In every young couple’s marriage, there comes a point when a foundational decision has to be made. For some wives, it occurs at the altar. But for others, it takes place months … or even years after the vows are said.
For Mary Beth, it happened when she had been married a little over 18 months and had a 6-week-old baby. It began when she and her husband, Steven, were driving home one day. They saw fire trucks and smoke and … “Wait a minute!” Steven said. “That’s our apartment!”
A baby bottle sterilizer had been left on their kitchen stove. The apartment didn’t burn to the ground, but most of their earthly possessions were ruined from fire, smoke, or water damage.
The youngest of three children, Mary Beth called her parents in hysterics to tell them about the fire. A few hours later, they arrived to help, filled with good intentions, paint buckets, and ladders. Mary Beth wanted to believe that Daddy would fix it all—that he could somehow make it all better.
At the time, Mary Beth was recovering from a C-section. And Steven was trying to break into the music business while learning where he fit into the extended family dynamics.
One Sunday afternoon, when Mary Beth’s parents were up to their knees in soot and laundry, Steven’s mother and grandmother arrived after a two-hour drive. Somehow tensions mounted that day, and conflict blew up into an unfortunate disagreement: Mary Beth’s parents were on one side of the room, holding their daughter and saying that they may need to take their little girl back to Ohio. On the other side was Steven’s family, with his mom saying, “Well, I’m going to take my son back to Paducah.”
So much had happened to Steven and Mary Beth in such a short period of time. A new baby. A fire. Temporarily staying with friends. In-laws visiting, day after day.
Feeling desperate, Steven knew that only the Lord could resolve this situation. He remembers literally yelling to the devil, the enemy of relationships: “You’re not going to have this family! You will not have this home!”
With two much older siblings, Mary Beth admits that she’s always been a daddy’s girl. And now she found herself in the middle of a mess bigger than soot and ash. Would she give her loyalty to her young husband, or to her father?
As she heard Steven pray out loud for his family, she knew she should support him. After all, their marriage had been established on biblical principles. On her wedding day, hadn’t she had pledged her loyalty to Steven above her parents (Genesis 2:24)?
But at the same time, she recalls, “I didn’t have a place to live and had this newborn infant that I didn’t even know how to take care of yet.”
Despite her emotional turmoil she somehow made her choice: Steven had her heart. Together they made a home. She and the baby would remain with him.
That all happened more than three decades ago. Today Steven Curtis Chapman has won five Grammy Awards and 56 Dove Awards (from the Gospel Music Association). He and Mary Beth are also well-known adoption advocates and have helped countless children have loving forever homes.
The Chapmans told this story on a recent FamilyLife Today® broadcast. As host Dennis Rainey said upon hearing the story of their apartment fire, many couples face in-law conflicts. Rather than blaming each other, or finding fault in their parents, they recognized their true enemy.
“There is a devil,” Rainey says. “He does exist—yes—and he does have a game plan. He is trying to divide couples.”
Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.
1. Listen to the FamilyLife Today® interview with Stephen and Mary Beth Chapman, “Trials of Marriage.”
2. Read Dennis Rainey’s article, “The Foundation of a Oneness Marriage.”
3. Strengthen your marriage by attending a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.