It was March 2001 that I attended my first Christian concert. It was at Carpenter’s Home Church and it was Steven Curtis Chapman! I didn’t know a lot of the songs, but I sure liked them. (Coincidentally, it was also at that same show that I met some folks at The JOY FM and exchanged business cards with the GM – NEVER thinking in a million years that this would be my future home!) God is good!
I have been a Christian since I was 11, but I’d never experienced anything like I did that March night. Briefly, there were 2 climatic points for me that evening. The first was not even during Steven’s set. And it really wasn’t when he brought out Steve Saint, the son of murdered missionary Nate Saint. It was when Steve Saint shared his testimony of how his father was savagely killed, and then introduced us to Minkaye, the Ecudorian Indian responsible for the death. Minkaye walked out and the two men embraced, friends. It was in that moment, that I understood what true forgiveness really looked like. The second, of course, was when Steven shared how they came to adopt their first daugther, Shaohannah, from China at the encouragement of their oldest daughter, Emily. And it was in that moment, that I understood what it meant to be an orphan for the first time. It crystallized for me how God truly feels about orphans. We are ALL adopted sons & daughters. Praise God that He loves orphans!
I cried for 2 weeks after that night.
And most likely will from last night.
At Maria’s Memorial Service in May, Matt Redman sang, Blessed Be Your Name. The line goes….”You give and take away, but still I choose to say Blessed Be Your Name”. I’ll never ever forget that day, and can assure you’ve I’ve never heard or sang the song the same since. And I can confidently say that this is true for Dave, too. So…what does Smitty and Steven open with last night? Blessed Be Your Name! (The tears are coming again just typing it!) It was one thing to be standing in the church, hearing Matt Redman singing those lines and seeing the entire Chapman family hands raised in the air, crying out in their grief. But to see Steven, eyes red with tears, sing it last night as a broken, yet confident-in-hope man, touched me to the core.
The 2nd “moment” was when Steven sang Yours. He sang the orginal song and then paused before the new verse. He thanked everyone for praying, and talked a little about how they’re all doing. In the original song, the verses are about walking the different roads in this world…Nashville, London, Singapore, Manila, and Shaghai, and how it’s all “yours God”.
The new verse, after Maria’s death, includes walking a very different road:
I’ve walked the valley of death’s shadow
So deep and dark that I could barely breathe
I’ve had to let go of more than I could bear
And questioned everything that I believe
But still even here
in this great darkness
A comfort and hope come breaking through
As I can say in life or death
God we belong to you.
After the accident, he told his wife Mary Beth that he’d never be able to sing Cinderella again. Or so he thought. After returning to the stage, he was still in the process of reconciling his grief with all of the songs of hope that he had sang his entire career. In a moment, he thought of something that Martin Luther had said, “the only 2 days that matter are THIS day and THAT day”. THIS day that we’re living in now. And THAT day when we see Jesus face to face. And it is how we live THIS day that will ready us for THAT day. Steven realized that he still had 2 young daugthers, an older daughter that was about to get married, and of course his wife and 2 sons. It became abundantly clear that if he really believed in THAT day then he really would dance with Maria again. And with that hope, he can and does sing Cinderella. However, he has changed that one up a bit too. Instead of “the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone.” He sings. “the clock will stike midnight and I know the dance will go on”.
And that’s because on THIS day he knows THAT day is coming.