Building a Big House of Hope, Part 2
About the Guest
When the tragedy of losing a child strikes your family, the pain and the desire to place blame can often overwhelm a marriage. Today, we’ll hear how Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman are rising above these temptations, by keeping their family gathered together at the foot of the cross.
When the tragedy of losing a child strikes your family, the pain and the desire to place blame can often overwhelm a marriage.
Bob: Like all who love Christ, there is a longing in the heart of Steven Curtis Chapman to be with Him, to be home, to be in Heaven. Since the death of his daughter Maria, that longing has intensified.
Steven: Heaven is this to me God. It’s the face of my little girl. It’s her little maple syrup kiss because she was so messy and always sticky with whatever she had for breakfast. When she kissed you, you could pretty much taste whatever her meals were. It’s like, “God, that’s Heaven for me.” But, as I begin to imagine that, then I imagine, “OK, but it also Lord, is a place where there will be no more orphans, and there will be no more cancer, and there will be no more enemy.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday September 3rd. I'm Bob Lepine along with the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey. We’ll hear from Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth today about Heaven, and about hope.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I’ve heard you say many times over the last five years—I think in particular—that Heaven looks better and better to you all the time.
Dennis: Yes, I’ve started signing a few letters, not all the time because someone might think I’m being trite or cute, and I’m really not being that. But, I have three statements. “God is good. Life is a challenge. Heaven looks better and better all the time.”
It doesn’t mean I don’t still have some things in my bucket list that would be kind of fun, yet I do identify with the words of Paul increasingly. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” The question is who are you living for? What are you living for?
Bob: You and I sat down and were able to have a conversation with Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman a few months ago when were together at and an event in Minneapolis the seventh annual Orphan Summit. Where, 1300 people from all across the country gathered together, all of them with a passionate commitment to be God’s arms and legs and hands and feet--
Dennis: And voice, for those who have no voice.
Bob: To care for the needs of those in foster care, those who need adoption, and those who are growing up in orphanages. It was a great event. In fact, folks ought to start planning now for the 8th Annual Orphan Summit that’s going to be at the end of April next year in Louisville, Kentucky at Southeast Christian Church. They also ought to be planning to be a part of the Orphan Sunday Weekend that’s coming up November 5th, 6th, and 7th. Where, together with the foundation Steven and Mary Beth Chapman have put together, Show Hope, and Focus on the Family and our own Hope For Orphans® ministry, and other organizations.
We’re going to be calling people to reach out and to do something for the orphan. There’s going to be a one hour webcast that Francis and Lisa Chan are hosting that will rally people into action for the cause of the orphan.
Dennis: I don’t think most people realize what God’s up to. I’ve been in ministry attempting to follow Christ now for four decades. I want to tell you something. There have been a handful of times when I’ve seen God show up, and it is unmistakable that he is doing something a whole lot bigger than any organization, any church, any person, and this is one of those times. He is up to something regarding orphans.
Bob: You can find out more about the Orphan Sunday Weekend or about the Orphan Summit next spring by going to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com and there’s a link there that will get you the information you need about how you can be involved in either of those events.
But, as I was saying, we were with the Chapmans together at the last Orphan Summit and as we sat down and talked with them about what Show Hope is doing and about their family and how their family is doing following the death of their daughter Maria a couple of years ago, we started talking about Heaven and talking about how what they’ve been through as a family has influenced Steven’s songwriting and the last CD that he recorded.
Bob: It had to be cathartic for you to pour a lot of your emotion, a lot of your grieving into music.
Bob: I haven’t talked to anybody who has sat down to listen to your last record, and has walked away without being in tears. The process of birthing those songs how was it different than other songs you’ve written, other albums you’ve done?
Steven: Well, to answer that question directly, it was a completely different process. It’s hard to even put it in the same category. It’s the reason why it’s even been hard to call “Beauty Will Rise” album, an album. It’s really my psalms. I imagine David—I’ve written a lot of songs where I sat down, and even if God is really moving something in my heart, there’s a part of me thinking, “What is the listener, the person on the other end of the radio or CD going to be taking from this, and how do I connect with their life?”
