About the Guest
What attracted you to your spouse? Today Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman reminisce about their college days when the sparks of their love first ignited. Hear how their differences made them strangely attracted to one another and eventually led them to holy matrimony.
What attracted you to your spouse?
Bob: Steven Curtis Chapman remembers coming to the point in his marriage where he realized his wife, Mary Beth was a great gift to him. A gift given by God so that Steven could see things he wouldn't otherwise see about himself.
Steven Curtis: My whole spiritual journey has been, “God I'm way more messed up than I thought I was, and you're using this woman to show me that.” And, probably using me in her life to show her how much she needs you as well because that's really what marriage is about. It's going to show us how broken we are. How selfish we are. How much we need a savior.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey. And I'm Bob Lepine. Today Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, share with us about their romance, their courtship, and about the sanctifying impact of being married to one another.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, it's not often that…now listen, they're whispering. We're on the radio and they’re whispering to each other.
Dennis: Each other.
Bob: I was...
Dennis: You would think they would have come in here prepared.
Mary Beth: I was blinking Morse code.
Bob: I had this professionally-put-together introduction, and they're whispering back-and-forth.
Dennis: Whatever you want to say Mary Beth.
Mary Beth: Hi, this is Mary Beth Chapman and my husband, Steven Curtis today on FamilyLife Today. And today, we are interviewing Dennis Rainey, and what is it that you do?
Dennis: So, it's your show now?
Bob: An actual takeover has occurred.
Dennis: We do have a lot of fun here. If you don't recognize the name, I want to say 'Shame on you,' but not everybody does, so let me just take a moment. Mary Beth Chapman is the President of Show Hope, which is a ministry that has provided a lot of assistance, financial assistance, to couples who are interested in adopting children. She's written a book called Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, which we do hope to talk about here in a moment. And, she's married to a young man who, well, does a little singing.
Dennis: Steven Curtis Chapman. He's won five Grammy's. Fifty-six Gospel Music Association Dove Awards. And, his latest album is "Beauty Will Rise" which was released last year.
Mary Beth, I want to talk to you about really the home you grew up in, and then ultimately how you met. You grew up in a home that was all about planning, consistency, security.
Mary Beth: Oh, yes.
Dennis: And, you ended up marrying somebody who was not exactly from that same background. Take us back to your home and kind of introduce us to your parents and the home you grew up in.
Mary Beth: Yes, I was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio. The house we moved into—when I was ten months old—is still the house that my parents live in today, so not much changed in my world. I went to the same school “K-8” and then went to high school 9th-12th… same school system. My dad, one of my heroes, worked at International Harvester Company, a truck factory, for 30 years. My mom never had her driver's license until after I had mine, and I was the baby of the family.
My brother is nine years older; my sister is seven years older, and then me. So, when I literally say, 'not much changed' - not much changed. We had the same routine, grocery store on Saturday, and the summers we spent our time at a little athletic club. My brother was my swim coach, we grew up swimming competitively.
Honestly talking about the book, Choosing to SEE, there's a line in there that I say, 'Not much changed or the only thing that changed in my seemingly changeless world was the question of whether my salvation was secure.' Because I had so many questions for God, and theologically, was I saved or was I not saved?
So, I became one of those little “control freaks” and decided that when I went to college that I was going to marry an accountant—that's the safest, most predictable person I could envision. Having a 9-to-5 job, with not much opportunity to vacate other than in the summer, and that would be great. Dinner would be on the table at 5:30 pm, and we would raise a couple of children in a very safe, predictable environment.
Dennis: That's not what happened at all.
Mary Beth: No. It's not. God either didn't hear me or knew what was best for me.
Bob: When you got to college and you met the guy who had the mailbox next to you... right?
Mary Beth: No. The mail box…the same mailbox.
Bob: Oh, the same mailbox. Because your maiden name is Chapman.
Mary Beth: My maiden name is Chapman. God had to do something creative, because I was truly not looking for a mullet-wearing, green guitar playing...
Mary Beth: Chapman.
Mary Beth: Mullet-wearing. He sported the best mullet.
Dennis: I'm trying to picture that, Steven.
Bob: Oh, I've seen the pictures.
Mary Beth: Oh, he had it. I'm talking curled even, curled in perfectly. It wasn't the wild mullet, it was the perfected mullet
Steven Curtis: Quit.
Dennis: Well, you met him your freshman year because there was a mistake in the mailbox?
Mary Beth: No. Actually, what happened was, I'd go to my mailbox and there would occasionally be a bill—not a personal note—but like a third notice or something. It was usually addressed to “Steven Chapman.” I thought, this must be who I'm sharing my mailbox with because everybody shared mailboxes. So, I never thought really anything about it. And, then Steven if you'd like to take over on how we actually met...?
