When times get rough, and they are most certainly rough post 2016 election, I turn to music. There has always been a transcendent quality to Whitney Houston’s voice, at least for me. The purity of her notes occupied not only something special, but something sacred. When I want to be lifted up, I will play this clip:
She sang that. I mean she SANNNGGGG it. I felt it. And she sprinkled her black girl magic all the way through it, with her sheer vocal power. The sass. The intuitive pauses. The confidence when she gave the band the signal to go quiet like a seasoned choir director. She made those vocal acrobats look easy, and she takes us somewhere. Whitney Houston and a microphone can tell us as much about lament as the Psalms.
And then I remember the tragedy of her life. Her struggles with sobriety. I did not know Whitney Houston, so of course anything I say is speculative…but there had to be some kind of ache in her. She was stunningly beautiful, yet there was a pain behind her smile. She could blow you away with her vocals, she seemed to ‘have it all,’ yet Whitney was in pain. How many times have we placed other people’s needs above our own, pushing down our own aches? How many times have we left worship to find the ache was still present, but we dare not speak of it lest our Jesus be questioned? If we learn anything from Whitney, it is that you can be in pain and love the Lord. If we learn anything from Whitney, it is that we can be used by God and be in despair. We can simultaneously be magical and occupying real estate in worlds of pain that no one knows about. If this is true for you, I hope you find a safe space to lay your burdens down, and a good friend (or therapist) you can trust enough to be transparent with. May we all find moments of transcendence when we need it, and find the strength to ask for help when we need it.