My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Saturday, February 14, 2009

for such a time as this

Sometimes God just reveals truths to me in a time when I am most ready to understand. I have grieved for some time. Yes, I know that having a marriage that turns out to be less than you had hoped doesn't quite measure to losing someone you love... or facing an illness... or any of the other tragedies that befall us on this earth. My worst thing is just that... mine. The degree of grief is directly related to the one who is experiencing it. As empathetic as I endeavor to be, I will still always feel my pain greater than yours... and vice versa. I will also say that I will feel the Grace of God and touch of His spirit in a way that - as articulate as you guys think I am - I am unable to properly describe.

Last May, in the midst of a trying time in my own heart, Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman suffered an unthinkable grief - his 17 year old son ran over his five year old sister in the family's driveway. She died almost instantly. At the time I was intensely moved by the situation and spent a good bit of time on his website reading comments and notes of encouragement. I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the situation then.

Not that I have any greater perspective now. The unthinkable remains just that. I have had two different people who I dearly love and respect pose the same question to me in the past week and in both cases I'm not satisfied with my answer. The question is this - how does a loving God allow bad things to happen? How can you believe that God is good when faced with evidence of suffering and heartache? One asked the question from a place of deep pain and hurt... the other asked from more of a philosophical angle. I can tell you what promises I believe that God has given us... I can tell you that there are examples all through the bible and all throughout history of good things coming from bad, phoenix rising from the ashes... I can tell you that I am resigned to the understanding that there are things that we aren't meant to understand.

And you now see why I'm not satisfied with the answer I gave in either case. How can I tell you what's in my heart? I couldn't ever explain to those who were in my life why I loved Michael in the first place and I couldn't explain to you why I stayed as long as I did and I can't explain why losing him caused my heart to break. I just did and it just did. Nor can I explain to you how beautifully God picks up the broken pieces and helps you put them back into place. Not in an instant - because maybe then we wouldn't understand the transformation... but piece by piece, gently revealed one truth at a time.

Something today led me back to Steven Curtis Chapman's family and their tragedy. If you will go to youtube you can watch the family's interview with Larry King (who in his infinite professionalism continued to call their deceased daughter, Maria Sue - "mary sue"). The interview is pretty long but so powerful. There are parts of the story that I was unaware of... one, that in the moment of greatest pain, when Maria Sue had been airlifted to Vanderbilt Medical Center and Steven Curtis Chapman was pulling out of the driveway to go be with his daughter, knowing that she most likely would not survive, he saw his son crumpled on the driveway with his heart as shattered as his little sister's body... and this father, with incredible compassion, rolled down his window and shouted to his son, "Will Franklin, your father loves you!".

I can't hear or see those words without crying. Let me just tell you that in my moments of deepest sorrow, those are the words my Heavenly Father kept whispering to me, "I love you". In a time when I felt unloved and unloveable... when I felt like I had made the biggest mess possible of my own life... when I couldn't imagine ever escaping the pain... I felt THAT love.

Immediately after the accident, Will Chapman started to run... he doesn't know where he was going or why. He just knew that he couldn't stay in that place of pain. His older brother Caleb ran after him... brought him back... and held him. I think when my pain was greatest... escape was the only option I could possibly consider. It took my big brother to run after me and bring me back... and hold me firmly in a place where healing could begin. He brought me to a place where people would love me through the pain and offer me hope.

I believe that all of our days are preordained before we take our first breath. That is not to say that we don't have free will... that is to say that nothing about us is a mystery to God... not the way we look or the way we act or the way we think or the experiences that befall us on this earth. God knew on the day that I was born that there would be a time of trial for me... maybe a few times of trial... He knew that the time after that would be a surreal time of incredible pain but also unspeakable joy. God knew what things would make me who I am supposed to be.

I was asked... would I bring a child into the world who would be incapable of sustaining life? Whose every moment would include suffering? Would I knowingly, as a mother, allow this to happen? Emphatically, without hesitation, I would. Not because I'm a sadist or uncaring or unkind... but because I know that God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. I know that when I am weak, then He is strong. I know that our lives are but a breath and that He is working all things together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. I know that I have never felt the presence of God in such a way as I have over the past few months. I have never known the compassion and provision of a loving creator more than I have in these moments. I know that God can take the things that we see in our limited sight and use them to a greater glory.