That’s the calling of a pastor. You get up and you’re going to share your own life stories, but you’re going to ultimately connect it with where people are. That’s the gift of teaching and I feel like that’s what the music that God has given me over these years, that is the process that he goes through.
But, with this, I wasn’t sure I was going to write music ever again, and for sure, I was not going to write songs about this journey, it’s too deep. To honor the pain and honor the loss and honor my wife and my family and myself, the idea of sitting down and writing songs about this was just unthinkable.
(Song “Beauty will Rise”)
Steven: I’m reading all these books about Heaven now because I desperately want to know what it looks like and feels like and sounds like and smells like where our little girl is. “God, I know I’m supposed to want to be in Heaven because I’m supposed to want to be with You, but I want to see Maria. That’s what Heaven is. God, I’m sorry I’m just pouring my heart out.” Because the scripture says, “Pour your heart out to the Lord.”
That’s what that whole process was. It’s like, “God I feel guilty, I’m sorry for that. Yet, I’m going to just be honest and tell you exactly that I’m feeling.” So I write this song, as I’m sitting there, this psalm. Heaven is this to me God: It’s the face of my little girl. It’s her little maple syrup kiss every day—because she was so messy, and always sticky with whatever she had for breakfast. And when she kissed you, you could pretty much taste whatever her meals were—God, that’s Heaven for me.”
But, as I would pour my heart out to God--and I think it’s what happened with David in the Psalms, it’s what happened as I poured my heart out to God—it’s like, in that, there would be a doorway into the truth that would anchor me down. It’s like, as I’d say “God, this is really what Heaven is…”
But as I begin to imagine that, I imagine, but also Lord, it is a place where there will be no more orphans, and there will be no more cancer, and there will be no more enemy. So, that’s really why I’ve always referred to this as our psalms. Because so much of it was out of our journey together in grieving and conversations that we were having and all of that. And it was very important in my journey and healing.
It was also really a struggle. At one point, my wife said, “I hate this album.” And I love this album, but I hate this album because I hate whatever brought it about. So, it was an important part of our journey.
Bob: I’m just curious Mary Beth, the strength that you had—this is something you talk about in your book—in that moment when the tragedy had struck and there you were leaning into God’s faithfulness and pointing your family in that direction. Where does that come from? It’s almost got to be like it’s on automatic pilot, it’s got to click in because that’s what your life has been built on up until that point.
If you’re going to help bring hope and comfort to your son Will Franklin in that moment, after what he’s gone through, backing up the car and not seeing Maria, the foundation has got to be there—and it was for you.
Mary Beth: In those first hours and moments when your world has been turned upside-down, I think that clarity of not only tasting and feeling the presence of the Lord, but how you respond to your children, how you gather them up. Like Emily said, “Mom you are saying this, or you are saying that.” All the stuff that you hide in your heart your whole life like scripture. You wonder if it will ever come out at the right time. They were telling me that I was comforting them with scripture I don’t remember any of it. Yet, the Lord was really, really present there. When you talk about the fellowship of the suffering and you read all the books about how in that place of suffering is when we really can know Christ the most.
When we had the graveside burial, I asked Steven if he would let me just sit with Will Franklin for a little bit. So, everybody left and he and I just sat there together. I just remember telling him, “This is going to be OK. God is going to do something really big. You know what, it really stinks that we’re sitting here. I know that we all want her back so bad. But we are not going to let the enemy rip us apart.”
I just remember having such a sweet conversation. He was 17 years old and just sobbed in my chest like a little boy and had her blanket wrapped around his neck. I just remember God just spoke to my soul and said, “You know what, this is really hard. It’s going to be hard for a long time. It’s probably going to be hard for the rest of your life at some level.”
I remember telling the girls too later, “You know what, this is what He has called us to, we’re going to do hard. We can do hard. Because we know how it ends.” But, you too feel that closeness to Christ in those times of crisis. But then that very next thought is, “Why?” Then when the next hard thing happens you think, “Can we have even just a little bit of a reprieve?” Just in the other stuff that comes up. But, that’s why we call it a journey. Because, it’s just up and down, up and down.
