Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman

First Published 2010 by Revell.

choosing to SEE

This book sat in my TBR shelf for six months after my friend Jacqueline lent to me when we were in the middle of a rather rough time.

It is the autobiography of the wife of a prominent Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, whom I had not yet heard of.

Now prominent Christians come in many varieties, but what a lot have in common is the good Christian bio, which for a widow like me who may or may not be a little bit bitter, can sometimes have me gagging on my wormwood-and-gall.

This one kept me entertained for some pretty dark years, it’s from author Chuck Black’s bio: “His passion in life is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and to love his wife, Andrea, and their six children. The Blacks take their family music ministry on the road, singing Christian gospel, contemporary, and traditional songs. Chuck and his family live in North Dakota.”

Such a cosy little family picture. No exes, stepchildren, axe-murderers in the family, that sort of thing. Just a man and the love of his life and their quiver full of children, who will no doubt serve in the family ministry all their lives and have nice little families of their own. None of them will be widowed young. But enough of all that dross.

So I really enjoyed reading Mary Beth’s story as she shared her life with the kind of honesty not always seen in a Christian, even ones I know personally. There are so many of us in our various churches putting on their happy faces on Sunday morning, perhaps straight after a blue with hubby, and pretending we have it all together because it’s not the Christian way to admit there are cracks, at least until they can no longer be covered up. Or perhaps we think it is a bad testimony to show weakness.

In the book Mary Beth covers many struggles over the years, the youthful ones that most of us have, the depression that mounted the more successful her husband became, the medication she continues to take etc, and all the way through she is holding hands with her Saviour.

Then things get interesting. After the family visited Haiti, the eldest of the Chapman’s three biological children, Emily, began to beg her parents to adopt an overseas orphan. And that is how the Chapmans wound up with three little Chinese girls, and also founded Show Hope, an organisation that helps people in the US adopt from overseas, as well as build care centres in China for orphans with special needs.

I found the stories of how each child was added to the family very moving, especially the part where the husband Steven held the youngest, Maria, for the first time and straightaway she felt like his daughter. I have also chuckled at the baby photo of Stevey Joy – she really does resemble Phil Collins!

Tragedy struck the Chapman family in May 2008 (the same month my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer), when their youngest biological son Will accidently ran over their youngest adopted daughter Maria. This happens about halfway through the book, and for the rest of it the reader is blessed with little signs and coincidences that show this grieving family that there really is more to life than what we experience here on earth. And after reading so much about Maria I have added her to my list of people I look forward to meeting in heaven.

While the title of the book, Choosing to SEE comes from the word SEE, which Maria left behind on the day she died, one of my favourite sayings was “we can do hard”. This stood out for me when I flipped through the book when it first came into my hands half a year ago, when we were in the middle of a media hurricane. My family, like Mary Beth’s has also been asked by God to do hard. We can fall into despair or we can choose to see that God has a bigger picture of which our own lives make up just a pixel or two.

The final third of the book is in journal form, which I enjoyed reading, once I accepted the change in structure, and I liked quite a lot of what she says. Especially this: “I only pray that when people see us battling it out and crying our guts out and loving till it hurts, that they know we are doing our best to honor the One who blessed us with Maria for five beautiful years.”

In the early hours of this morning when I couldn’t get back to sleep for awhile, I decided to check out some of Steve Curtis Chapman’s songs, and the post-Maria ones I wound up hearing really ministered to me, and I felt soothed of all our hurts for a bit. So I’m really glad this family has survived what they have had to survive, and I hope it helps a lot of people.

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