Do you believe for a second that Steven Curtis Chapman would have, a year ago, been willing to lose one child and have another child suffer such guilt and pain? But can you imagine how many lives he has touched? And how perfect that God had preordained that this beautiful song, Cinderella, which was about treasuring your children - your little girls - would be popular at the very time of his youngest daughter's death. Coincidence? Not in my mind. I am not going to post the link but if you want to see a precious time in a family's life, go to youtube and search for Steven Curtis Chapman, Cinderella, faith and family night minute maid park (yes, I know it's a lot but it will take you to a specific moment and performance). Here a father is onstage with his two sons singing about his daughters... it's incredible.

There is an article on People online that gives a little more insight to the story:,,20221775,00.html One part that really touched my heart... Steven had been praying that God would help them to see how to get through... how to keep going... and as they went home to pick up clothes for the funeral, there on the art table was the last picture that Maria Sue had drawn with a word she had just learned to write "SEE". Below the word was a flower with six petals... only one was colored in... the Chapman family has six children, only one has graduated to Heaven.

You may wonder why today would be a day of such deep introspection for me. Why revisit the concept of grief? Well. I am reaching a new stage in the grieving process. I am experiencing hope. Hear me carefully when I say this because I don't want to overstate anything... I am not trading one person for another. I am not feeling hopeful because of any one person or any one relationship. I am not feeling hope because I am not quite as lonely as I once was. I am beginning to see more clearly the Grace of God and the omniscience of God as He works things out, detail by beautifully painful detail and creates in us a faith that by far surpasses anything we could have known without being broken. In the beginning I trusted Him out of desperation. Slowly I began to trust Him because of the evidence of His power as he provided for me. When I began to see the amazingly beautiful experiences that were borne from the amazingly painful experiences of the past... I began to conceive that there might possibly be more for me. But now, I am at a place of rejoicing in Him, appreciating all that has gone before - not because I would have chosen that pain but because I would not have and He brought me through it.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art .... with.... me. As Angie said to me yesterday... maybe I was meant for such a time as this.... Esther 4:13-14
13 he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

I'm sorry that I don't have a better answer about the goodness of God. I just pray that my story, that the story of Steven Curtis Chapman and Angie Smith and so many others who struggle and suffer and grieve... I pray that it will cause you to seek this God I love.


Joann said...

Heather, this is SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN!!! I'm in AWE!! I think you explained it all so perfectly, and it truly touched my heart, Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Iam in tears so much so that I hope I can get this out Thank you Heather thank you for your struggles your hope your pain because if you had chosen to keep it to yourself and not share it you would have never been able to write about it and because you write about it Iam touched and and just so unexplained like words can not say what I feel just no It means so much Thank you~

Myra said...

He continues to use you as an instrument to glorify Him...I do believe that those exact words you just wrote were also from Him. You will be so ok.

Remo said...

I beleive God allows sorrow and tragedy in our lives because He allows free will. It is perhaps His greatest gift to all of us and one that many of us fail to accept and actuate.

Self-determination is merely God's hand in the small of our back, urging us forward.

Always forward.

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LYN said...


Anonymous said...

Hmm... I am one of the people from whom this divinely inspired well spring arrives... and perhaps it was due to my inability to articulate what I meant. I am sorry about that.

BTW, I am explicitly asking Heather to deleter this if it is something with which she feels discomfort. That being said...

My qualm is not with the idea of tragedy in the world, nor even, per se, with co-existence of G-d and that tragedy.

My qualm is with the notion of divine pre-ordination of cruelty as predetermined fate. That requires complicity.

Remo's view seems on point. Presume a true free will. You can still have an omniscient observer, who is eternal (i.e. not temporally bound) who sees the decision results and what we experiences as the decision simultaneously.

That does not require a fatalistic point of view. If, however, all fates are divinely determined, then incumbency for the death of Chapman's daughter and other litanies of cruelty rest in part with the divine.

slj said...

Very touching.
I don't think any one person has the answers. I believe that our own personal faith in the Lord is our answer. It may not be something that can be put into words for another person..IT JUST IS.