By PAT WATSON
Whitney Houston. Whitney. The name alone evokes so much emotion for so many. Going forward, Black History Month will have additional resonance for many since it was on February 11 that the gifted vocalist from a gospel singing New Jersey family died, at age 48, from a drug related accidental drowning.
Coming to terms with the twisted path that became the latter part of her life story calls to mind a couple of lines from the very spiritual Stevie Wonder song, You Will Know, “Every life has reason, for I made it so.”
The life that was known as Whitney Houston stands out because this period in history, with all its media technology, affords the means to elevate a gift for all the world to see. Lucky for us.
But isn’t it true that every one of us has a gift or gifts, the light that makes each of us shine? To put aside such gifts for other pursuits is to sometimes flirt with disaster. Sometimes it leads to tragedy and, as many of us know only too well, it can also lead to a dimmed light, empty of spirit.
During this Easter season, when people of Christian faith reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, many also consider how they shape their own lives and reflect on their own divine light. Are they ‘hiding that light under a bushel’, or are they allowing that light to shine?
The degree of luminosity that any one person emits is an indication of how much that person’s gift is being shared; it is reflected in the level of appreciation by others for that life and the joy and serenity present in that life.
There’s a saying that the person with the most toys wins – a consumerist approach if there ever was one. But how about this? The person who, on his or her final day has the biggest smile, wins.
To win in that way means making space in one’s life to allow one’s gifts to flow. It’s taking the gift and putting it freely and willingly into the world. This is the best aspiration for our world.
Easter is also about being penitent about the behaviour and thinking that we need to change, and honouring Christian faith by taking conscious actions to become better people. Certainly that includes adopting the generous attitude of sharing our gifts.
When we look at the story of Jesus Christ, it includes three gifts at the time of his birth – gold, frankincense and myrrh –presented to him by the Magi who were divinely inspired to find him. But this chapter in the life of Christ relates to all of us as we come to this life gifted in some particular way.
Among Christ’s divine gifts was the unwavering message he brought to the world of how to live with each other and with ourselves. Imagine if he had kept that to himself.
Each of us is called to use our gift in service, because divine gifts have no value if they are not shared. As with so much that is divine, therein lies the paradox: A gift may be yours, but it’s not yours to keep. A gift, or a talent if you will, is given to each one of us but it’s only a gift to us if we give it to others.
Which brings us back to Whitney Houston: She was greatly gifted, nonetheless she chose other pursuits, seeking what she thought would make her happy, eventually destroying her life. That heart disease was also a contributing factor speaks of the sadness of a heart in pain. Where, indeed, do broken hearts go?
So, if we can be mindful to avoid grasping influences, and are sincere with our gifts, we ultimately honour that divine light we all carry as well as honour the reason at the heart of the Easter season.
A note on the reversal of seasons…
Global warming and climate change are buzzwords we have all become familiar with. Given three consecutive winters that have been warmer than usual, more of us are convinced of this reality. Most confusing was what was supposed to have been the 2011-2012 winter, morphed into tee-shirt weather, some of us having pulled out sandals and shorts. At winter’s latter end, March did, in fact, follow the old adage of coming in like a lamb and going out like a lion. Now it’s left to April to make up for all that mild weather and prove T.S. Eliot’s quote that it is “the cruelest month.”