Traces of pain were embedded in his voice.
I instantly recognized the man as one of my long-time favorite recording artists, Steven Curtis Chapman. The woman sitting next to him was obviously his wife. Although I’d never seen her before, I knew the look on her face as well as my own. It was the blank stare of a grieving mother.
Then I heard her say to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America,
“I’ve said, you know, somewhat coldly, ‘I don’t care whose lives are touched by this story and whose lives are changed or what good comes of it.’ As the heart of a mom, I want Maria back.”
“And that’s — you know, that’s what I want people to know is I want Maria back.”
There’s just not enough good that can be done, to ease the pain of losing a child.
The Chapmans’ five-year-old daughter had died just a few months before that interview in 2008— the pain was still visibly raw. Little Maria died after being hit by a car in her own driveway. It was a tragic accident to say the least.
People often try to comfort grieving parents by trying to show them some good. Their attempts usually compound the pain rather than relieve it.
In the Chapmans’ case the “lives touched,” by their daughter’s death, are real not just a Hallmark sentiment. The Chapmans expanded their charity to add Maria’s Big House of Hope for special needs orphans. They have carved an immense amount of good out of their sorrow.
However, there are people who commit crimes of destruction and violence in the name of injustice on a daily basis. We’ve all seen them captured on film. What about rioting in the streets over issues as trivial as a lost sporting event? There seems to be an air of justification in too many of those instances.
If circumstances such as these can be justified in the least, what of the liberated prisoners of Auschwitz?
“We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly…the psychological counterpart of the bends.”
They now had a choice on how they would use their new freedom.
Frankl describes men who became instigators rather than the objects. They became the oppressors. Expressions often came out in insignificant ways.
“Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse…”
Perhaps man’s redemption is buried in the truth that no man has the right to do wrong. No matter how much evil or sorrow is suffered. We have a choice. As Frankl pointed out, it’s in our sufferings that we are afforded a chance to obtain an inner human greatness that ordinary circumstances could never offer.
Frankl is right.
There is no amount of good that can compensate for the cruelty he and his fellow prisoners suffered. Nor can any amount of help given to orphans relieve the pain of a grieving mother. What is also true is that we each have to seek out goodness in the most tragic of circumstances.
The paradox is profound and hard to grasp intellectually. It must be lived to achieve. Therein suffering finds its purpose. The good that comes of it, cannot be assigned to us by others, or even pointed out. We must find it for ourselves.
Before Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter died, he wrote this song to remind him to appreciate the moments he had left with his little girls. One can only imagine how sorrow has watered the truth embedded in this song for the Chapman family.
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