Dennis: It is a journey, and in our journey, Nancy Leigh DeMoss had given Barbara and me a puritan book Valley of Vision.
Steven: Valley of Vision, yes.
Mary Beth: Yes, we have that.
Dennis: It is a book of prayers, puritan prayers that read like scripture. One of them talks about how you can see the stars from the darkest valley, and in the darkest valley is when your vision is clearest. At the end of Job’s treatise on suffering, he talked at the end of his life, “I used to just talk about You. But, now I know You. I’ve seen You. I’ve experienced You. You’ve transformed me.” And you’d never pick it!
Mary Beth: No.
Dennis: Not in a billion years, you’d never pick that route. You guys are loved. I’m sorry that you’ve had to journey through where you’ve been. But I do believe with you Mary Beth, that over your son’s lifetime and our lifetimes, God is going to use this. And it’s not some trite little quoting of Roman’s 8:28. The reality is, somehow the God of the universe has purposes in everything, and He’s going to use it for His purposes.
Bob: I don’t know what you think about when you hear kids singing “Spring is Coming” but I think of the children in Narnia and the snow starting to melt. The curse of winter has been broken, and life is starting to come back.
Dennis: Yes, thaw.
Bob: Yes. That’s our hope.
Dennis: Honestly Bob, I don’t know where there would be hope to be found anywhere else. I don’t know what people would do, I don’t know how a couple like the Chapmans could endure the double loss—not only of their daughter, but of a son who made the error and created the accident that took his sister’s life. I mean what an assignment! But, you can do it. You really can if you know the God of the Bible, and know Jesus Christ, His forgiveness and redemption and you are walking with Him.
Bob: I think it does help to know that there are others who have survived the path. Others who, God has taken them down the path and He has been with them, to hear their story and to hear their faith. I think it strengthens your own.
Mary Beth has done a great job in her new book Choosing to SEE, of talking about the challenges of marriage over the years, her battling with depression, other issues they’ve been through as a family, and now this issue with the loss of Maria. It’s very transparent, but I think very helpful as well.
I want to encourage listeners, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and find out more about Mary Beth Chapman’s new book Choosing to SEE. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Again go online, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information. Or call, 1-800-FL-TODAY, that’s 1-800-358-6329. 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.
Don’t forget the first weekend in November, November 5th, 6th and 7th, that’s going to be Orphan Sunday Weekend, and together with the Chapmans’ Show Hope foundation, Focus on the Family, and our own Hope For Orphans® team, along with other partners. The focus that weekend in churches all around the country is going to be on the need of orphans all around the world. There is a special one-hour webcast that is being produced that you can use in your local church, in whatever setting would be appropriate. It’s going to be hosted by Francis and Lisa Chan.
Again you can get more information about the events of Orphan Sunday, and about the ministry of Hope for Orphans® when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the Hope for Orphans® link. Again the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
I need to that the songs that you heard on today’s program come from Steven Curtis Chapman’s most recent music CD which is called “Beauty Will Rise.” It is a powerful and profoundly moving collection of songs. And the CD is our gift to you this week if you help FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
Because we are listener supported, we try to let our listeners know regularly that your financial support is what keeps us on the air in this city and other cities all across the country. We couldn’t be doing this without your support. We appreciate those of you who either on occasion or on a regular basis as Legacy Partners, help support the ministry of Family Life Today.
Again, if you are able to help this week with a donation of any amount, you can request the music CD “Beauty Will Rise.” If you are making your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and you’d like the CD, just type the word “CHAPMAN” into the key-code box on the online donation form. Or, if you make your donation by phone, at 1-800 FL TODAY, just ask for the new music CD from Steven Curtis Chapman, and again we’re happy to send it to you, and we very much appreciate your support of the ministry and your partnership with us here on FamilyLife Today.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you are able to worship together as a family this weekend, and we hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to hear the first part of a message on a—well, a controversial subject. Bunny Wilson talks about submission. We’ll hear how she tackles that topic on Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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