So, last night Alan and I were able to go to Shades Mountain Baptist in Vestavia Hills to see A Night with the Chapmans. It was the entire Chapman family on tour, with Caleb and Will Franklin's band (and they were fantastic!) opening, then Steven Curtis himself basically did a concert before and after Mary Beth (his wife) came out and talked a little bit about their family's struggle to live each day after the death of their 5 year old, Maria Sue. Maria, along with 2 others, Shaohannah Hope and Stevey Joy, were adopted from China. Maria was killed in a tragic accident in the driveway of their home in May of 2008. Will Franklin, the Chapman's youngest son, accidentally ran over her when he was pulling into the driveway in his SUV. The entire evening had a theme of overcoming great tragedy, dark days, struggles and difficulties in life through the sufficient mercy of our God and Savior.
Mary Beth talked about how it truly is a day to day process. Every day God's mercies are new, every morning it is required to call upon Him to sustain them throughout the day. As I listened to her share her heart and feelings, I couldn't help but think that even when things aren't that bad, am I seeking His face every morning? If I can't do it now, how will I do it if something horrible happens like what this family has had to deal with? God forbid I ever have to experience what they have experienced. But the Christian life is not without struggles, difficulties and heartache. It is how we handle them that is most important. God's plan is perfect, no matter how bad we hate it, no matter how much it hurts us here on earth. One of the things that has helped the Chapmans through this tragedy is knowing that Maria is in Heaven with Jesus, but also that the vapor of a life here without Maria is just a second or two compared to the eternity they will spend with Maria in Heaven. Praise God! What a comfort it is to know that we can have hope and assurance that we will see our loved ones again one day.
Mary Beth Chapman wrote a book about her life and how she and their family have been coping with Maria's death. It's called "Choosing to See." I got my copy last night and am anxious to dive into it! :)
Each chapter has a quote at the beginning. The quote on chapter 2 says this: "Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude." ~ Simone Weil.
I thought about that quote for a while today and wondered if would agree with that quote in the face of sorrow and sadness. I hope that I would. I pray that I would, because I truly do believe that God has a big picture that none of us can see, not yet, but that He is working on throughout our lives. The picture is perfect and beautiful, but He doesn't promise us that it won't ever be painful or difficult along the way. We can't see the big, finished picture. But one day we will and we will see that in all things, God was glorified. Job 1:21 says that "the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." The Chapmans showed the audience last night that even though the Lord took Maria away, they are still praising God! SCC wrote an entire album right after Maria passed away, and all the songs related to or talk about Maria and her death. One of the songs is called "Beauty will Rise" and it's also the title track. Here are some of the lyrics:
Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning
In the morning
Beauty will rise
I think Alan and I both almost had forgotten what an amazing artist SCC really is. He really brought the entire audience to worship last night. Their courage, strength and faith is so inspiring to me. Their story shows us how no matter what you are going through in your life, there is nothing that is too big that God can't handle. As a matter of fact, He wants us to bring it Him and let Him lead us through it. My prayer is that no matter what happens in this life, I will choose to focus on the bigger picture, the Master Plan, the perfect design God has for my life, to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future.
I plan on getting several chapters of this book read this evening. I also plan on crying quite a bit through it.
I must also talk about the Chapman's adopted children. I believe that adoption, orphan care, is something that is very close to God's heart. It is mentioned numerous times in the bible for Christians to care for orphans. He commands us to do this.
James 1:27 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."Psalm 82:3 says: "Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy."
One story that Mary Beth told last night really touched my heart. She was talking about the first time she met, held and became Shaohannah's mother. Here is an excerpt from her book where she talks about meeting Shaohannah for the first time:
I saw a Chinese woman carrying a bundled baby. She was wrapped in a million layers, but the outside one was a pink, polka-dotted flannel blanket that I had made and sent from home.
I couldn't get to her fast enough. I opened my arms,, flew toward the woman, and took the baby. Tears poured down my face. I couldn't believe that this was my child. I stared down at her, crying over and over, "This is my baby!" I wept and clutched her tightly as the nanny handed me everything I had ever sent her: a stuffed pig, a plastic photo album of her new family......
She goes on to say this, what I thought was so profound and brought me to tears:
In that moment, time stopped. I was like God was speaking to me directly. "Mary Beth, you thick-headed woman, do you not understand now that this is the very way I see you? You are this orphan! I adopted you and you are Mine! I bought you for a price! Do you see how you love this baby? That's just a faint reflection of how much I love you! You didn't have a name, and I gave you a name. You did nothing to deserve my love, and I love you anyway. You had no hope, no future, and now you are the daughter of the King!"
An amazing parallel between God's love for us, and the gift of hope and a future he gave us, and what we, as Christians could do for so many hopeless children who don't have a family or parents to guide them. It touched my heart and moved me to tears.
It might mean giving up eating out one dinner per month, or 3 lunches per month or not getting your nails done. Personally, I feel a strong conviction to take care of the orphans and am thankful to organizations like this one that make it easy for me to do so. Proverbs 24:12 says "If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?"
God lays it out pretty plainly in the Bible that He wants us to care for orphans. It's definitely one of those things that I think "Ya know, if He's going to spell it out so clearly for us in His word, I better not ignore it!"
Okay, off my soapbox! Didn't mean for it to be a platform here, but I do feel very strongly about it and wanted to share.
Soli Deo Gloria!