“I have been thinking about Heaven—I have a daughter living there now,” said Chapman, speaking of his adopted daughter, Maria Sue. She died in 2008 when she was accidentally struck by an SUV his son was driving. The Chapmans’ crushing, private grief was thrust onto the public stage. Such inconceivable tragedy could have shattered the strongest of faiths.
“The world is broken, but God’s promises let us know this world isn’t all there is.” Steven Curtis Chapman says his family anchored themselves in that hope after Maria’s death. “And that’s what kept us breathing.”
Trying to Fix the Unfixable
“I’ve always been a fixer—wanting to mend what’s broken in myself, in others and in this world,” Chapman says. “The loss of a child is unfixable. My human mind doesn’t have the capacity to make sense of it.”
Steven Curtis Chapman’s faith could have run dry and the music stopped with Maria’s last heartbeat. And even a watching world so desperate for the hope woven into his songs would have understood. But in grappling for answers, the grieving father found assurance.
The day before she died, Maria drew a flower with six petals and scribbled the word ‘see’ in crayon. But only one petal was colored in.
“I believe God was reassuring us she’s whole, complete and home,” Chapman explains. “It was like she was saying, ‘See? I’m okay.’ ”
Chapman says it was a tiny glimpse of Heaven for his entire family.
But, as with so many moments unfixable this side of Heaven, he admits he’s had to learn to live with the questions.
“I have to trust God and walk in the spaces between Heaven and the real world.”
Between Heaven and the Real World
Settling on the title for his autobiography, “Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story” was easy and obvious. But Chapman’s decision to write his story was not. He hesitated whenever someone brought up the idea.
“I kept thinking, I don’t know where all this is leading,” Chapman said. “But what I’ve learned along the way is how God prepares you for the journey and those moments that are darkest, most painful and confusing.”
Steven Curtis Chapman, a self-proclaimed fixer, says it’s when he’s powerless to fix it that he’s experienced God’s grace most profoundly.
“I realize now how many times I’ve faced broken things and tried to patch them up foolishly in my own strength…it never worked.”
In his book, “Between Heaven and the Real World,” Chapman shares honestly about some of those attempts. He writes, “Whether it was my parents’ marriage which ultimately ended in divorce, or in trying to fix what I thought was broken in my wife or my kids…invariably, God revealed what needed fixing in me.”
He says it seems counterintuitive, but there’s strength in weakness.
The Story Goes On
“Maria’s story isn’t over,” Chapman says.
Steven and his wife, Mary Beth, founded Show Hope, a non-profit that serves to break down barriers to adoption. Having adopted three daughters from China, Steven and Mary Beth are adoption advocates. Maria’s Big House of Hope, a special needs orphanage, was established in memory of Maria Sue.
Steven Curtis Chapman may be a household name in Christian contemporary music—and rightly so as the most awarded artist in his genre, having sold 11 million records, received five Grammys and 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards—but his music all points to a bigger message.
The hope that Steven Curtis Chapman has woven through his music over the last 30 years of writing and singing has only deepened—through experiences heartrending, joyful and everything in between.
“If I only had breath enough to sing one more song, it would be ‘My Redeemer is Faithful and True.’ ” He wrote it in 1987, and he says it encapsulates what all of his songs have to say:
As I look back on the road I’ve traveled
I see so many times He carried Me through;
And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this life
My Redeemer is faithful and true.
“My songs are my stories,” said Steven Curtis Chapman.
And now, Steven Curtis Chapman is sharing his story in the written word, too, in “Between Heaven and the Real World.”
“Of course, my story isn’t any more important than anybody else’s. But in reading mine, maybe someone will be reminded of the importance of their own.”
“Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story” by Steven Curtis Chapman is published by Revell Publishing and can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, Christian Book.com, Lifeway and the SCC store.