Steven Curtis: I sincerely had the thought that…wouldn't it be crazy? Sometimes you meet the person that you marry at school. Wouldn't it be crazy to meet somebody with the same last name? I mean what if Mary Beth Chapman was like a babe, and really cool, and I met her and we fell in love and got married. Somebody with the same last name…that would be pretty crazy.
So, I was walking into the cafeteria one day with a buddy of mine, Greg Kroker. And at the doorway—I'll never forget—she was coming out. And this really beautiful young lady…she spoke to my friend Greg and said “Hi,” and after she passed, I said “Who was that?” She had—I remember—she had on a denim jacket. And that was back in the day when you'd wear those big buttons, usually a rock band or something. You know, buttons on your jacket—the '80s thing.
And, hers were all Precious Moments buttons. Like those, you remember, those little Precious Moments figurines—like "honk if you love Jesus" with a little girl looking at a goose. I was like, “Greg, who was that?” And he said, “That is Mary Beth Chapman.”
So, I sort of put out the feelers around campus, and a good buddy of mine knew her and knew some of the people from Springfield, Ohio who she grew up with. And so I was like “Hey, check out and kind of see, you know, Mary Beth Chapman, I'm kind of interested. Has she got a boyfriend? What's the story on this?”
At one point, he came back to the dorm and said “I just saw Mary Beth. She's coming back from the cafeteria and coming across campus…Twelve o'clock, Mary Beth Chapman. She's coming across if you want to say hi to her.” And it was Sunday, because I still had on my Sunday-go-to-meetin'...
Mary Beth: Sunday Hillbilly best.
Steven Curtis: My Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes and...
Dennis: You ran out there without your shoes.
Steven Curtis: I ran out without my shoes. It was Fall because it was the beginning of school. I don't know why we remember these goofy things. I cannot remember things I should remember, but I remember this. I remember running out the door because I had dress socks on, you know...
Mary Beth: Polyester.
Steven Curtis: Polyester— so everything sticks to them. And by the time I got from the door to her I had leaves, I had...
Mary Beth: He had slippers.
Steven Curtis: I had leaf slippers on my feet. "Hello, I'm Steven Curtis Chapman. I'm from Paducah, Kentucky, and I have leaves on my feet. Would you go out with me?"
Steven Curtis: And, that's how we sort of officially first met.
Mary Beth: We spent a lot of time just walking and talking, and really getting to know each other. So, when I say "first date," it's not that we went from the leaf slippers to first date. It was many walks through campus and reading letters from my parents together. And so the first date he had a good sense of who I was and I had a good sense of who he was. So, I'm going to preface that because he kissed me on the first date, and so that's a big no-no in the Chapman family. And so the boys give him grief because technically he did kiss me on the first date.
Bob: This was after Red Lobster?
Mary Beth: Well, yes. Well, here's what happened. Obviously, I know I look young but I'm not young. It was back in the day of no cell phone, and he said, “I'll pick you up at whatever time, and I said “Okay, I'll be ready.” And, I'm an Ohio Chapman and we're ready a half hour early—and that's really being on time.
And, he was going to pick me up after “Chapman-Henderson”—that was the name of the college band—and he was going to pick me up after they played. Well, they were playing at the VA Lodge. It was Veterans' Association Night and they had the Chapman-Henderson...
Steven Curtis: Telling war stories. And we hadn't played yet.
Mary Beth: And, he can't call me.
Steven Curtis: Yeah, so we're at this...
Mary Beth: Two hours late.
Bob: Two hours.
Dennis: For the first date?
Steven Curtis: Yes.
Mary Beth: Yes.
Bob: And, you still went out with him?
Mary Beth: Well, we went to Anderson. Anderson had closed dorms - guys weren't allowed in girls' dorms and girls weren't allowed in guys' dorms, except for when they rotated--every weekend there was a different dorm that was open. That weekend it was my dorm so he could actually walk up to my room and pick me up.
So, I'll never forget it; he comes walking into the room and I'm standing there beside a “No Parking Any Time” sign. A sign that was cemented into about a 200 pound cement thing that my roommate and I borrowed from the front of Decker Hall—which we thought would be good decoration for our room.
Bob: You had vandalized the campus?
Steven Curtis: Yes.
Mary Beth: No, we borrowed a sign.
Steven Curtis: Thank you for speaking truth.
Mary Beth: No. We borrowed a sign and put it into my Ford Pinto and drove it to the dorm room, one of the first weeks of school.
