I was frantic! It was my twin son’s ninth birthday and I had made a promise, tickets to a concert by Steven Curtis Chapman. There was one problem, as a single father, I had neither the time nor the funds to keep the promise I had made. Now, on their birthday AND the day of the concert I finally had the money and we headed off to Chattanooga for our tickets and to see Steven Curtis Chapman. There was just one problem, I was now at the fourth ticket outlet and was being told, once again, that the concert was sold out. I explained to the lady at the counter how I had made a promise to my sons and how disappointed they would be but she explained there was nothing which she could do. So, we turned and started out the door and back to Georgia. “Sir! Sir! Wait, I have three tickets here for store employees and, well, no one wants them. Would you like them?” So, God smiled on a Dad and his twin sons that day and we not only ended up with tickets but we ended up with center aisle seventh row tickets, backstage passes …. For FREE!
I often think of that day and smile. In my memories I remember meeting Steven Curtis Chapman and how gracious he was. I remember seeing HIS two sons playing and how close they were to my boy’s age. I remember explaining to him what we had been through that day and him smiling and handing me a free t-shirt. I still have that t-shirt. It reminds me of a kind lady, a merciful God, and a famous musician who took time to show some grace to a stranger. Scripture teaches that those who understand the grace they have been given by their Heavenly Father are the ones who most easily are able to be gracious themselves.
Recently, I turned on my television for one of those morning news programs and there was Steven but what caught my eye more was the young man behind him playing his guitar. Caleb is the older of Chapman’s two sons and was one of those little boys I had first seen playing backstage alongside my own sons so many years ago. He is no longer a boy but now a man, if not because of age certainly because of the tragic turn his life, and the lives of his family, had recently taken.
On May 21st of this last spring the Chapman family was celebrating, celebrating a birthday, a graduation, and an engagement. However, as most know by now, tragedy struck on that day when Caleb’s younger brother, Will Franklin accidentally hit his younger sister, Maria, with one of the family cars. Caleb ran and held his little sister in his arms as she took her last unassisted breath. Soon, Steven and other family members began to apply first aid, medical assistance would arrive, and Maria was rushed to the hospital. The family would explain latter that by the time Maria was flown by life flight to a nearby Nashville hospital, they held out little hope. Steven and his wife Mary Beth quickly headed by car to the hospital. Caleb, who had just held his sister before she died, was now holding his brother who had been driving the car when it hit Maria. Somewhere in the trauma and madness of all that was occurring Steven Curtis Chapman glanced at the scene of his two boys and stopped the car to yell out the window, “Will Franklin, your father loves you!” and then he was gone.
Indeed, those who have encountered grace at the core of their being understand it at a level that those who have never known it can not imagine. It does not come out in simplistic platitudes or through thoughtless “Sunday School” answers but rather as a natural flow from the center of who you are. Like a simple, but kind, act to a father struggling to give his boys a meaningful birthday. Like a Father, who in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, stops to remind his son that he is loved.