Music is such an amazing form of expression because it touches our soul. Music can be light hearted or deeply emotional. It can be uplifting or depressing. It can help us remember or make us forget and a million other responses it can invoke. So often I hear songs on the radio and never really think about the story behind the lyrics. Many songs have amazing stories that inspired the writer. But how about songs with a story ahead? With most songs, I think more about my own experiences and how the song applies to my life or the people in my life and with most songs, this is intentional. They are written to be marketed in a way that applies to everyone, and that makes perfect sense. But every once in a while, you hear a song that you know is different. It was not written to be sold as much as it was someones soul poured out on paper and expressed using music as a medium. Like a deeply inspired painter on a canvas.
Steven Curtis Chapman (one of the most beloved Contemporary Christian music artists ever) recently recorded a song that meets this description for me. It is called "Heaven is the Face" and was released on his 19th album "Beauty Will Rise" and was written by Chapman after the tragic death of his 5 year old daughter, Maria Sue (pictured above). She was the Curtis' sixth child and the youngest of three Chinese girls the family adopted. She was playing on the monkey bars outside and wanted someone to lift her up, so she ran toward her teenaged brother who was leaving in his SUV. She was accidently struck while he was backing out of their driveway on the way to host a high school graduation party. After Chapman administered CPR, she was airlifted by parametics to nearby Vanderbuilt hospital, but was pronounced dead upon arrival. Chapman's son said as they left for the hospital, the last thing his father said, was "I love you son." He would later recount her passing was like an earthquake that made him question his faith and cast doubt on whether he would ever even sing or write again. As time and prayer helped heal the family's wound, he found a faith stronger than ever before, and he began to write.
I have to tell you, I am not an overly emotional guy, but underneath the callus exterior is a guy who can be a little sensitive. Don't tell anyone. I have an extremely difficult time listening to this song, especially as the father of two infant girls of my own. I cannot even begin to fathom what it would be like to lose one of them. As a musician, I cannot imagine trying to sing this song, especially from Chapmans vantage point. As you listen to the words of the song, there is so much more to this than the story behind the song. There is a story ahead as well. Chapman tells about his longing to see his little girl again, unimaginable, but it reminds us of some powerful truths about life and about God. It is a story of hope, love, grace, and divine purpose. It demonstrates how amidst even the greatest challenges we face in life, God is with us. There are things we cannot understand - things we cannot explain. And when life seems unfair, makes no sense, and we doubt everything we thought we believed, God is still God. He shows himself to be the great Sustainer and Comforter. As you listen to this song (recorded in a hotel room believe it or not) I think you will see what I mean (click here).