Bob: Did that trouble you?
Steven Curtis: Yes.
Bob: I mean, did it cause you to think twice about this cute young thing?
Steven Curtis: I'm sure going back now and looking was a part of that “Man, she took that sign… shouldn't have done that. But, you know, it's living on the edge.” I'm sure that's part of what does attract us to each other, and there's bound to be something in that because she thought “Well, this is a guy that plays by the book.” And in the midst of all that, God obviously had this wonderful mysterious plan of bringing us—two very opposites—together.
Dennis: You've been married now for more than 25 years. I want you both, because we've established the fact that you're different. In fact we could tell a lot more stories. There are many more in the book that we could tell about this.
Steven Curtis: Yes
Dennis: And that you probably could tell that aren't in the book, too.
Steven Curtis: Yes
Dennis: But, here's the question. How have Mary Beth's strengths and who she is, as a woman, enlarged your life, as a man? And Mary Beth, I want you to answer the question from your perspective that God did call you to marry an artist who's definitely not an accountant. But, I want to know how he has been used by God to paint the landscape for you. Steven Curtis what about you first?
Steven Curtis: Some of the things that, early on, where I really blew it, in this sense, Gosh, I need to shape her into this person that I think she's supposed to be. You know, hammering on her with Scripture, and spiritual...if you do it like this, it would be more spiritual and totally missing the wildness of God, in different ways.
I mean when my wife got a tattoo, we've told that story before. I wrestled and I struggled, and before God..."What is the deal with me?" I know I need to learn something here, and I know this sense of, "Oh is that right? Is that not right?" You know, “Should you do that?”
I just couldn't celebrate the difference of how God was showing up in her life, and the wildness of that because there was so much in me that said, "No, it's got to look like this. It's got to be between these guard rails." I think God has used her to just show me the wildness of God. To show me more of who God really is and His beauty.
Dennis: He paints outside the lines.
Steven Curtis: Yes, yes. Amen!
Dennis: Your wife paints outside the lines.
Steven Curtis: Yes, absolutely.
Dennis: And you're busy building the guard rails, and she's busy painting outside...What about you Mary Beth?
Mary Beth: Which is interesting too, because you would think the artist—the songwriter/artist— might be the guy that's painting outside the lines, and being more of the wild one.
Steven Curtis: Yes.
Bob: And the woman who wants dinner on the table at 5:30 pm?
Mary Beth: ... would be more inside...
Bob: ...the box.
Mary Beth: Yes. It's almost...
Steven Curtis: We're so messed up...
Mary Beth: Yes, that's right
Mary Beth: It's almost like there are two areas where we're opposites. The artist that should be outside the lines has the wife who's actually outside the lines. But that's the wife, who wants the structure and everything alphabetized in her spice cabinet. He's the one who is now trying to do the guard rail thing.
Dennis: I want you to still answer the question, but back to you, Steven. Could it be that God has used Mary Beth in your life to help you as an artist, and a songwriter, create more creatively and give yourself more freedom, as your career has rolled along? Have you seen that?
Steven Curtis: Well, there's no question that, I mean it sounds so cliché to say it, but it is absolutely a thousand percent true, that I am the songwriter that I am. The messages, the things that I've communicated in the songs through the years it's a result of "us." It's not Steven Curtis Chapman writing these songs. It's our life being lived out together. It's the tears. It's the pain. It's the wrestling with these things, together. The weeping through it. The messing it up. The repentance.
And the very songs that I've written, through the years, you can go back. She and I could sit and tell stories of every song, and take it back, probably, to a story of pain, to a story that involved tears, and involved heartache. To say that this came out of that soil of the pain of trying to put these two very opposite people together. And yet, yes. Out of that God brings songs like, "I Will Be Here." And songs like, "Go There With You."
Not just the songs specifically about Mary Beth and me, but just my whole spiritual journey. God, I'm way more messed up than I thought I was, and You're using this woman to show me that, and probably using me in her life to show her how much she needs You as well. Because that's what marriage is about. It's going to show us how broken we are. How selfish we are. How much we need a savior.
Dennis: Mary Beth?
Mary Beth: Yes, I echo that. With Steven in his creativity, as far as a songwriter and being an artist, I think that's allowed me the freedom to be creative in that, maybe being a bit more playful, and loosening up a little bit. Not that I haven't been loosely fun with practical joking, but just to be able to go, “Okay, it doesn't have to fall into this exact line.” The kids don't have to be exactly scheduled, although I still struggle with that, because I love structure. But obviously, being married to someone who doesn't have a problem with structure, or the lack of, then it obviously helps me to see that a little bit of give and take here, is good.
