It’s hard to express how I feel after reading Mary Beth Chapman’s new book, Choosing to See. Saying I liked it or enjoyed reading it feels as if I reveled in reading about her and her family’s painful experience of losing 5-year-old Maria, who died in an accident on May 21, 2008.
I think the best way to explain my feelings is that I admire and appreciate Chapman’s willingness to share her broken heart with us over the loss of her daughter. I think many of us, if we have kept up with the Chapmans before and since that fateful day, have wondered: How are they doing? How is she doing? Of course, we all know how we’d feel if we were going through a similar experience. But we are curious about this well-known family.
This book is very honest, and it’s safe to say that the Chapmans are doing as well as can be expected. They’re taking one step, one day, one moment at a time. And I am glad to know that they are getting the help they need. But overall one thing is for sure: They still believe. They still trust God. They still know He is good. They still hope. Their response serves as a great reminder that you can question, hurt, wonder, grieve and believe all at the same time.
This isn’t a story any of us would wish upon anyone. But it’s Mary Beth’s story, and as hard as it was and is for her to tell, she does so to bring glory to God. And even with all her pain, questions, fears and doubts, she still offers hope in the God who holds her and her daughter in heaven.
With grit and grace, Chapman chronicles her life from childhood until the present. We get a glimpse into the life of a young woman who wanted life wrapped up neatly. She dreamed of having a husband who worked a 9-to-5 job, having children at the perfect moment and just living a simple, typical American dream. But she released her plans for God’s. She allowed Him to direct her path to marry the up-and-coming Steven Curtis Chapman, start a family earlier than expected, adopt, write a book and even speak publicly—many things she said she’d never do. Chapman also tells of her experience with depression and how God has and still helps her in that journey.
Then she walks us through their loss of Maria. This portion of the book is obviously heart wrenching. While reading it, I cried. Ugly cried. And I remembered the Bible verse that says we weep with those who weep. I certainly don’t know the Chapmans, and I know their family and friends ache in a way I can’t, but I still hurt for them.
Something else that struck me while reading were several moments of incredible beauty in the midst of the Chapmans’ unbearable pain and sorrow. Mary Beth tells about one of the first gatherings the day Maria died. Chapman was still wearing her blood-soaked clothes, so several of her girlfriends took her into the restroom and gave her their clothes so she could greet the people who had come to support the family. Her friends offered a tangible expression of love, compassion and sacrifice. I was moved by their selfless act.
It seems odd that there can be even small glimpses of beauty in situations like this, but for many believers, we can say we have experienced these moments ourselves even in the darkest of times. In the midst of sorrow, pain and tragedy, God sustains us and reminds us of His presence.
The most amazing aspect of this book is that even though it honestly shares a journey of struggle, loss, tragedy and sorrow, overall there is still a sense of hope. Chapman says she shares her story hoping only that it will honor and glorify God. Her story does. She does.
Click here to purchase this book.