As I continue on with the series “How to Stand when your World is Turned Upside Down” I would like to talk about a family whose story is centered around tragedy with a message of Hope. As a musician, we have many mentors and people we admire. There is one who stands out in my mind that I have always put on a pedestal above all other musicians. When I was 15 my mom and dad gave me my first CD player accompanied by the latest Amy Grant CD and some long haired guy named Steven Curtis Chapman. Amy Grant wasn’t really my taste of music so I tried the other guy. This wonderful orchestral music filled the room in CD Quality sound and followed immediately by “The Great Adventure” and I was hooked.
It was Steven Curtis Chapman who inspired me to learn to play the guitar even though I’d never met the guy. Funny how that is, huh? I knew then that his style of Christian Music was identical to my style so like every dreamy eyed teenager with a guitar I would mimic his every song. Once I learned to somewhat fake, I mean play the guitar I started leading praise and worship for my youth group and many other venues. My then church leader (later I would call my father-n-law) always joked and called me Steven Curtis Childress, which might offend some people to be called someone they are not, but I took with immense pride. That $13.99 CD I received that Christmas was one of the greatest physical gifts I had ever received, because it started me down a path I still pursue today.
Steven is married to wife Marybeth Chapman and they have three children of their own, Emily, Caleb, and Will Franklin. Steven and his wife visited China in early 2000, 01′ where they fell in love with a little girl, and after much prayer, adopted Shoahannah. This experience touched the Chapman’s so much that they felt the need to start Shoahannah’s Hope, an adoption foundation to alleviate the financial burden for adopting families. Shoahannah’s Hope has helped hundreds of families since with their adoptions. Over the years the Chapman’s added two more adoptions to their family, Stevie Joy, and Maria Sue.
May 21st, 2008 was a busy day in the Chapman household. Daughter Emily had just announced her engagement and was preparing for an October wedding, son Caleb was preparing for graduation in a few days, and the family had much to be thankful for. That afternoon son Will Franklin was returning home in Franklin TN. , and had pulled around in the drive. Youngest daughter Maria ran towards Will as he pulled in. Not knowing she was running towards him Maria was struck. Maria Sue Chapman went to be with her heavenly Father that very afternoon.
In moments such as this a family can be divided, loose their faith in an instant, or grow stronger than ever. My heart was crushed as if the Chapman’s were some of our very best friends, and still I’d have never met a one of them.
The Chapman’s were approached by several people in the media to tell their story. The last thing they wanted was to use Maria’s death as publicity. They agreed to a few interviews with the determination to use Maria’s death as a testimony of Hope. After watching these interviews my respect for Steven and his family became one to benchmark. Now that I am a dad and have a family of my own I can’t help but think if Shannon and I were in that situation. The way the Chapman’s have surrounded each other in support and love is how I would like to say the Childeress’ would do. What a great example of a Godly family. A family that through tragedy comes questions, pain, healing, but ultimate Hope. The Hope that God is God and we are not, and that ALL things work towards His Glory and Plan. The Chapman’s realize this and know that one day they will see their daughter Maria Sue again.
The piece of this story that I think touched me the most was the question “see”. I don’t “see” how God can do this, I can’t “see” Will Franklin ever being the same again, “All I could “see” was Maria’s broken body on the ground. The day after her death the Chapman’s came home to gather a few things for the memorial service. On the kitchen table was a single drawing of a flower with six peddles, one colored in whole, and the word “see”. Maria had drawn this picture the morning of her death. The Chapman’s had said that they had never seen her write the word “see”, but there it was in plain English. The flower had six peddles, the Chapman’s had six children, one peddle was colored in whole. The Chapman’s took this drawing and showed it at the memorial service. Steven, through his tears, said “See” I am made whole and I will “see” you all soon once your peddles are colored in and you will be whole just like me.
Take a moment and check out the interview: