I just finished reading the first book to ever make me cry.
I don’t mean a bit of tearing up or a little sniffle; I mean tear after tear rolling down my cheeks and full-on weeping where you can’t breathe because you are crying too hard. As a general principle I don’t cry in movies or books, but this one hit me for a six. This tear-wrenching book is called Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman.
Mary Beth Chapman is married to one of my favourite Christian artists, Steven Curtis Chapman, and has six kids – three biologically, and three gorgeous Chinese girls through adoption. Mary Beth talks about growing up, marrying Steven and having kids, and how she’s dealt with depression ever since her kids were little. When her oldest, Emily, was a preteen, she really, really, wanted to adopt from China, and when Emily was 14 they brought home first Shaohannah (Shaoy), then a few years later Stevey Joy, and shortly after that, Maria Sue, all three from China. The tears first started rolling down for me when Mary Beth met Shaoy and as she hugged her, God broke through to her that that’s how he loves us – unconditionally, undeservedly – and makes us his very own children.
I laughed a lot. Mary Beth’s funny and her kids are definitely ‘stinkin’ smart.’ But I was a complete blubbering mess as I read about May 21, 2008, when five-year-old Maria was run over in a car accident involving her big brother and hero, Will.
I could not envisage life without my brothers and sister, so to try and imagine what the Chapman family went through is staggering. I cried as I read about Will’s shock and guilt and how his older brother Caleb pinned him to the ground so he wouldn’t run away. I cried as I learnt what a fun, noisy, gooey little girl Maria was and what a hole she left. I cried as I felt the families’ and friends’ numb grief and how wherever they looked, there were memories of Maria.
I also cried as I read how God firmly laid his hand on that family, as he helped them SEE that he had not left them alone, and that he loved them, and there will be beauty in all this heart wrenching pain. There were God moments and miracles everywhere. From the choosing of Maria’s burial place to what they found when they retraced her last day on earth, God was showing them that he is with us, that heaven is for real, and that he will bring them all together again, if they would choose to SEE it.
He gave them friends to hold them, to lay hands on them, to give them a place to stay when home was too hard, who were there within a heartbeat of the accident and who were praying and praying and praying. And Will – Will is a hero and champion in my books, someone who has not given up living but who trusts God with the pain he’s been entrusted with.
This book reminded me to love people, because ultimately, love is the most important thing. It reminded me to see the individuality in others – like Maria, who was a larrikin of a character – and enthusiastically give myself to others.
Choosing to SEE helped me to understand hope. Hope is often used in a wishy-washy way, but the hope that the Chapmans live with is real. It’s a bit hard to distinguish from faith, at least for me. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not SEE. We keep going with a knowing in our heart (faith) because we are looking forward to (hope) that beautiful day when we meet Jesus in heaven, when he will wipe away every tear from our eye, when we are completed into God’s masterpiece. We then show hope to others when we give a little glimpse of heaven, a reflection of Jesus Christ.
I loved this book. It was downgraded to ‘THAT book’ because it made me cry – which was actually a good thing – but it was a beautiful story of a family who love each other, who sticks together, and who choose to SEE God in all of this pain, and put their hope, faith, and trust in the realisation that he is faithful, that he is making a home for us (with Maria at his side), and that there is beauty for us to SEE.
I don’t like this one bit. I would be just fine with a perfectly unbroken vase, especially one that wasn’t broken over the loss of a child. But I’m trusting that God saw fit to entrust us to steward this catastrophic loss well. May He be honoured with all us Chapmans as we do our best to let the world SEE that He alone is the Author of our salvation, the Mender of our hearts, the Healer of our souls.– Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to SEE, pg. 242, emphasis mine.