grace of God that she seems to have known so powerfully early in her life. And if not, I take some comfort in knowing that God has said he loved (and loves) Ms. Houston more than any of us enjoyed her music. Her life is now in his hands, but then again her life has always been in his hands.
On a completely unrelated note, my family and I took a trip to a local used bookstore this weekend, and my wife picked up the now-classic Seven Habits of Highly of Effective People, which I originally read in college. One of those habits, if I remember rightly, is, Begin with the End in Mind. Whatever Stephen Covey said about that habit (I don't really remember, though more of this might come from him than I care to admit), this made me realize that I need to live the kind of life today that merits the eulogy I hope to receive at my own funeral. And while I hope to still have decades left in this world (though I might have only minutes), I hope no one at my funeral thinks inwardly or says outwardly that the most salient lessons of my life are tragic lessons.
The world has lost an amazing voice, but it lost that voice long before this weekend last. What we have gained, sadly, is a powerful prompt to stop and consider our own potential, how far we are willing to stretch to reach that potential, and what actually provides the source of our value and significance in and for this world.
16 LORD, in distress we searched for you.
We prayed beneath the burden of your discipline.
17 Just as a pregnant woman
writhes and cries out in pain as she gives birth,
so were we in your presence, LORD.
18 We, too, writhe in agony,
but nothing comes of our suffering.
We have not given salvation to the earth,
nor brought life into the world.
19 But those who die in the LORD will live;
their bodies will rise again!
Those who sleep in the earth
will rise up and sing for joy!
For your life-giving light will fall like dew
on your people in the place of the dead! (Isa. 26.16–19 [NLT])