How I’m Like Whitney Houston

In Whitney Houston’s prime, her voice was angelic, strong, and almost otherworldly.  Her career began in the eighties with a fresh face and bright-eyes, coming from a modeling and gospel music background.  But after years in the industry and her rocky fifteen-year marriage to Bobby Brown, she became a different person.

She gave an interview with Diane Sawyer in 2002, in which she was defensive and proud.  She made fun of people on crack, suggested she used more sophisticated drugs, and seemed to still be in the throes of addiction.

Gollum in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was transformed into something totally different because he became obsessed with something dark and magical.  Tolkien shows us the stark reality of what happens when we seek the wrong prize, and so does Whitney Houston’s tragic demise. Though Whitney wasn’t seeking a shiny ring (she had enough of those), she did succumb to a darker side.  When Diane Sawyer, asked her what her biggest vice was, she expected her to say alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or pills.  But Whitney surprised her by saying “No one makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision, so the biggest devil is me.”

I see this draw of the “ring” in everyday life as a mom.  It doesn’t have to be illegal drugs, it can be anything that takes us off the pathway toward God.  Perhaps it’s food? Exercise? Affirmation?  Power? “Words With Friends” (a Scrabble games I personally have been playing too much…)? Alcohol? Love?  Facebook?  Anger? Video games? (If you have video gaming kids, you know that Gollum-esque look they get when you say it’s time to stop playing.)

Whitney wasn’t like us.  She was a superstar who sang the National Anthem at the Superbowl, graced the covers of popular magazines, and entertained millions on the big stage.

But she went from beautiful model and superstar singer to sweating, ranting, raspy-voiced addict in her short lifetime.  Her choices led her to darkness, destruction and very sadly, an untimely death where she left a teenage daughter behind.

In other words, she was like us…a person with daily choices.

What path are you on?  Where are you going?  What’s your ring?

  • Celeste

    Back when the second Lord of the Rings movie was released, I walked passed a promotional display dedicated to the series and was horrified by the frightening images of the orcs and Gollum. My childhood movie choices were greatly limited by my parents which was a good thing because just the posters of movies like Alien or The Exorcist were enough to give me nightmares for weeks. My children were young then and those pictures confirmed that it would be a long time before I let them view the series.

    A few years later my boys were a little older and had become full blown gamers like their techno-genius dad and playing and discussing all things Nintendo was a great source of enjoyment and bonding. However, as a single mom, it was primarily left to me to balance out how video games would be scheduled alongside homework on school nights. Let’s just say there was little enjoyment going on between them and me with respect to Mario, Link, or Metroid!

    In the midst of these epic battles, I watched LOTR on DVD with a friend. The resemblance between Gollum and my boys was unmistakable. The crying and whining and fighting and sneaking that surrounded any curbing of game time in our home made it clear that they had their “precious” firmly in hand every time they picked up a controller.

    So, contrary to the vow I had made earlier, we sat down together and watched the creepy opening sequence of LOTR: The Two Towers which tells the tale of Smeagol’s transition in to Gollum. Afterward, I opened a discussion of how their hearts were becoming twisted and distorted and selfish and mean in response to their games. I told them that this good gift that God had provided them had turned into something that brought misery to our family more often than not. This character served as a powerful representation of the effect that untamed passions and desires can have and how it only increases it destructiveness with time—unless different choices are made.

    Like most important lessons, this one has been reviewed many times. But anytime I stroke an object and screech out, “My precious,” they know I am asking them to push the reset button. Even I call to mind the agonizingly contorted face of Gollum when I find myself choosing “the creation over the Creator.”

    These last days I can’t help but contrast the beautiful photos and songs of the young Whitney Houston with the recent videos of a Whitney who had come to more closely match the tortured face, emaciated body, and half-strangled voice of Gollum. What had become “precious” to her eventually destroyed the good gifts she acknowledged God had given her. May she find mercy, and may we seek it—because as you say Jean, we are all like Whitney Houston.


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