Hopes and tears on the journey

Steven Curtis Chapman talks to GEORGE LUKE about his 30-year journey encompassing both triumph and tragedy …

Steven Curtis Chapman is one of the most decorated singers in the world of contemporary Christian music.

The 20-plus albums he has released in his 30-year career have won 58 Dove Awards and five Grammys.

And now he’s added another feather to his cap by becoming an author. Steven’s memoir, Between Heaven and the Real World, has just been published; a warm, candid recollection of the past 30 years and more.

Says Steven: “I’ve had several people say, ‘I can’t remember where I was last week! How did you remember what you were doing 45 years ago?’ I had the same fear – until I started writing.

“I learnt something about myself – and, I think, about us as humans. We’re made to remember. Certainly God thought it was important for the Israelites to put up stones as memorials so they could go back and remember, because it’s important – especially as believers, to remember where God has shown up in our lives.

“For me, one of the happiest experiences writing this book was that I fell in love with my wife all over again. Mary Beth Chapman and I met in college 30 years ago. Students’ mailboxes were assigned alphabetically, two students to a mailbox, and we shared the same one.

“In the retelling of that story, there was just something so powerful about re-tracing those steps: how madly in love we were in the beginning, and how crazy our journey has been – and also how painful.”

Without a doubt, one of the most painful moments in Steven’s journey happened on 21 May 2008: the day the Chapmans’ youngest adopted daughter Maria was tragically killed in a car accident at their home.

“Recounting the events of losing Maria was by far the most difficult part of retelling the story,” says Steven. “Not just the events of the day itself, but that whole season of deepest grief, shock and trauma to our lives, our hearts and souls in the loss of her.”

Maria was the third of three Chinese girls Steven and Mary Beth adopted.

“Our eldest daughter Emily went to Haiti when she was 12,” he recalls, “and it was through her heart being broken by seeing children without families that she began to talk to us and pray for us to consider adoption.”

In 2000, the Chapmans adopted Shao-hannah Hope. Stevey Joy and Maria soon followed. In 2003, Steven and Mary Beth founded Show Hope: a charity that helps find adoptive parents for orphaned children.

“Show Hope continues to grow beyond anything we ever imagined, and has helped many, many children,” Steven says. “It’s been an incredible thing for us to be part of.”

Christian music has come a long way since 1987 when Steven’s debut album, First Hand, was released.

“I’ve seen so much change,” he says fondly. “So much has been incredibly good. Christian music has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. When I first came along, it was a much smaller genre. I saw these mainstream record labels purchase small Christian music labels (in my case, EMI purchased Sparrow Records), saying, ‘We’re going to take this music to many more people. We think the world needs to hear this music instead of just the people in the church’. Then you saw the styles begin to evolve.

“Worship music has been an incredible part of what we’ve seen happen. And in the US, we have much to thank the UK for, giving us some of the greatest songs that started the whole wave of modern hymns and church music.

“Again there’s a challenge with that, because it has become such a big business. So yes, there are challenges with the growth of Christian music – but as one of the family, I do feel that by God’s grace we’re doing it well. Not perfectly, but we’re doing a lot more right than not.”   

  • Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman is published by Baker Publishing at £8.99
  • Photo: Jeremy Cowart

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