Like any good church kid growing up in the 90s, I was all about the wave of CCM music. Unlike many folks, I still find myself going back to those songs from time to time. Jars of Clay, Third Day, Audio Adrenaline, and the Newsboys were personal favorites. I was in hook, line, and sinker. These days I find myself focused on more recent CCM artists,
favorites being Andrew Peterson, NEEDTOBREATHE, Chris Rice, and more. In college I discovered more and more about Rich Mullins and few folks have shaped my life more than the legacy of Rich.
I tell you this because no matter how my moods might have changed, one things stayed the same: I did not like Steven Curtis Chapman. At all.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure why exactly. As CCM music changed over the years, I started to see what I believe to be his squeaky clean image and thought SCC was a prime example of everything that was wrong with the industry. The music wasn’t terrible, but usually I would play it more of a joke to my wife. “Saddle up your hoooorrrsess…” ..”I’m diving in…oh ohhh woaah ohh” It was a throwback, but not always an appreciated one.
To be honest, I knew nothing about the man other than what I saw from a distance. Jenni would often tell me how much I was missing as she knows how much emphasis I place on lyrical quality when choosing what I should listen to in any scenario. I would have none of it. SCC was not for me.
This year for Father’s Day, I asked for the gift that everyone would probably expect from me: two tickets to see Steven Curtis Chapman in concert for his upcoming solo tour. And I cannot wait.
What changed? Two years ago, SCC released his autobiography, “Between Heaven and The Real World.” Having known a little about his story, I was interested, but I was not prepared for what I found.
In his book, we get a glimpse of what was really happening in his life at the time that many of his biggest hits were hitting the airwaves. Struggles with finances, marriage, raising kids, the loss of his children, and so many more things helped put his life into a new perspective. While I am sorry that he has walked through so many tough times, his candor in sharing his story made me start to see things in a new way.
As I read the book, I became more involved in listening to his music and really going back to look at the words. I could see how SCC was faithful in letting the Spirit lead him to write music out of his story. As I understood him more, I felt a connection. I’ve never been one to score high on an empathy scale, but as she shared I found many places where I could relate Some of his music helped get me through a rough year and at just the right time this year he released a new song that helped me celebrate life with a new perspective.
I write all of this with no expectation that SCC will ever see this, but I felt like I needed to say this publicly: “Steven Curtis Chapman, I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry that my judgment kept me from connecting with your music sooner. I’m sorry that I looked at the polished exterior of public image and thought for a minute that you were anything less than honest. I’m sorry for putting folks like Rich Mullins on a pedestal because of their ability to be raw while at the same time holding others like you to a standard that I myself can rarely manage to uphold.
I share this because I think there is a reminder that I need and I suspect others can benefit from as well. Whether it is in church, at work, in a restaurant, at a ballfield, or wherever life brings you…let’s stop assuming things about people based on public image. Let’s not forget that we all have our struggles and burdens and we never really know what is happening behind the curtain. The truth is, I shouldn’t have had to read this book and hear his stories to come down from my place of judgment. I’m sorry that it took me so long.
To open up and share the parts of your life that don’t seem to match up to what others expect from you takes courage. The fact that that last sentence is true is more of a condemnation on the church than it is on any one person. We should expect, welcome, and even demand moments where we don’t just say “I’m fine,” but instead, “Well here’s where I’m struggling right now.”
I am thankful for the authenticity shared in his book and I believe it serves as yet another reminder of how important it is that we share stories. We all have things going on. How much stronger and more connected will we be when we decide to let others in?
I’m excited to sit and listen to a show next week. I’m thankful for a new world of music that has been opened to me and the way that it has ministered to me. I’m thankful for the reminder that I need to stop with my own preconceived notions of others. And oh yeah: I’m sorry, Steven Curtis Chapman.