INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Steven Curtis Chapman Looks to The Glorious Unfolding
By Hannah Goodwyn
Steven Curtis Chapman is a mainstay in Christian music, with 46 No. 1 hits including such favorites as “The Great Adventure”, “Dive” and “Speechless”. Five Grammy awards and 56 Dove Award trophies belong to this legendary Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter. But, listening to Chapman chat about his new album, The Glorious Unfolding, you quickly see he’s just a happy family man, with an undoubtedly incredible talent for music and a deep desire to encourage his fans, and anyone else who will listen, that true healing can be found in Jesus Christ.
Recently, Chapman spoke with CBN.com about The Glorious Unfolding, the special songs on the album his family inspired and the hope God gives even in the face of unbelievable tragedy.
This is the first album that you’ve had all original material for the last seven years. What are you bursting to say through your new record, Glorious Unfolding?
Steven Curtis Chapman: The thread that runs through all of the songs in some way is just this reality that I am coming to a deeper understanding of, and that’s that God really does know the plans He has for us.
There is a story that God is telling in our lives, and He knows the story that He’s telling. It is a story that’s ultimately going to be incredible and good, and amazing, and yet it involves chapters that can be very hard, be very difficult….
Throughout this music, really, I kept revisiting that through just different truths that I’m learning and holding on to…. that God is committed to finishing the good work that He has begun, the work He starts in us. He is working even at any moment in the story, even in the hard chapters, and that He is at work, working all things together for good. He’s taking even the broken pieces, and hard chapters and hard parts of the story, and weaving them into the epic, amazing story. It’s in that process, watching and seeing those places wherever the story is unfolding, where He’s revealing it to us and revealing more of Himself to us….
It takes us holding onto that by faith sometimes, and really choosing to see those places and believe even in those dark places that God is at work, and does really know the plans that He has for us.
What you were feeling in those moments when you were writing the lyrics to “Glorious Unfolding” out?
Chapman: I’ve felt like some of the music that I’ve written has come from a place of really telling my own story, in those hardest places, you know. I wrote the album Beauty Will Rise from just that very, very dark place about grief and lament as a family, and me as a dad through when we lost our daughter, Maria. It seems like so many of the songs had been written from that place of just holding onto these things by faith for myself, for my family.
The nature of my music, I think more than not, has been I want to encourage. I want to speak this in a way that encourages someone else in their journey. In a way, that’s what this album is a bit of a return to for me, from the place that I’ve walked and lived and am still in my family, to begin to say to someone else, “Can I say this to you? I’m not pretending to know what you’re going through exactly, wouldn’t dare to do that. But whatever it is, I want to say this to you with confidence and with certainty from my experience….”
So, from that place, even writing that song, beginning from a place with saying, “Lay your head down tonight. Listen, I know you feel like maybe this story’s over, you feel like it’s ending, it’s too hard, but can I speak into that, can I say this to you?” and more coming alongside a thread and trying to breathe those words of encouragement into their heart.
I feel like that’s always been part of the calling, the gift that God’s given me. Scripture talks about it. It’s the gift of encouragement. It’s the gift of teaching. It’s always felt like a bit of a combination of that, for me, but particularly encouragement.
I think that was a lot of this song that said I really believe this. I’m seeing it in my life. I’m seeing this unfolding of God’s purposes, and I still don’t understand it. I don’t pretend to understand it. I’m not in favor of saying, “Hey, I’ve figured this out, so let me just enlighten you on how it all works,” but there seems to be something so powerful… I know for me, for my family, as we were really walking through especially the earliest days of our deepest grief, and when someone would say, “You know, I experienced something really similar or I lost a child and from that experience can I say this to you, can I encourage you this way?” I think that that’s part of what I was hoping and wanting to say with “Glorious Unfolding”, and with a lot of this music on this new album.
Your kids are on the record, playing instruments and singing. But it’s also a family affair in a lyrical sense. Tell us about “Only One and Only You”…
Chapman: [That song’s] written for my daughter, Shaohannah. She is 14, so that means she is at that wonderfully awful stage of life called “middle school,” where so much is going on in your body and you’re trying to figure out change, and I don’t like this and that about myself.
Daughters, I think, wrestle with that more than even boys in this culture and the world, and all the images and all the things that tell you this is how you’ve got to look, and be, and act. Just watching her wrestle with that, I really wanted to say, find some kind of covert way, because if I come in too obvious, she just rolls her eyes and says, “Oh, dad, that’s what you have to say because you’re a dad.” So I’ve found that she’s a lover of music, loves music, listens to it all the time, learns words of songs and sings along to every word. So I thought, if I could get this one slid under the radar, I could get this to her heart and convince her that some of these things are true about who she is.
The song’s called “Only One and Only You,” and really just saying you’re so unique. You don’t have to be like all the others. You don’t have to compare yourself with all the rest because you’re such a masterpiece, uniquely made, the only one like you. So, that song is really special for me to get to give to her.
…and your new song, “See You in a Little While”…
[This song is] actually inspired by my grandmother who passed away last year at 99 years old. She went to be with Jesus and went to see Maria, our daughter. It’s just a gift to get to say goodbye to her and spent time saying goodbye. I felt compelled to write that in a song.
…and “Michael and Maria”…
It’s written, of course, about our daughter, Maria who’s with Jesus, and a young man who passed away about three years almost to the day, May of 2011, a young man who was a dear friend. He had actually been to Maria’s Big House of Hope in China, our special needs facility there that takes care of children and orphans, children with special needs. He had actually visited and did some work there after Maria had gone to Heaven.
So when he passed away, I just felt compelled to write a song for him and our Maria together from our families and sing it at his memorial service. This album seems appropriate to include that song on it.
Tell us more about “Together”, the song you wrote for your wife, Mary Beth. Why was it important to share this personal tribute with fans?
Chapman: “Together” is really just a celebration of God’s faithfulness and real honestly just saying, “I know that it’s only by God’s grace, but I’m so thankful that we can stand here together after all these years, and all that we’ve walked through.”
It’s one thing to say, and talk about, and sing about God is with us, God is faithful, God has given us hope. The most tangible, clear places that that is not just in theory but in truth, and real visibly is in my relationship with Mary Beth. To talk about The Glorious Unfolding, that God is telling a good story, that we can trust Him when we just wonder if the story is over, if we can endure anymore, and to be able to stand after 29 years of marriage with lots of hurts and lots of hard things that we have walked through together, some even put each other through in the midst of it, to be able to stand together side by side, hold each other’s hands, stand at the cradle of our first grandbaby and celebrate that together when it would have been so many times so easy to not stay together, I think that’s one of the reasons that song is so special, because it represents so much of the truth in what I’m singing about.
“Something Beautiful” speaks to how God can take the horrible parts of our life and make them beautiful again. What’s the story behind that one?
Chapman: It was sort of me sitting in a position of observing someone else in a place that I’m so much more deeply familiar with now, of a place of looking at a mess that life is, of broken pieces whether self-inflicted or others inflicted, or just circumstances in life inflicted, and just not knowing who to blame and ultimately just wanting to blame yourself. But trying to, again, turn to that person and say, “I’m watching this and I relate, and I know that feeling, can I show you this from my perspective? I really believe that not only is God going to do what he promised to do and turn the work all things together for good, but I really believe in my experiences, that he is going to take the most broken things.”
It’s almost like the stories about how the light shines brightest in the darkest room, in the darkest places. I believe the greatest beauty that God will create will be out of the most broken things, some of the things that seem the most impossible to imagine redeemed or turned into beautiful anything, because that’s who God is. He’s the redeemer and He takes those things. Almost the more broken they are, the more glory He gets from really revealing Himself in it.
So, that was such an encouragement to me, thinking, how’s this going to be anything good, and to watch God do that, already begin to show the first signs of it and just wanted to encourage people to really believe that God is going to turn those things into something that will be amazing, not just OK, but will be really incredible and amazing.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.
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