“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” It’s a quote most of us recognize from Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. But it’s also how renowned Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman begins characterizing his life to this point. He continues, “It’s a journey. It’s been an amazing journey—mountaintops beyond anything I ever imagined, and valleys deeper than I ever could have imagined—and God has been faithful every step of the way. And that’s the best I can explain it.”
Being in the public eye for over 30 years as a singer, songwriter, record producer, and more, many of Steven’s personal highs and lows unsurprisingly are not so private. Some of his experiences, like winning 5 Grammy awards and 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, are probably pretty easy to celebrate with the masses. Others, though, like the tragic loss of his youngest daughter Maria in a driveway accident involving his son Will in 2008, can make living in the spotlight a little more difficult and painful.
Ever since Steven’s wife, Mary Beth, published her book “Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope” in 2010, countless people have come forward to thank her for her openness, saying things like, “Man, I’m really not alone. This is a person that I would have thought had it all together, and she is sharing that she has to daily say, ‘God, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.’ That’s a journey I can relate to!” Seeing the ways that Mary Beth’s testimony has touched so many lives, as well as having God’s continual guidance, encouraged Steven to overcome self-consciousness and doubt that were keeping him from what the Lord was calling him to do—record his own story. In his new book “Between Heaven & the Real World,” Steven hopes to encourage others through his personal reflections on his life journey, but also by emphasizing the importance of remembering.
The Lord’s plans for calling Steven to write this book go far beyond the profound impact it is sure to have on the lives of innumerable readers. When people reflect upon their lives with the leading and guiding of God and His word, they cannot help but to find ways to grow and learn from their past, Steven being no exception. By looking back on his life, he gained deeper understanding of the patterns in his life, one being his tendency to be a fixer: “I’ve always tried to fix the things that are broken, in a very broken world. And in the book, I share in great detail that there have been many places in my life that I encounter unfixable things, unfixable people, and unfixable situations. Those—over and over again—I have discovered, have been the places where I have experienced God in the most profound ways. It may not take a theologian to figure that out, but it was a bit of a surprise as I began to look back and realize it.” Steven went on to elaborate about specific areas he’s realized he has been unable to “fix” and instead has had to rely on God. “It would probably be my marriage that would be the biggest one. Because I came in thinking, ‘Hey I just need to fix whatever is wrong in this, go to the right counselor if need be, read the right book, pray harder….‘ And you begin to realize that these are two broken people that bring all this [their individual problems] into a marriage, and yeah, you continue to try and make better those things that are broken. But there’s a reality that until heaven, it’s not all going to be fixed. And it was like, what do you do with that, how do you live with that, how do you keep going in that reality?” Steven further explains about “getting involved with and into the world of adoption, entering into that space of seeing brokenness for so many children globally; the losing of our youngest daughter, and the ‘unfixable-ness’ of that—all of those places are where God has made himself the most real, and I’ve experienced him in the most changeable ways. And I hope that by sharing my journey that it will encourage people in the ‘unfixable’ places in their lives.”
Looking back at your past can also refocus you on where you are wanting to go—contemplating the dreams God has placed on your heart and remembering the reasons for which you press on in those areas. For Steven and his family, reflecting back, they see God’s hand in their lives as they sought to step into facing the global issue of orphans and to become a voice for the many who don’t have that voice. Steven’s wife Mary Beth often says, “Not everyone is called to adopt, but everyone is called to do something.” And that is the heart of Show Hope, the non-profit organization the Chapmans founded back in 2003 to help give grants to those who want to adopt but cannot financially afford to do so. They developed a great passion for breaking down barriers between waiting children and loving families. The Chapmans themselves adopted three children from China— Shaohannah, Stevey Joy, and the late Maria—who were welcomed with open arms by Steven and Mary Beth’s biological children Emily, Caleb, and Will. Now grown and with a family of her own, Emily, who was the one who had prompted her parents to adopt in the first place, was just named Vice President and Assistant Executive Director of Show Hope on May 8, 2017.
While Show Hope continued to receive much of the Chapmans’ time and attention, Steven has made a personal commitment not to step into too many new ventures going forward. This decision came after looking back over the recent few years and realizing how busy his schedule had become, running from one project to the next. He wants to be more intentional about his time with his family, particularly in spending time with his wife. As he has learned through this process, reflecting on our past allows us to see not only where we want our priorities to be, but allows us to step back and evaluate how well our actions are lining up with those desires, so we then can make the necessary changes for our future.
“There’s a lot driven in us to worry about, think about, and plan for the future. And certainly that is something that is important in our journey as human beings and believers on this journey, but I think that there is something really important about remembering.” Steven’s hope is that people will gain insights from his own journey, but also that through looking back at their own past, they will be able to recall and then retell the stories of God’s faithfulness in their own lives.
Steven Curtis Chapman