NOTE: You can hear Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman share their story personally as part of The Drop Box movie event–in theaters nationwide March 3-5, 2015.
Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman are big believers in adoption. Since founding their non-profit organization Show Hope (formerly called Shaohannah’s Hope, after their daughter) in 2003, the Chapmans have taken their place among the most visible and outspoken advocates for orphans in America today. But while they care deeply about promoting adoption and providing homes for the millions of waiting children who still need loving families, Steven and Mary Beth are also convinced that adoption is not necessarily God’s plan for everyone. They see it as a unique vocation – a special calling the Lord places on the hearts of those He has specifically chosen and prepared for the task.
How do you know if you’re being called to adopt? There’s no definitive answer to that question. God makes His call known in different ways to different families. Sometimes it grows slowly, like a seed hidden deep in the earth. Sometimes it comes upon you as a complete surprise. Sometimes it seems to run counter to your assumptions, emotions, preferences, and personal inclinations. The call isn’t so much a feeling as it is a matter of faith, trust, vision, and spiritual experience. But one thing’s certain: if the Lord is leading you to take a child into your home, He’ll make His will known to you in one way or another. When the moment of truth arrives, you won’t have any room for doubt.
The Chapmans understand this. Mary Beth in particular will tell you that her initial experience with God’s call was something of an emotional roller-coaster ride. It all began in 1997 when, after going on a mission trip to Haiti with her mom, young Emily Chapman launched a three-and-a-half-year campaign to get her parents to adopt a child internationally. That’s a long story in itself. But the result was that in 2000, the entire family found themselves on a plane bound for China where they were scheduled to pick up the newest member of their clan: Shaohannah Hope.
Mary Beth remembers clearly what that was like. In the beginning she had been the lone holdout – the one dissenter to Emily’s adoptive plans. With much prayer and her husband’s support, she eventually came to believe with all her heart that God was personally asking them to take this step. But that didn’t necessarily mean that her emotions came immediately into line with her convictions. Not at all.
“Even while we were on the plane to China,” she says, “I found myself saying, ‘Wait a minute – how did I get here?’” She knew that the Lord had called them to adopt, yet at the same time she was in turmoil, racked with fears and uncertainties.
Steven understood all too well what she was going through, and he did his best to reassure her. He reminded her of the process that had brought them to this point. He even quoted back to her some profound words she had spoken at an earlier stage of the journey: “I guess that’s why they call it faith. If I had complete confidence that I could do this, I wouldn’t need any faith.” She recalled those words now and agreed that they fit the situation perfectly. Yet somehow she still couldn’t get past the gnawing doubts. “I cannot do this,” she kept saying – “not in my own strength, anyway. I’m afraid I won’t be able to love this little girl the way I love my three biological children.”
Then came Zero Hour. After a few days’ layover in Beijing, the Chapmans flew to Hunan to meet their new daughter. They settled themselves in their hotel and took a few family photos – one of them showing the whole bunch with their hands over their mouths and terrified expressions on their faces. Mary Beth was still trying to quiet her pounding heart when the phone rang.
“She’s here,” said the voice on the other end – the voice of their adoption facilitator. “She’s on her way up.”
In an excited gaggle, the rest of the family elbowed their way past one another out into the hallway.
“Okay,” whispered Mary Beth as she followed, “I can do this.” She swallowed hard. She took a deep breath. She braced herself for impact. And then –
There was Shaoey.
“I took her,” she says, looking back on that magic moment. “I held her. It was miraculous. It was spiritual. Here I was holding this little person for the first time, and at that instant I would have died for her. You weren’t going to get her back out of my arms!”
After years and months of internal wrestling, the call was confirmed in the blink of an eye. And the thing that sealed it for Mary Beth was a flash of insight she couldn’t have anticipated until it thrust itself upon her: “For the first time in my life since giving my heart to the Lord,” she says, “I looked up and said, ‘Okay, I get it. I get it. I know what You did for me. Thank you.’”
That’s how it happened for her.
There’s no way to know for sure, of course, but it’s possible that the same thing could happen to you.