Everyone else may have moved on, but I cannot stop thinking about Whitney.
I’ve been unable to sleep several nights as I lay awake thinking about her. I get distracted in the middle of Spanish class only to realize I am thinking about her. I can’t stop thinking about Whitney, and about how wrong it is that she is not alive.
It’s just wrong, and I can’t stand it. I want to turn back the clock, pour her a cup of coffee and sit with her through the dark night. Because things can get better if you make it to daybreak.
But not if you die. If you die, it’s all over.
Yes, I think that she is now with her savior and that her life is not really over. And, yes, I believe that the sufferings of this world are not worth comparing with the glory that will one day be revealed.
But if you die at forty-eight because you couldn’t pull yourself out of the hellish vortex of addiction, it is simply not right. And it makes me mad. And sad.
She was beautiful and talented – man, could she sing! – and she loved her daughter and her mother and her God. But she was a mess. Such a big, big mess that it’s hard to imagine how she made it as long as she did.
I understand, I think, because I’m a mess too.
We’re in Costa Rica right now. We got here last week to begin a three-month sabbatical. After walking six miles on the beach last Saturday, I came home to take a shower, put lotion on my dry feet, brush and floss my teeth, read my Bible and pray for ten minutes. Then I ate my favorite breakfast in the world – cereal with homemade yogurt, fruit, and milk. It took me almost three hours.
Most days, I do none of those things except brush my teeth. Not a single one.
Like I said, I’m a mess.
I take care of everything related to worldly achievement. I perform. And I do it well. I give good lectures, plan great programs, and throw great parties. But I don’t make time to exercise, or pray, or floss. I eat too much and drink too much coffee in order to “handle” the stress of my job, and even more to handle the stress of homeschooling.
Maybe that’s why I can’t stop thinking about Whitney. I understand the choices we all make – knowing full well that God offers us something better – to seek approval from the world or to give in to whatever pet sin we secretly, or not so secretly, cradle.
I watched Whitney’s 2009 interview with Oprah last week. When Oprah seemed to be applauding Whitney’s new life without Bobby, I was screaming at the computer screen, “Noooooo. This is not gonna work.”
It wasn’t gonna work because Whitney got the right answer to the wrong question. She knew she needed the grace of God. She seemed to know that deeply. But I didn’t hear a deep sense of her own brokenness. I heard a lot about Bobby’s brokenness, but not as much about her own. She loved Jesus, but I don’t know that she loved herself, not enough to admit how far she was from who she was created to be.
“Learning to love yourself” is not as “easy to achieve” as she made it out to be with her angelic voice. Admitting that we are mess, not running away from that fact and staying still long enough for God to do his thing, is slow, painful work. Becoming who we were created to be is a lifelong process, it seems. And Whitney’s life didn’t last long enough for that process to take hold and come to completion. She never saw the break of day, and it’s not right.
That’s what I can’t stop thinking about.