I don't know them. I've never met them. I haven't even written them a letter or an email. The family to whom I am referring is the Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman family. (Just in case you don't know who they are, he sings Christian music, and she married a guy who sings Christian music. She's also an author, mom, and full-fledged person, but most people know her for her husband, or at least that's how they used to know her.)
My first real concert was a Steven Curtis Chapman concert in Jackson, MS. I was twelve years old, highly impressionable, and thoroughly amazed. When he and Mary Beth adopted a child for the first time, I was 16 years old. When I heard their story, I knew that I had been called. Called to adopt. It was the only thing that I knew for absolutely sure about what God wanted from me. (Specifically, that is. I know that He wants holiness from every follower.) This led to a conversation very early in my relationship with Edwin. He knew that being married to me meant accepting the call to adopt, just like being married to him meant accepting the call to be a pastor's wife, which I had already done. Edwin had never even thought about the fact that he would one day be a father, so as we dreamed of our future family, adoption became a natural part of that dream.
For Edwin's birthday in November, 2007, he asked to go to an SCC concert in Nashville. During this tour, Show Hope (formerly Shaohannah's Hope, a charity named after his oldest adopted daughter) took up money and showed orphans currently waiting for their families. Adopted children were the offering bearers at this event, escorted by their parents. He also brought all three of his adopted children (all three are little girls adopted from China) to the stage to tell his family's story of the miracle of adoption. I was pregnant at the time, so I was thoroughly emotional, at least in light of my normal state of stoicism. The three beautiful little girls stood alongside their Daddy. They didn't look like him, but they were his daughters.
During the actual concert portion of the evening, his two sons played with him. Will plays drums. Caleb plays guitar. It was such a powerful image, this family on stage. This ministry that God has given them is a family calling. They serve together. Edwin and I left inspired. Inspired to continue on our road to adoption. Inspired to serve God as a family.
Then it happened. A tragedy struck that only God could have predicted. In May 2008, Maria, the youngest of the Chapman children, ran behind Will's vehicle as he was backing up. She was injured severely, and died at the hospital in Nashville. This family that was so strong and such a picture of grace faced something parents pray will never happen.
Something like that doesn't go away. People aren't the same afterwards. Every day becomes a day to face a new reality. Everything that happens is now post-tragedy. Everything that happened before is now pre-tragedy. An event such as this becomes the turning point. So many things could have happened. They could have given up. They could have laid down their ministry. They could have denied their God. But anyone who knows our God knows that He will not be denied. Christians may be angry with God, confused by Him, frustrated by His ways, but they will not be separated from Him.
I went to a Women of Faith Conference recently. The thing that piqued my interest was that the Chapmans would be there. Mary Beth would speak of her time since losing her daughter. Steven Curtis would perform and share as well. When they came to the stage, I was giddy. Soon I was in tears. By the time they performed "When Love Takes You In" and showed the accompanying video that shows children waiting to be brought into their families, I was a mess. I was a pathetic ball of emotions, salted with tears, and shaking with whimpers. That isn't normal for me. I wasn't really sure what to do with it, to be totally honest.
As for the Chapmans' pain, the world had to see it. The world has seen so many Christian musicians fall into sin of the ugliest kind, usually without reason, but rarely has it seen such faithfulness from public Christ-followers. The world had to see that God holds His children, and He never ceases to be worthy of praise. I'm not saying that this child's life was ended on this earth for that reason. I don't know God's ways or His total plan. I just know that tragedy happens in this world, so this family faced unthinkable suffering, a suffering that no one wants to understand. There's only one way to really understand what they went through, and what they continue to endure. You have to be there. The incredible thing is that we serve a God who's been there. It may not make for much comfort in the darkest moments, but when His light shines enough to see it, it really is a miraculous thing. He's been there.
The Chapmans did not cease their ministry. They have not given up. They move forward, imperfectly, maybe, but moving forward is a miracle. They continue to serve, and to see what God has done and will do. I continue to be inspired. I wish I could tell them how grateful I am for what they have done for my family, if only by making clear the call to adopt. I wish I could tell them what it means to see a family suffer for Christ, with hope of the coming glory. But I can't. So I suppose that I'll just tell you.
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