The Chapman Family

I am writing this post through tears that I can’t seem to control.

Last evening we got the news that a fellow Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, lost his 5 year old daughter Maria, when his teenage son accidently struck and killed her in the driveway of their farm. Maria was the youngest of Steven and Mary Beth’s six children; the three youngest daughters were all adopted from China. The Chapmans are adoption advocates and activists, and have formed a foundation, Shaohanna’s Hope to help provide financial assistance to families seeking foreign adoption. It was by all accounts just a terrible, tragic accident– Maria was playing with two of her siblings by the side of the long gravel drive, her brother was going to the house, she was in the road, he didn’t see her…  No charges are being filed, and they aren’t releasing the name of which of their two sons was driving, though of course, that will be coming out sooner or later. The press isn’t going to let that remain a mystery, I’m sure.

When I became a mother, I experienced that thing that I have heard described by a lot of women, that thing where you find your heart somehow unexpectedly laid bare, exposed and raw in a way that it hadn’t been previously– not just to the fragile, vulnerable new life I was holding in my arms, but to all fragile, vulnerable living things everywhere. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. There were TV shows I simply couldn’t watch anymore, and true crime books (which I had always loved) I couldn’t read anymore. Any news story about missing children, any St. Jude infomercial with pictures of little bald kids fighting cancer just undid me. Hell, a dead cat in the road stayed with me for days. It’s as if my eyes were suddenly opened to all the many, many ways there were out there in the scary world to lose the thing you love the most. It didn’t turn me into a paranoid fear-freak mom, but it gave me an awareness that I now had an Achilles heel, a defenseless place inside with the potential to annihilate me that I had no protection against– my love for my children.

As my girls are getting older and growing out of my arms and moving into their own young lives separate from me, I am even more keenly aware that I have no power to stand between them and the things out there that can hurt, or even destroy them. I can’t prevent their hearts or lives from being broken. I can’t keep addiction and crime and violence and illness and accidents from happening to them. I can’t make their choices for them, or prevent them from experiencing the consequences of their bad ones. My faith teaches me to surrender them to God’s care, and trust that He will be as hyper-vigilant as I am. I try so hard to believe that He gets the fact that Madi Rose and Charlotte are extraordinary and wonderful and He needs to take really, really extra-special care of these two. I’m sure Steven and Mary Beth feel the same way about their chlldren.

See, the thing is, this is a really good family. A generous, loving, do-way-more-things-right-than-not family, who has handled the success and fame that has come their way with humility and wisdom. I’m not trying to deify them, they are normal, flawed human beings, but seriously? They are the real deal, the kind of people that give Christians a good name for a change. It makes this situation even harder to take.

This kind of loss is incomprehensible to me. It out-tragedies even my most vivid what-if nightmares. The trauma to the children that witnessed the accident, the horror of the injuries, the panic and confusion, and the son, dear God, the son. I can barely stand to think about a teenager–like Madi– trying to cope with the life sentence you know he’s placing on himself.

I don’t have an ending for this post. I can’t just throw out some scripture or spiritual cliches, I can’t wrap this one up in a bow and make it all OK, or let God off the hook for it. We live in a fallen world and really horrific things happen to really good people for no good reason and it makes no damn sense. The only thing that brings me any comfort at all is knowing that the Chapmans will be surrounded by all of the love and compassion that they can bring themselves to accept, and that they are a strong family unit that knows how to care for one another. My prayer will be that in this darkest night of the soul any human can endure, that it will be enough. Please God, let it be enough.



7 Responses

  1. BrownEyedGirl

    My heart just breaks for the Chapman family. May God let them find some kind of peace during his difficult time.


  2. belinda

    This family has been in my thoughts and prayers since I heard the news early this morning. I cannot imagine what they are all going through but I know the love and support is there for them everywhere they turn. You listen to somebody’s music like we have Steven Curtis Chapman for years, you read about this precious family. We have met both Steven and Mary Beth, what sweet people. I agree with you, they are the kind of people that give being a Christian a good name. I don’t understand why this happened. All I know is they are in my prayers and will continue to be.

  3. rockin robyn

    Tori, My Lord – I was hoping I miss heard the news this morning… I guess you are confirming the truth. My heart goes out to the Chapman family but especially to the son. “He (Jesus)won’t put on us more than we can handle”… How much is a teenage brother supposed to be able to handle…

    I just pray that the family stays true to their faith until they can get through the pain and wait on the message of why their little angel was taken so tragically.

    The only way to understand or process this tragic tragic news is to know that down the road the message will become apparent to the Chapman’s or to someone… perhaps this little girl was to get really really sick or something prolonging that no one would want to see a child endure… When something like this happens you have to just turn it over and sit and wait for the answers, perhaps not in our life time but there is a reason/message.

    For now just give your kids a hug and tell your loved ones over and over and over again how much you love them, because this is just a dress rehearsal and before you know it it can be gone. Life is short! When we reach our journeys end and in God’s eyes we are complete and our purpose has been served He takes us home. That little girl served her purpose in her short little life…. she was a messenger to someone or for something and her job here on earth was completed.

    Tori may your family fest “get-away” be more special this time, perhaps magical and more spiritual than ever before. God Bless!

  4. Barbara M. Lloyd

    I can’t imagine a sadder thing to happen to a family. My heart breaks for the mother and dad, but especially for the brother. They all are in my prayers.

  5. gracelynn

    Tori – my heart has just been going out to the Chapmans ever since Bill announced this at Family Fest this past weekend. I have prayed so hard for them. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and guilt that poor boy must be going through! Thank goodness God is able to carry this family through this horrific time.

  6. Cynders

    Hi Tori…

    My heart hurts for the entire Chapman family.
    I know they are so close, and the pain they have to work through is among the worst that anyone can imagine.

    I’ve been praying for them all ever since I heard of the tragic events last week.

    Thanks for sharing this so that others can join their own voices to those already raising petitions to Heaven for comfort and peace for the family.

  7. LindaB

    This is sadder than sad. There are no words to describe what they are going through. I just want to cry out to God—-why did You let this happen? What good could possibly come of it for anyone? I guess there’s only one thing to do—–the one thing that God demands of us, and in the light of tragedies like this one, the hardest thing to do sometimes——blindly trust in the God of Love and believe His promise to “work all things for our good”. I know it’s an overused (I think?) trite phrase Christians use when they don’t know what to say or think, but I believe it is true. And I think someday when we’re looking back on this life from a more “heavenly” prospective, we’ll see that we were looking at things from a shortsighted, clouded view. I trust God will comfort the family and bring them through this valley.

    But, it’s still sadder than sad. My heart aches for that sweet family and I’m praying for them.

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