Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will this ever end?

I saw something on Facebook today that raised my blood pressure to unsafe levels.  Here are some quotes from the thread.  I have removed the names to protect the innocent.  In regards to the passing of Whitney Houston I read the following.  "She was beautiful and talented before she got into drugs".  "In 6 months we're all gonna find out she [overdosed] but it won't be her fault.  Let's all blame Bobby Brown, get real folks"!!  I just read this headline on the the Fox News website, "Prescription drugs found in Whitney Houston's room".  I am sad today, and not just because one of the great talents in the world has died.

It's not the first time I have had these feelings.  I'm not gonna get on my high horse and tell you that I've never engaged in this kind of stuff so please don't read this as some self righteous blog from a guy pointing his finger at everyone else.  Note that I will use "we" not "you".  It's the source of some of my sadness today; the thought that I can be guilty of sensationalizing the flaws I see in others.  Most notably, the rich and famous.  People like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse and Elvis Presley.  People who "fell from grace".  People who made the conscious decision to share their amazing, God given gifts with the world despite the fact that they knew that it would put them under the microscope forever.  People who didn't handle that all so well.  And since their lives could only exist in the proverbial fish bowl, their every flaw was exposed for all the world to see.  What did the "world" do with that most of the time?  It demonized them.  It held them to a higher standard.  It watched from afar and judged them without knowing a whole lot about them.  It forgot, somehow, that they were human.  I am a part of that world. I've done it.  I've pointed.  I've whispered under my breath.  I've held them to the highest standard and flippantly decided that they "knew what they were getting into when they chose to go public".  So it's ok for me to judge because they made it possible for me to do so. It comes with the territory.  I'm sad.

I was thinking just now...what if Whitney was my daughter?  How would I handle reading the posts and the headlines?  How would I deal with the fact that the words, "most amazing voice in the history of the industry" were usually footnoted with "life that spiraled out of control"? How would I be able to function, having lost a child, with the judgements of her character coming from people who knew little or nothing about her?  What if I was Whitney?  What if my weaknesses and my struggles were exposed for all the word to see whether I liked it or not, whether I chose it or not?  What if my demons were public? What if the fingers were pointed at me?  Once you're in the fishbowl you will always be in the fishbowl.  It's like stepping off of a high cliff. Once you make the step it can't be undone.  No matter what you do you are all in.  You might regret making the step once you begin to fall, but it still won't stop the fall.  Maybe that's why they chose to live in the kind of "fog" that numbed them from the reality that they could never be normal again.  I'm not condoning bad behavior and addiction. But it makes me wonder just the same.  

Thank God for the word "redemption".  God redeems.  God makes us whole.  Jesus, when in the midst of the most broken, made a habit of being present and loving them.  The people who had fingers pointed at them because of their "sins", those who were outcasts, those who were "less than" for whatever reason, were always welcomed and loved by Jesus.  They were forgiven.  They were loved.  We are loved. You, me, Whitney, Michael, Amy, Elvis.  Loved and redeemed.  I have to think that in God's eyes they were never drug addicts or alcoholics. They were broken.  Lost for a time yet found.  That one sheep that strayed, so loved by the shepherd that he left the flock to find them. They are home.  Too soon by my standards but home nonetheless.

We make mistakes.  We do things we're not so proud of.  We say things we wish we could take back.  Sometimes we are forgiven by the people we know and love.  Some times we are not.  We are never unforgiven by God.  When we're lost we're found.  Last night someone lost a daughter in a room on the 4th floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Someone lost a mother.  Someone lost a friend.  I hope that I'll remember that the next time I decide to start pointing the finger at the next "fall from grace".  I hope we'll all remember it.  Good thing that God never forgets.  Lost and then found.  

Ellen and I once danced on the beach to the voice of Whitney Houston. It was sunset.  One of my greatest memories.  I've loved Whitney ever since.  Thanks for the memory.  I will miss you.                 


  1. What a beautiful message Father Mike, and so very true! Whitney Houston shared the wonderful gifts that God gave her with the world, and we are better people for having had the opportunity to share in those gifts. My girls and I have wonderful memories of Whitney Houston throughout their childhood. There is no greater voice than that of Whitney Houston. The world is sad today, and I pray that her daughter and the rest of her family will be given the peace that only God can provide to live their lives to the fullest just as I know she would want them to do.

  2. People are responsible for the choices they make. One choice leads to another. She made a choice to be in the spotlight. She knew form life experience that a life in the spotlight meant always being under a microscope. She knew like so many others who have made the same choice, that she was going to be held to a higher standard. Just as she probably did in the past. Then she made choices that had a negative impact on her reputation. She was no idiot, she knew it, and continued to make those decisions knowing the impact they would have. I hold her responsible for her life choices, I hold her responsible as a role model that she knew she was. You would like us all to be understanding of her humanity and yet at the same time in this blog you want us to make our own a sad comentary. NOT.

  3. In response to the previous post:

    Yes, she made the choices. And probably, at the level of thoughtful consideration, she may have been able to acknowledge that they may not have been the best choices. But I think the point that speaks to "grace" is this:

    We all make choices that are directly contrary to our best good. To greater and lesser degrees we do this even when we know that what we're doing may have some negative impact (can someone say cheeseburger?). The point that I think Father Mike is making is that while those mistakes were made, we shouldn't be quick to judge the person behind the choices as ultimately a "loser" or a "just wrong". She was just human and, like all of us, was trying to get through life the best way she could.

    It's not the falling into sin that's the problem. That's something we all do. It's the failure of our judgmental selves to recognize the humanity behind the act (or failure to act).

    If we , like God, could look beyond the outer surface and see the true heart, that would be true Grace. Maybe when we can take off the judge's robe that we wear when looking at others we would also be able to have more forgiveness for own faults and live in a more present state of grace with God. And that would be amazing!

    1. Very well said, Steve! And you're right, that would be amazing!