Whitney Houston left us too soon. Much too soon. At least, that is how her family members, friends and staff members feel about it. As a pastor and follower of Christ, I know that God’s timing is perfect. But as a friend, and former consultant, who cares about her and her family, I miss her already.
For millions of fans around the world, she was larger than life: an icon, a music legend, a singer blessed with an incredible voice — the kind of voice that only comes along once in a century. But for anybody that got to know her personally, she was very human: very humble, a kind, generous, fun-loving and funny person who knew that she had been blessed with the rarest of gifts — a great singing voice. And, to her credit, she used her God-given gift to touch the lives of millions of people, most of whom she would never get to meet personally. Her songs were always bigger than just the words. It was the way she sang them that gave her songs meaning and life. She sang from her heart, because the words to her songs always meant something to her.
Now that she has passed from this life to the next, the world is left to ponder what was in her heart. Some have even questioned if she loved God or was a believer in Christ; I never had a spiritual discussion with Whitney, although we did talk about church.
WATCH FOOTAGE OF A YOUNG WHITNEY HOUSTON SINGING GOSPEL MUSIC:
She and her mother both learned that I was a Baptist minister when Whitney brought her family with her to the White House in 1990 to meet President George H. W. Bush. Cissy, Whitney, Gary and Michael (her big brothers) spent a couple of hours with me and a staff assistant in the White House Mess (the dining room below the Oval Office), before I took them upstairs to meet personally with the president.
Of course, I already knew that Cissy Houston was one of the all-time greats in gospel music; I was so glad to meet her. Cissy and Whitney talked about their work in the church, and singing in the church, and I talked about what it was like to be a preacher working in the White House. About five minutes into our discussion at that table in the White House Mess, I felt like I was talking with friends I had known my whole life. Cissy and Whitney were immediately lovely and wonderful people to me.
So how do I know that Whitney loved God?
The Bible says in the fourth chapter of 1st John in the New Testament ”…if we don’t love people we can see, then how can we say we love God whom we can’t see?” The whole point is that if you say you love God, you have to have love in your heart for others, for people.
None of us is perfect, and Whitney wasn’t perfect either. But I know that Whitney loved God by the way she treated other people and by the way that she treated me. She had so much love in her heart for other people and it showed by how incredibly kind and thoughtful she could be. She treated the people who worked for her and with her with kindness, dignity and respect because she actually cared about them. I know this because I was one of them. I got “the Whitney treatment”.
When I first started working for her and needed to travel by air to meet her group on tour, she made sure that a car picked me up and took me to the airport — and she picked up the tab because she knew at the time that I might not be able to afford it. And she made sure that everybody on her staff while on tour had excellent accommodations and some spending money besides their regular pay.
When we were on tour, Whitney set the tone that made us like family. Before every performance just before she was announced on stage with her band, Whitney would ask Kirk Whalum or me occasionally to lead the group, band members, executive staff, stage crew, support staff — everyone — in prayer. We would all hold hands in a big circle and bow our heads.
Whitney believed in the importance of prayer because she knew that God was real and that He loved her. She also knew that her voice was a gift from God and I believe that she wanted God to be pleased with every performance.
Well, whatever we may think, she is with the Lord now. And I quite agree with Tyler Perry’s excellent comments at her funeral — ”’If God be for you, who can be against you?’ …God was for her and she is resting, singing with the angels.”
Well said, Tyler Perry.
Rest in Peace, dear Whitney.
Joe Watkins is a pastor and former White House aide to President George H. W. Bush who regularly appears as a political analyst on MSNBC and CNBC. Follow Rev. Watkins on Twitter at @revjoewatkins