Because if we really look at marriage, isn't it interesting how so much of the way women are made, and so much of the way men are made, it's like they are opposite, just the way we are physiologically, scientifically, we're so opposites. The message in being opposite is that we're called to serve each other; to give each other, not 50%, but 100%. And expect nothing in return—which I do not do very well.
Bob: Let me ask you this. I just want you to imagine that you've gone to Anderson, met an accountant. Married an accountant. Dinner on the table every night at 5:30 pm. Two kids. Picket fence. How would you be different?
Mary Beth: I think that I would be really, really sad. Much more melancholy than I already can be anyway. It's so interesting how God wired us. I'm playful in the practical joking, fun-loving kind of side, but I'm a melancholy person in that I would get more energy being home at night. Watching the news where he might have more fun being out with people.
I have thought that. Actually, I would be a mess, because God has me with exactly who I need to be with. And we have experienced so many amazing, amazing opportunities, and amazing experiences together. Not that I have anything against accountants, because I have a very good accountant.
Bob: You had enough ignorance, but you also had enough glue that when the pressure got poured on, you held it together.
Mary Beth: Yes.
Bob: By the grace of God...
Steven Curtis: Yes.
Bob: ...you held it together.
Dennis: You never know what you're really getting in the other person when you say "I do," in marriage. The commitment is what creates the safety. For two selfish, imperfect people to discover one another's uniqueness—how they complement the other, and yet, to keep going, despite falling down, disappointing each other. Maybe not doing it right many, many times. Having to ask forgiveness. Having to ask for grace—over and over again.
Barbara and I have talked about it many, many times. I can't imagine it right now. We're coming up on our 38th year of marriage, and I cannot imagine starting out. I mean, Barbara and I have lived a lifetime of shared experiences and memories, and of incredible mountain tops, as you guys have.
But also, of deep dark valleys, as you guys have as well. We've gone through those together. And you've done that; that's what you chronicle in your book. I don't know how anybody makes a marriage go the distance today, or does life, without the cross of Christ.
Bob: Well, I think what you've written in the book is remarkably transparent. And, because of that, I believe it's going to bring real encouragement and hope to a lot of people. I hope a lot of people pick up a copy.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Mary Beth Chapman's new book, Choosing to SEE. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Or, you can call for more information at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-"F" as in Family. "L" as in Life. And then the word Today. Again ask for information about the book by Mary Beth Chapman called, Choosing to SEE.
Let me also mention, FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. If you can help support the ministry this week with a donation of any amount, we'd love to send you a copy of Steven Curtis Chapman's new music CD called, "Beauty Will Rise." Most of the songs on the CD reflect the season in life that the Chapman's have just been through. The CD is our gift to you, this week, when you make a donation of any amount to support FamilyLife Today.
Type the word "CHAPMAN" in the key code box on the online donation form, if you'd like to receive a copy of the CD. Or, call 1-800 FL TODAY...1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone, and just ask for a copy of the CD from Steven Curtis Chapman, called "Beauty Will Rise." And we want to say thanks, in advance, for your support of the ministry. And especially to those of you who, here during the month of August, got in touch with us and made a first time donation to FamilyLife Today.
We've been keeping track of how many first time donors have given a gift this month. And there's a little gauge on our website that you can look at and see how many new donors we've added during the month of August. And we appreciate those of you who have made a first time donation.
Today and tomorrow, if you're a first time donor and you make a donation of a $100 or more to FamilyLife Today, we want to send you a gift certificate so you and your spouse can attend one of our upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.
This is a great getaway weekend for you and your spouse to enjoy together. And the certificate, so that you can attend, is our gift to you when, as a first time donor to FamilyLife, you make a donation to FamilyLife of a $100 or more, either today or tomorrow. So, again, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to make your donation. Or, call 1-800 "F" as in Family, "L" as in Life, and then the word TODAY. And let me say thanks again for your support of the ministry. We appreciate those of you who are financial partners with us in this work.
By the way, let me encourage you to mark your calendar now for November 5, 6, and 7. That weekend is Orphan Sunday Weekend this year. And together, with Steven and Mary Beth and Focus on the Family, FamilyLife's Hope for Orphans is teaming up to produce a 1-hour webcast, featuring Francis and Lisa Chan. Your church can get plugged into this webcast and can bring attention to the plight of the orphans. You can find out more when you go to our website, which is FamilyLifeToday.com.
We hope you can be back with us tomorrow when Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman are going to be here again. And we're going to shift our conversation to the tragic event that happened in the Chapman family, a little over two years ago now. I hope you can be here as we talk about that tomorrow.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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